Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but sugar is truly rotten stuff. It’s the ultimate carb-bomb, that floods your system with nutrient-free calories, has all sorts of negative consequences, and it doesn’t even fill you up! All it gives you is that momentary sweet taste and potentially a lifetime of health troubles, like weight-gain, high blood sugar, system-wide inflammation, and life-altering diseases in the long-term.
So how is it that so many of us are, by some estimates, still eating an average roughly 22 tablespoons of this crap daily? Well, for starters, sugar is highly addictive. In fact, researchers have shown that sugar can activate the same pleasure centers in the brain as tobacco, alcohol and even heroin.
But Doc, I don’t eat a lot of sweets! Au contraire. If you eat processed, prepared or junk food, your meals are likely saturated with sugar – even if the food doesn’t taste particularly sweet. Sugar is often the sneaky little additive that makes low-grade foods ‘taste good’— and drives cravings for more.
But here’s the thing. While breaking sugar’s vice grip can be uncomfortable, the benefits you’ll reap will far exceed the ‘pain’ of a few days of discomfort. In fact, in as little as a week, you’ll likely start feeling the positive effects of living la vida low-sugar. As you phase sugar out, cravings will taper off, eventually to the point where, you may not care at all if you ever a cupcake again. (And, if you do indulge, you’ll probably find it’s way too sweet!)
Even better, when you quit sugar, a universe of health complaints, from routine aches and pains, and out-of-sortsness to chronic health ills – that are either caused or exacerbated by sugar-dependence – will also recede, if not disappear altogether. Here’s a preview of what you can look forward to within the first few weeks when you commit to slaying the sugar monster:
Reduced weight and diabetes risk.
Losing sugar is for most people the simplest and most efficient way to lose weight and keep it off. When sugar consumption is out of control, you’re on the fast track to both obesity and type 2 diabetes. However, when we start ditching those sweet “empty calories” – and it’s shocking how many we consume daily if we’re not paying attention – we get a double return. Not only do we reduce the absolute number of calories we consume, we’re lowering our blood sugar levels. That means the body has to produce less insulin to clear the sugar from the blood. And that means it’s better able to burn those calories for energy instead of storing them as fat.
Better blood pressure and lipid levels.
These days, far too many of us resort to the Big Pharma fix, even though something as simple as cutting out sugar can help nudge blood pressure into a healthier zone. Cutting sugar can also help push cholesterol numbers in a positive direction, and ditto for triglycerides, so why not try cutting sugar before loading up on ‘scripts? For some people, ditching sugar can drop levels by up to 30 percent, which may be just enough to keep you off the meds –a major benefit in my opinion!
The blood sugar spikes and crashes that come with high dietary sugar intake not only keeps appetite permanently primed, but all that yo-yoing may also be turning up the volume on your headache and migraine pain. In fact, sugar may be triggering your head pain in the first place, so lay off the sweets for a happier noggin.
Less menstrual cramping.
A sugar-loaded diet equals more inflammation throughout the body, and that’s bad news, particularly if you’re a woman who suffers from painful menstrual cramps. When you clean up your diet and ditch the sweet stuff, you significantly tame the body’s production of prostaglandins, the hormone-like, culprit compounds responsible for menstrual pain.
Less anxiety and depression.
Dropping sugar from your diet can benefit your mood far more than a candy bar, which can actually drag you down. Sure, it’s easy to think of a sugar-packed snack as a harmless, mood-lifting consolation prize for a lousy day, but think again. It has an impact and it’s not good. According to a recent study men with a sweet tooth were 23% more likely to develop an emotional disorder, and high-sugar consumers of both sexes ran a higher risk of recurrent episodes of depression.
Less brain fog and cognitive decline.
Losing sugar may be your best dietary defense against garden-variety cognitive decline as well as more severe conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease (now being called Type 3 Diabetes by many). In the short term, a diet with little or no added sugar can enhance clear and quick thinking right now. The brain fog-sugar connection was recently shown in a recent UCLA study which determined that high sugar consumption negatively impacted learning and memory. One more reason to ditch the donuts before your 9:00 am meeting and load up on unprocessed foods rich in nutrients and good fats to help keep your brain sharp.
Better, more restorative sleep.
Less sugar equals better sleep. Many people don’t realize it but, sugar is the enemy of a good night’s snooze. It can have a stimulating effect (hardly news to parents), especially when it’s embedded in chocolate which also contains caffeine. So, those squares of dark chocolate as a bedtime snack? Not a good idea. Even if your nervous system isn’t especially sensitive, your metabolism will work to clear excess sugar throughout the night, sending you frequently to the bathroom to pee, and disrupt your sleep.
A lot fewer urinary tract infections.
Had it with recurring urinary tract infections? Cutting sugar helps here too. Excess sugar feeds the UTI-causing bacteria, which promotes bacterial overgrowth and UTIs. So, when you cut sugar out of your diet, you’ll starve the bad bugs, making it a lot tougher for them to cause you trouble.