Many of us are well aware that our sugar consumption can be linked to an increased risk of numerous health ailments such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and a host of other serious conditions. Unfortunately, however, the reality of these risk still isn’t incentive enough for us to actually change our sugar habits.
Whether it’s because we don’t perceive these to be an immediate threat, or we’re in denial of any non-obvious signs that sugar is causing damage to our own health, we are often far too easily tempted to ignore the facts. Instead, we are driven toward the immediate and short-term gratification sugar provides us with.
The simple fact is this; an instant reward is far more compelling for us in driving our behaviours than the threat of any long-term consequences!
So, with this in mind, it may help and motivate some of us by learning of the more immediate and undeniably rewarding benefits that you will experience from reducing your sugar intake as soon as today:
1. Healthy, glowing, youthful skin
We all want to look and feel confident in the skin we’re in, and unfortunately, sugar does us no favours in achieving this!
When we ingest simple carbohydrates and sugars, our bodies break down the sugar molecules into glucose – which in turn raises our insulin levels. Spiked insulin levels trigger inflammation throughout the body, and inflammation produces enzymes that break down the elastin and collagen in our skin, causing them to wear down (a process called glycation)1. The result? Reduced elasticity, dull, puffy, sagging and aged skin – and if you’re already facing skin conditions like acne and rosacea, they’re bound to be exacerbated by the inflammation2.
Simply by reducing your sugar intake, you may notice your skin become perkier, more fresh and vibrant and less inflamed. Even better, if you manage to keep this up on a consistent basis, you can expect the longer-term rewards of glowing skin and decreased signs of ageing!
2. Deeper, more restful sleep
Since the amount of sugar you consume influences things like your blood sugar levels, insulin levels and production of stress hormones, our food choices throughout the day can affect the quality of our sleep.
A diet higher in sugar has been shown to promote lighter, less restorative sleep, with more awakenings and interruptions throughout the night3. This kind of restless sleep can make you feel chronically fatigued, and in turn make you more susceptible to craving more sugar the next day – trapping you in a vicious cycle.
Simply cutting back on sugar can promote a noticeable shift towards better quality, regular sleeping patterns and a sound night sleep. Who doesn’t want to wake up feeling well-rested and refreshed?
3. More stable, consistent energy levels
When we consume sugar, our blood sugar levels spike, giving us a boost in energy, before falling shortly after insulin is released in your cells. This sudden drop in blood sugar can make us shaky, weak and hungry – trapping us in a rollercoaster of endless energy spikes and crashes.
Less sugar in our diet is going to make our energy levels more stable throughout the day, leaving us feeling overall much brighter and more energetic on a consistent basis. With increased energy, we’re also likely to experience more positive moods and a clearer mind – which means we’ll be more productive and pleasant to be around too! The easiest way to reap these benefits as soon as possible is to cut down on the sugar in your first meal of the day and ensuring you get good amounts of healthy natural fats and protein for your first meal. This will set you up for the rest of the day and will be an obvious indication of just how better you do feel without that initial sugar rush you think you need to get through the day.
4. Less bloating and improved digestion
Too much sugar (especially fructose) has an inflammatory effect on the gut lining. It also fuels the growth of yeast and problematic bacteria in our bowels, which feast and thrive on these sugars. Not only does this lead to an excess production of gas and trigger the subsequent experiences of abdominal pain, bloating and flatulence as the bacteria break down the sugar, but it also promotes an overpopulation of these bad guys in your gut.
When the bad bacteria start to outnumber the good bacteria (causing what is known as ‘gut dysbiosis’), this altered and imbalanced gut microbiome can prevent your body from properly digesting food and cause intestinal inflammation, as well as a host of other health concerns (e.g. weakened immunity and mood disorders.)4
So if you’re suffering from excessive bloating or digestive discomfort, you may find immediate relief simply from cutting back on the sugar in your diet ASAP.
5. Improved weight loss and easier weight management
While we’re by no means saying that weight loss should be the primary motivator behind your health goals, the reality is that cutting out or cutting back on sugar may actually help you lose weight (and sometimes relatively effortlessly) through its effect on your food choices, appetite, cravings and insulin-sensitivity.
A diet high in sugar often means increased production of insulin, leptin and stress hormones such as cortisol by the body5. As your body becomes resistant to the increase in these hormones as they’re constantly triggered and released by the sugar in your diet, you’re often left with an appetite that’s never satisfied, an overconsumption of calories, and an unmanageable weight loss or maintenance goal.
By eliminating a lot of the sugar from your diet, you will be ensuring that your insulin and leptin levels aren’t being excessively spiked and altered, which in turn will lead to less cravings, more manageable hunger cues and a more effective metabolism.
Cutting back on sugar also means we’ll be turning more and more to natural, unprocessed foods – a behavioural switch that we can reap immediate and lasting rewards from. Indeed, when we’re looking to replace sugar, we often reach for inherently more wholesome options (e.g. brown rice), more protein and more high-fibre options (e.g. fruit). By nature, this means we can easily slash unnecessary calories in our diet without any reduction in food quantity or compromise on enjoyment… it’s a win-win situation! Just be careful not to simply switch what is commonly referred to as ‘refined sugar’ (table sugar, caster sugar, glucose syrup etc.) for ‘unrefined sugars’ such as coconut sugar, agave syrup, honey, maple syrup and rice malt. Whilst these sugars may be slightly less refined and contain trace minerals and other nutrients, the end effect on your body is often not all that different from consuming ‘ordinary’ / ‘added’ sugar. Remember: sugar is sugar. Don’t be fooled by fancy or exotic names for sugars in disguise, they will only slow or hinder you from achieving your health goals in the long run.
As you can see, the fast benefits really stack up, and after a week or so of implementing changes, you’ll likely be feeling so good that you won’t want to back to a higher sugar diet. Bring on the positive changes and lifestyle rewards!
- Leith-Manos, R. (2013, May 16). Is Sugar Ageing You? Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from: https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/beauty/is-sugar-ageing-you-20130513-2jib2.html
- Katta, R., & Desai, S. P. (2014). Diet and Dermatology: The Role of Dietary Intervention in Skin Disease.The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 7(7), 46–51.
- St-Onge, M.-P., Mikic, A., & Pietrolungo, C. E. (2016). Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality.Advances in Nutrition, 7(5), 938–949.
- Brown, K., DeCoffe, D., Molcan, E., & Gibson, D. L. (2012). Diet-Induced Dysbiosis of the Intestinal Microbiota and the Effects on Immunity and Disease.Nutrients, 4(8), 1095–1119.
- Macdonald, I. A. (2016). A review of recent evidence relating to sugars, insulin resistance and diabetes.European Journal of Nutrition, 55(Suppl 2), 17–23. http://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-016-1340-8