Sugar is hogging the spotlight as one of the most harmful foods in diets today. While sugar occurs naturally in healthy fruits and vegetables, many prepared and processed foods are stocked with added or refined sugars for supplemental sweetness. Whether it's in ketchup or candy or cartons of almond milk, sugar has been sneaking into our diets in multiple (and perhaps unexpected) forms.
As a result, many people are going sugar-free. And though it might sound like another weight-loss fad, the benefits of giving up sugar go well beyond slimming down. The lifestyle choice impacts your overall health and well-being! That’s why we’ve teamed up with Maty’s Healthy Products to share eight ways you can benefit from a sugar-free diet today:
1. You are bound to be happier.
Increased sugar intake is directly correlated to higher rates of anxiety and depression. Sugar might give you a temporary high, but over the long term, it impairs the body’s ability to cope with stress and pump out the right mood-boosting chemicals, such as dopamine.
The sweet substance also increases inflammation, which is linked to a greater risk of developing depression.
Instead of opting for a quick-fix "sugar high," try eating foods rich in tryptophan, such as poultry, eggs, and nuts, which create the happy hormone serotonin.
2. Your immune system will thank you.
Sugar is one of the main causes of inflammation, which greatly affects our immune systems. With increased intake of sugar, the body has a harder time warding off infections, including the flu and common cold. That’s because sugar impedes phagocytes' (a type of white blood cell) ability to do their job, which is to engulf harmful bacteria. Sugar also raises blood pressure, which can compromise your immune system.
3. You will have a sharper attention span.
A study from the University of California–Los Angeles showed that sugar might also compromise mental functions such as learning and memory. The addictive substance creates brain fog, making it harder to focus on the present or remember the past. Sugar also increases stress, affecting our attention spans and cognitive abilities.
On the other hand, meditation is a good way to sharpen your attention and improve your mental abilities.
4. You’ll decrease your dependency on sugar.
There’s a reason your body craves sweet snacks. Consuming sugar is similar to taking a drug: The reward is a release of the natural chemical dopamine. But eating sugar changes the way your brain produces those chemicals, so consumption could lead to dependency. And the source of sugar doesn't matter, since the body is unable to decipher between natural sugar (as found in fruit, honey, and milk) and processed sugar.
BBC reports that men shouldn't have over 70 grams of sugar a day, while women should limit it to 50 grams. Of course, this varies depending on one's size and physical activity level.
If you have a huge sweet tooth, try eating low-glycemic fruit, such as blueberries, instead of eating foods made with added or refined sugars.
5. Your skin will be more smooth and radiant.
Cutting out sugar can’t turn back time, but it can make you age more slowly. Sugar creates new molecules (AGEs) that attack the fibers in collagen and elastin — the proteins that make your skin so smooth and firm. Studies suggest that sugar may also increase your risk of developing acne.
An easy way to maintain glowing, youthful-looking skin is simply to cut down on sugar. A diet rich in vitamin C also helps boost collagen production instead of breaking it down.
6. You will feel more energized.
Sugar might make you feel like you’re on fire, but, as with caffeine, you’re bound to crash eventually. "Your body burns through sugars and highly processed carbohydrates, like white bread, white rice, or prepared bakery goods, more rapidly than protein and the carbohydrates in whole grains,” reports a Harvard Medical School study. You’re more likely to have sustained energy if you skip the sugar.
Instead, eat for natural energy with good fats and lean proteins.
7. You are less likely to develop chronic diseases.
Increased sugar intake is reportedly related to higher blood pressure and can also reduce good (HDL) cholesterol, increasing your risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
Excess sugar intake can also create a spike in blood sugar, which is a precursor for diseases such as diabetes. Since sugar also affects our cognitive function, it’s been linked to Alzheimer’s disease as well. The list goes on!
To maintain a balanced blood sugar level, try to eat a diet low in sugar and artificial sweeteners.
8. You might sleep better.
Stress and anxiety are common side effects of consuming sugar. You’re more likely to toss and turn at night after eating sugar. Ditching the sugar regulates your body, allowing you to more easily relax and get a good night’s rest.
Plus, if you ditch the sugar, you’re more likely to be filling up on nourishing foods, leaving you feeling extra satisfied and perhaps less likely to wake up for that sweet midnight snack.
Opt for smarter snacking with whole foods and combinations that won’t raise your blood sugar, such as a banana and almond butter (a mix of complex carbs, good fats, and protein).