Health benefits of reducing added sugar
There are various concerns for health following excessive and persistent added sugar consumption. In That Sugar Film, we saw the effect it had on Damon in as little as 60 days, and that was consuming seemingly “healthy” foods!
The risk for developing such health conditions, including excessive weight gain, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and more, is greatly reduced when you limit your intake of the sweet stuff. This is great, but are there other benefits?
Before we share possible health benefits, it is important to know when we refer to ‘sugar’, we mean added or free sugars, not the stuff naturally occurring in whole foods such as veg, fruit and dairy.
It also might not be necessary to quit added and free sugars altogether. (Though if that approach works for you, that is fine.) However, cutting back on the sweet stuff and limiting intake to 6 teaspoons (25g) per day, as recommended by the World Health Organization, can do you good. More so when adding in more nutrient-dense whole foods at the same time.
Here are some health benefits you may experience once you have reduced sugar intake.
Energy and sleep
Too much added or free sugar sends you on a sugar high, quickly followed by a sugar crash. This rollercoaster ride affects energy levels and can create issues with sleep. For many, sugar lows and poor sleep lead to a greater desire for the sweet food and drink as we seek a quick pick-me-up, resulting in a sugar dependent cycle!
To keep your energy firing, swap out added sugar for real, whole foods, including sources of healthy fats, protein and fibre. This stabilises blood glucose and energy levels, and encourages better sleep.
Kicking the added sugar habit can support the health of your skin, preventing spots or premature ageing.
Drink plenty of water and instead of the sweet stuff, choose real, whole foods with skin-supportive nutrients, including vitamins C and E, selenium, zinc, essential fatty acids and antioxidants.
Did you know 2 in 5 Australian children aged 12-14 years old has tooth decay in their adult teeth? Yikes!
We saw in That Sugar Film the detrimental impact too much sugary drink had on Larry’s teeth.
Give your teeth a chance to shine! Avoid excess intake of sweet stuff, especially sugary drinks and tacky, sticky sweets. And always practise good dental hygiene for spectacular pearly whites.
Throughout Damon’s experiment in That Sugar Film, we observed the impact on his mood. A poor diet, high in heavily or ultra-processed foods, deep-fried stuff, and added sugar, is inflammatory and may increase the risk for altered mood. Eating mostly real, whole foods may help treat mental health conditions such as depression.
Give yourself a mood boost by limiting added sugar intake. Nourish the brain and cellular health and function with the goodies provided in real whole foods, such as vegetables, fruit, leafy greens, nuts, seeds and oily fish.
Memory and cognitive function
The brain is highly dependent on a steady supply of glucose to fuel brain cells. But fluctuations of blood glucose levels, or levels that are persistently high, have been associated with increased risk for brain fog, poorer cognition and loss of memory. Learning may also be affected.
Stabilise blood glucose levels by enjoying a source of healthy fat, protein and fibre at each meal. Support brain health with an abundance of colourful veg and fruit, focusing on nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids (found in oily fish, flaxseed and walnuts) and antioxidants (found in berries, spices, leafy greens and green tea).
Type 2 diabetes and weight
Long-term, too much added sugar can increase the risk for type 2 diabetes and weight gain.
Type 2 diabetes and excessive weight gain put pressure on the body to function properly. Give your body the best chance for optimal health; limit intake of the sweet and heavily processed stuff and eat real, whole foods instead.
The mechanism behind the relationship between excess added sugar consumption and compromised heart health is complex. Increasingly, studies do show a connection, so it pays to go easy on sugar for your heart.
Choose good quality, heart-friendly foods over the sweet stuff, including an abundance of colourful veg and healthy fats from nuts, seeds, olive oil and oily fish.
Share the joy!
There are many benefits to a whole-food, low-sugar diet. You may experience improvements in health without even realising something was amiss to begin with!
The power you have over your food choices can impact your day-to-day and long-term health. With that in mind, where possible choose real, whole food, and experience the benefits of limiting intake of added and free sugars to 6 teaspoons (25g) a day. Soon you will experience what we call ‘paladjustment’, when your palate becomes more sensitive to sweet tastes, and the subtle sweetness in whole foods, such as sweet potato or an apple, will be sweet enough!
Be sure to share the boost in health you experience with family and friends. Inspire them so they can begin to make positive dietary changes and reap the benefits, too.
By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut Med)