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Health benefits of reducing added sugar

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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 intake of the sweet stuff. This is great, but are there other benefits? 

You bet!

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.

Secondly, it 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.

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 dependant 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.

Skin

Kicking the added sugar habit can support the health of your skin, preventing spots or pre-mature 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.

Teeth

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 too much sweet stuff, especially sugary drinks and tacky, sticky sweets. And always practice good dental hygiene for spectacular pearly whites.

Mood

Throughout Damon’s experiment in That Sugar Film, we observed the impact on his mood. A poor diet, high in heavily 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. 

Stablise blood glucose levels by enjoying at each meal a source of healthy fat, protein and fibre. 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 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.

Heart disease

The mechanism behind the relationship between excess added sugar consumption, and compromised heart health is complex. But increasingly studies 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 find that your palate will become 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.)

 

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