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Health benefits of reducing added sugar

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We often hear about the not-so-great impact on health when consuming too much added sugar. We saw the effect it had on Damon in as little as 60 days!

But what happens when you eliminate sugar from your diet?

Well, first, let us say 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,1 can do you good.

Here are some health benefits of reducing sugar intake.

Energy and sleep

Eating foods high in added sugar send you on a sugar high, quickly followed by a sugar crash. This impacts energy levels and can affect sleep. For many, sugar lows and poor sleep often lead to a greater desire for the sweet stuff as we seek a quick pick-me-up, consequently resulting in a sugar dependant cycle!

By swapping out added sugar for real whole foods that include healthy fats, protein and fibre will mean stabilised blood glucose levels and energy, to keep you keeping on.

Skin

Whether spots or ageing are your concern, kicking the added sugar habit can support the health of your skin.

Drink plenty of water and choose real foods with skin-supportive nutrients instead of the sweet stuff, including vitamins C and E, selenium, zinc, essential fatty acids and antioxidants.

Teeth

Did you know 1 in 2 children aged 12 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 practice good dental hygiene for spectacular pearly whites.1

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; whereas eating mostly real, whole foods may help treat mental health conditions such as depression.2

Give yourself a mood boost by limiting added sugar intake and 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 in or persistently high blood glucose levels have been associated with increased risk for brain fog, poorer cognition and loss of memory.3

Maintain stable blood glucose levels by enjoying healthy fats, protein and fibre, and support brain health with an abundance of colourful veg and fruit and 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

Longer term too much added sugar might increase risk for type 2 diabetes and weight gain.4-6

Type 2 diabetes and extreme weight gain put pressure on the body to function properly. Give your body the best chance for optimal health by limiting intake of the sweet stuff and eating real foods instead.

Heart disease

The mechanism behind the relationship between too much added sugar and compromised heart health is complex. But increasingly studies show a connection, so it pays to go easy on sugar for your heart.7

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 low sugar diet benefits you may experience, perhaps 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 food, and experience the benefits of quitting sugar or limiting intake to 6 teaspoons a day.

And be sure to share the boost in health you’ve experienced with family and friends so they too can begin to make positive dietary changes and reap the benefits!

By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)

References

  1. World Health Organisation 2015, WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children, viewed 12 June 2017, <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/sugar-guideline/en/>.
  2. Jacka, F et al. 2017, ‘A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the `SMILES’ trial)’, BMC Medicine, 15, no. 1, pp. 23.
  3. Barnes, JN, & Joyner, MJ 2012, ‘Sugar highs and lows: the impact of diet on cognitive function’, The Journal Of Physiology, vol. 590, no. 12, p. 2831
  4. Basu S, Yoffe P, Hills N, Lustig R 2013, ‘The relationship of sugar to population-level diabetes prevalence: an econometric analysis of repeated cross-sectional data’, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 2.
  5. Imamura F, O’Connor L, Ye Z, Mursu J, Hayashino Y, Bhupathiraju S et al. 2015, ‘Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and fruit juice and incidence of type 2 diabetes: systematic review, metaanalysis, and estimation of population attributable fraction’, viewed 12 June 2017, <http://www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h3576>.
  6. Te Morenga L, Mallard S, Mann J 2013, ‘Dietary sugars and body weight: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials and cohort studies’, viewed 12 June 2017, <http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.e7492>.
  7. Yang Q, Zhang Z, Gregg E, Flanders W, Merritt R, Hu F 2014, ‘Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults’, JAMA Internal Medicine, vol. 174, n. 4, pp. 516-524.
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