If you are on a journey to improve your health and feel overwhelmed with the amount of work you need to do. Stop everything and start with this:
Quit Sugar Today!
You might think that the biggest contributor to sugar consumption is table sugar, but no. In fact, it is fizzy drinks, packaged juices, ketchup, bread, and processed chips—which have now become a part of the daily diet for many people. If you have a busy work schedule and find it difficult to make fresh food for every meal, it's understandable that delivery food, which is now just a click away, is how you get the majority of your "nutrients."
Sugar has lasting effects on your brain, so much so that you can even become addicted to it. It is an ingredient you will find where you least expect it, and it is something manufacturers like to hide in the list of ingredients. Make a habit of reading the ingredients list on the back of the product.
However, not all sugar is bad. Sugar present naturally in fruits is, in fact, great to include in your diet. Since it is not the only thing fruits have, along with sugar, they also have fibre, which slows down the release of sugar in your bloodstream.
If you need some convincing, then here are 5 reasons why you need to stop consuming sugar:
The skin is your body's biggest organ. It is the mirror of your health. Whatever is going on inside your body, it shows on your skin, like how women who are facing hormonal issues get excessive hair growth on their faces.
Also, your lifestyle plays the biggest role in maintaining the health of your skin. All the creams and serums available in the market won’t do anything if you are not eating right, sleeping right, and exercising right.
Two proteins that are responsible for the age of your skin are collagen and elastin. A chemical reaction called glycation occurs if there is too much sugar in your blood. Collagen and elastin become weaker when they come into contact with sugar. Your skin becomes less elastic, saggier and looks dull, which are all visible signs of ageing.
To keep your skin youthful and healthy, you should limit the amount of sugar and high-glycemic foods you consume. And, if you are up for giving up sugar completely, that’s even better.
However, if your diet is already sugar-heavy, along with limiting sugar, you can add one more tip, i.e., get enough sleep. Studies have shown that the damage caused by glycation can be reduced by a considerable amount by the sleep hormone melatonin.
Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease. Your diet, overall lifestyle, and some parts of your genetics together have an impact on your blood sugar levels.
Sugar or high-glycemic foods, directly and indirectly, increase your risk of diabetes. Sugar can promote fatty liver issues and chronic inflammation. These factors increase insulin production in your pancreas and put you at risk of diabetes.
Indirectly, sugar is a clear culprit in weight gain, which is a huge contributor to diabetes.
This is only true for added sugar and not for sugar present in whole foods. Sugar in fruits is less likely to cause a glucose hike because the fibres in fruits slowly release sugar into your bloodstream, so they are completely healthy for diabetics.
If you have a habit of reaching out for cookies, chips, or sugary drinks for snacks, thinking it might give you some instant energy or a "sugar high," then sorry to break your beliefs—it is not completely true.
Sugar does give you a boost of energy, but only temporarily.
When the sugar high gets over, comes the crash. Which happens because sugar hinders the production of orexin, a chemical responsible for regulating mood and energy and also keeping us awake. This is the reason why you feel sleepy after a carb-heavy meal.
No wonder it is recommended to eat a protein-heavy breakfast/snack because protein is actually responsible for countering sleepiness and keeping you active for a long time.
Sugar also impacts the quality of your sleep. Your sleep has different phases; the deepest phase is REM sleep. Sugar reduces your chances of being in REM sleep. It doesn’t keep you awake but instead makes you sleepy and not well rested even after a long 8-hour sleep.
Sugar might make your heart smile, but it certainly doesn’t keep it healthy. Too much sugar can affect your heart health as well. The liver converts sugar into fat, and sugar can overload the liver.
Excessive accumulation of fat can result in fatty liver disease, which in turn leads to diabetes and increases your risk of getting heart issues.
Another way sugar causes heart issues is by increasing inflammation and blood pressure, which again are contributors to heart disease.
So sugar might not directly affect your heart, but sugar does cause fatty liver, diabetes, inflammation, and high blood pressure—all of which ultimately result in poor heart health.
Sugar makes your brain active; this is why you feel energetic instantly after eating any high-sugar food.
But, in the long-term, too much sugar consumption and dependence can negatively affect your brain. Research shows that a high-sugar diet can affect the memory centre of the brain—the hippocampus. It also leads to inflammation which can further lead to cognitive deterioration.
One more way it can affect the brain is by putting it into a vicious cycle of cravings. The more sugar-heavy meals you eat, the more you crave them. And the harder it becomes for you to resist them. You get stuck in a cycle of eating-craving-eating more, even when you are not hungry.
Sugar cravings and memory issues might not seem trivial in the short term, but if ignored, they can further increase the risk of other brain diseases like dementia.
For a healthy brain, cut down on sugar as much as you can. Exercise regularly and include food rich in omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, like flaxseeds and chia seeds.
Quitting sugar can be hard, especially if you are used to eating high-glycemic foods.
Due to its addictive properties and its ability to give you instant energy and lift your mood, some people even face withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit it. This is why it is recommended to not give up on it completely.
Instead, start by introducing healthy alternatives. Think about what you can add to your diet, rather than what you can eliminate. Start including healthy sugary foods in your diet, like dates, prunes, apples, and berries.
Eat protein-rich meals accompanied by complex carbs (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) and reach out for healthier snack options if you feel hungry in-between meals.
A healthy lifestyle is difficult to achieve and maintain if you have never tried it. But, it is extremely rewarding in both the short and long run. So, take one day at a time and choose healthy options most of the time (you’re allowed to have some treats once in a while).
The Author is a diabetic himself and seen immense benefits of leaving sugar completely in the last 6 months.
Also read: Foods that help you Sleep better