Like a smooth-talking con artist, added sugar provides you with fleeting moments of happiness and plagues you with enduring feelings of regret.
A popular source of comfort and a staple of every celebration, this diabolically sweet ingredient is responsible for unwarranted physical, emotional and financial pains.
At least 29 million Americans have diabetes, with the total cost (medical and work loss) closing in on 250 billion dollars.
Thankfully, you don’t need to hurt your health or face financial ruin before taking back your life.
You can start right now by choosing to cut added sugar from your diet.
Yes, giving up something as addictive as sugar is, to put it mildly, challenging.
From nasty withdrawal symptoms to the unrelenting machinations of your lizard brain, your resolve will be tested every day.
This struggle is, however, worth it. Here are ten reasons why:
Who doesn’t enjoy a cup of ice-cream or a couple of chocolate pieces before bedtime?
Unfortunately, late night consumption of sugary products interferes with the quality (and quantity) of your sleep.
The instant conversion of high-glycemic foods into energy causes blood sugar levels to crash. This triggers cortisol — aka stress hormones — to rise and flood the body with glucose, which re-energizes your body.
In addition, melatonin — a hormone created by a gland in the brain that controls the sleep and waking cycles — has an inverse relationship with cortisol. A rise in cortisol leads to a fall in melatonin, also hurting your sleep.
Avoiding sugary foods before bedtime gives your body the time to balance blood sugar levels (after dinner) and regulate sleep hormone production.
Strengthened Immune System
Falling sick frequently? Processed sugars might be to blame.
The average American consumes at least half that amount per day.
“It turns out, a high intake of sugar can contribute to nutrient deficiencies in ways other than by displacing more nutritious foods,” writes Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D. (a.k.a. The Paleo Mom)
Excess fructose, for instance, diminishes the levels of Vitamin D, thereby increasing your susceptibility to infections. Vitamin D deficiency also inhibits the absorption of calcium – a vital mineral that aids in the maintenance of your bones, heart, muscles, and nerves.
Finally, high blood sugar levels result in the excretion of calcium, magnesium, and chromium, and impedes the absorption of Vitamin C by our body.
Doesn’t your immune system deserve better?
Slows Skin Aging
AGE(s) or Advanced Glycation Endproducts.
These aptly named products contribute to rapid aging, of the skin and other organs (including the brain).
AGE(s) are byproducts of glycation, which occurs when sugar molecules in the blood bond with — and harm — protein molecules in a domino-like fashion.
Glycation occurs in everyone. But those who consume added sugar accelerate this process by increasing the number of rogue sugar molecules.
“The more sugar you eat, the more AGEs you develop,” writes Karyn Repinski, a freelance writer and editor, for Prevention.
AGEs attack collagen and elastin, the protein fibers responsible for strong, smooth and supple skin. When damaged, the same fibers turn weak, brittle, dry, and saggy.
AGEs also leave your skin susceptible to skin damage by deactivating “your body’s natural antioxidant enzymes”.
Shunning adding sugar delays the appearance of lines, bags, and wrinkles. You are, in effect, prolonging your youthful skin.
And that’s sweet.
Lowers Blood Pressure
One in three Americans suffers from high blood pressure. Common causes include smoking, alcoholism, stress, a sedentary lifestyle, and poor nutrition.
Recent research confirms sugar is also a sneaky culprit.
Regular consumption of foods with a high glycemic index causes cells to become resistant to insulin, the pancreatic hormone that distributes nutrients into body cells.
Insulin resistance disrupts blood pressure-regulating signals, accelerates heart rate, squeezes blood vessels, and impedes nutrient absorption.
“… it creates an imbalance in sodium and potassium (which increases blood volume) and calcium and magnesium (which causes arterial constriction),” writes Julian Whitaker, the Founder and Medical Director of Whitaker Wellness, “driving up blood pressure and increasing the risk of heart disease.”
Give your hard-working heart a break by choosing nutrient-rich foods.
Sucrose thwarts the anti-inflammatory effects of Omega-3 fatty acids, essential fatty acids that are solely gotten from food. Examples of rich Omega-3 sources: fish, flaxseed oil, and walnuts.
High fructose levels in the blood also increase the production of uric acid, Under optimal health conditions, most of the uric acid is eliminated via urination.
However, surplus uric acid is not egested through the urinary tract. Instead, it crystallizes and settles in and around your joints, and occasionally the kidney in the form of kidney stones.
Eliminating added sugars from your diet will go a long way in reducing the possibility and severity of inflammation-based diseases.
Balanced Energy Levels
Blood sugar powers your body. The brain, for instance, relies mostly on the energy derived from glucose to function optimally.
Carbohydrates are the dominant sources of blood sugar. But the type of carbohydrates you consume will decide whether you ride the energy rollercoaster or breeze through your day on cruise control.
The higher the glycemic index of a food, the faster it is processed. The donuts and syrup-laden coffees might give you a burst of addictive energy, but this spike is followed by an inevitable crash.
Consequently, you make constant trips to the vending machine for more short-term hits. And the vicious cycle continues.
Don’t make fatigue the new normal.
Feel fuller, livelier, happier, and more energetic through the day by consuming nutrient-rich foods like proteins, healthy fats, and greens.
Boost Your Mood
You are so tired you can barely stand.
All you want to do is lock yourself in a room – alone and away from everyone who is irritating you, which is everyone.
Fatigue causes irritability, frustration, and in some extreme cases, depression.
“Constantly over-activating these serotonin pathways can deplete our limited supplies of the neurotransmitter, which can contribute to symptoms of depression,” according to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, functional medicine expert and author of Why Isn’t My Brain Working?.”
Excess blood sugar forces the pancreas to release an undue amount of insulin to process the sudden influx of glucose. This leads to a rapid reduction in blood sugar in healthy people — also called “reactive hypoglycemia”—which in turn causes the body to release adrenaline or epinephrine – the “fight or flight” chemical.
The result? Stress, anxiety, moodiness.
Cut added sugars for a happier, livelier, and let’s face it, a nicer YOU.
Take Control of Cravings
The brain only wants the best for us. So it remembers activities that bring us pleasure and works hard to protect us from pain.
However, this wonder organ is not effective at determining which pleasure is the good kind — e.g. petting a dog — and which pleasure is the bad kind — e.g. binging on donuts. It releases similar happiness hormones — such as dopamine and endorphin — in both cases.
Added sugars “hijack the brain’s reward pathway”, hooking us in a pleasure-regret cycle that leads to irresistible cravings and loss of control around food.
The more you eat, the more you crave, and the more you need to eat to satisfy your craving.
Thankfully, your brain is also the most adaptable student; you can teach it to act differently.
Deleting added sugars is one way to reset taste receptors, create new reward pathways, and de-gunk communication lines.
Avoid Unnecessary Pounds
Sucrose is made up of two monosaccharides: glucose and fructose.
Insulin is secreted primarily in response to excess levels of glucose – the “body’s preferred energy source” — which are either transformed into energy (by all cells) immediately or saved in the liver as glycogen to be used in times of need.
Fructose, on the other hand, is processed only by the liver. Superfluous fructose leads to insulin resistance and leptin resistance, two leading causes of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems.
Resistance to leptin, the appetite-regulating hormone, upsets satiety signals and induces overeating.
Ideally, this mechanism works perfectly. Healthy people can consume meals high in carbs without dangerously elevating their blood sugar levels.
Copious consumption of added sugars, however, leads to insulin resistance. Unmetabolized insulin not only causes Type II diabetes but also results in extraneous fat.
“When insulin levels are chronically elevated, much of the energy in our bloodstream gets selectively deposited in the fat cells and stored,” writes Kris Gunnars, CEO, and founder, of Authority Nutrition.
This prevents the body from accessing stored fat, spurring us to eat more in order to feel fuller.
Reconnect with your body’s hunger cues by staying away from added sugars.
Our brain cells require twice as much energy as the rest of the cells, according to Dr. Mike Dow, the bestselling author of The Brain Fog (Page 31).
Which is why when that dreaded afternoon slump sneaks up, we reach for the quickest fixes – the sugar, the salt, and the caffeine.
Since brain cells do not store glucose, the energy rush is inevitably followed by an energy drought.
Low GI foods burn energy slowly and sustainably, causing your brain to focus deeper and longer.
It’s All Uphill from Here
Added sugar is an insidious culprit that sucks you into its quicksand of deliciousness. Alas, it also leaves you to pick up the pieces of your fatigue, fickle moods and failing health.
When you consciously choose to remove processed sugar from your diet, you control how you feel, look, and sleep.
You reclaim the natural sweetness of life.
One drink at a time. One dinner at a time. One day at a time.