by Jesse Miller; AlterNet
Sugar is known to be not only addictive, but potentially dangerous. Consuming great amounts of it can be as hard on your liver as alcohol. It can lead to many serious health problems including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, headaches, immune system suppression, chromium deficiency, tooth decay, gum disease and much more.
Quitting sugar can be as hard as quitting cigarettes and can affect you in many of the same ways. It is not generally something you want to quit cold turkey, as the side effects can be hard to deal with. You might notice that you feel incredibly tired, need lots of extra caffeine and have headaches from withdrawal. Some of these can feel quite serious. You may also become short-tempered and have an overall feeling of depression in some cases.
It is best to start slowly. You may choose to forego just a few sugary items to start with, especially if your intake was much higher than normal.
After the initial feelings of withdrawal and lack of energy, you will start to experience the benefits.
1. Your heart health will improve.
The recommended daily amount of sugar for women, according to the American Heart Association is about six teaspoons; however, most adults in the United States consume more than three times that amount on any given day. The fact that there are many foods in which sugar naturally occurs sometimes leads us to miscalculate the amount we are consuming, thereby leading to overconsumption.
Cutting back on sugar reduces the burden on your heart significantly, and reduces the risk of many heart-related diseases.
2. You reduce your chances of developing diabetes significantly.
You can cut your chances of developing diabetes nearly in half by staying away from sugar. For each 12-ounce serving of beverages that contain sugar, the risk of diabetes rises by one fourth.
You cannot substitute fruit drinks or juices, thinking that they are healthier alternatives, as the diabetes risk is over 30 percent higher for people who drink more than two of these each day.
Opting for sugar-free diet sodas does not help, as they have been shown to pose a higher risk of developing diabetes as well, should you drink two or more per day. Less than this is acceptable, proving that moderation may be key after all.
3. Your mood will improve.
A better mood is not something you might experience right away when you quit sugar, but once you are over the worst of it, you will begin to feel much better. A study has even shown that drinking more than four cans of soda a day increase your chances of experiencing depression by almost 40 percent.
Desserts, sweet snacks, sweetened drinks, processed meats and other refined carbohydrates can often have the same effect.
An overload of sugar can also short circuit the gut-brain connection to cause effects such as anxiety and even schizophrenia.
With all the mental symptoms that can be caused by an overindulgence in sugar, it only makes sense that getting sugar out of your diet will reverse those symptoms, and usually pretty quickly.
4. Your sleep quality will start to improve.
Sleeping well at night will become much easier, as your lack of energy and need of a nap from a sugar crash midday will be nonexistent.
Over a third of Americans suffer from blood sugar issues that rank as the second most common cause of insomnia, but the majority of people who have it are unaware that they do.
Some people have adopted the habit of eating six small meals per day, a diet used by those who often suffer from hypoglycemia, but this is a huge issue when it comes times to go to sleep. Once you have gotten your body into the routine of eating every 2-3 hours, going to bed with the expectation of sleeping 8-9 hours without interruption becomes impossible.
The human body is designed to burn fat during the sleep cycle because it burns slower and for a longer period of time. However, after overindulging in sugar, the body burns that instead, so it never even gets the opportunity to burn fat.
5. You will remember things better.
You will notice that your memory improves after you rid sugar from your diet. Too much sugar consumption can cause forgetfulness and, if left unchecked, possibly even permanent brain damage.
A UCLA study outlines an experiment that showed impacted cognitive ability after ingesting foods made with high fructose corn syrup, which is a staple in the Western diet.
Metabolic syndrome, or MetS, is the known link between consuming too much sugar and brain damage and is also the risk factor for obesity.
However, the link to mental health has been largely ignored. Since average Americans are known to ingest more than 40 pounds of high fructose corn syrup each year, and on a regular basis, it can only be assumed that the long-term effects on brain function are very detrimental.
6. You will achieve some of your weight loss goals.
Weight loss can happen faster than you might have imagined just by cutting sugar out of your diet. The body absorbs sugar quite easily; however,it is not a natural part of any human diet. When sugar is consumed, insulin production increases.
Insulin, in turn, prohibits the body from using fat as a fuel while converting sugar to fat and weight gain is the result of the whole process. By eliminating sugar, you are not only allowing insulin to remain in the amounts it is suppose to be in, but you are also eliminating a great many calories also attributed to the substance.
The more your sugar consumption, the less ability you have to burn fat because your body is burning that sugar instead.
7. You look more youthful.
Giving up sugar can lead to an overall more youthful look, starting with your face. Sugar has a dehydrating effect while it increases oil production at the same time. It also affects the ability of water binding so that your skin looks much less vivacious.
Other symptoms of sugar intake on the face include dark circles under the eyes, swelling and inflammation and even mild outbreaks of acne.
By quitting sugar, you will see the effects in 72 to 96 hours. Complexion color will be improved, oily skin will begin to diminish and your face will be more hydrated and perky, with fewer wrinkles than before.
8. Your immune system becomes stronger.
Your immune system will be able to function much better once sugar is out of the diet. According to a study conducted in 1973, sugar causes our white blood cells to stop doing their job of consuming bad bacteria.
A more interesting bit of information from that same study is the fact that starches did not have the same effect on the white blood cells. In light of that fact, it would also be safe to assume that grains and pseudo-grains do not either.
For an immune system to function at its strongest level possible, the ideal situation is to eliminate all added and processed sugar. While this can be extremely hard to do, especially since sugar goes by so many names these days, every little bit helps.
9. You feel more energetic throughout the day.
You will have more energy once you quit sugar than you ever have before. There is a bit of truth to the statement that refined sugar gives you an energy boost.
Indeed, a short pick-me-up occurs as the sugar first hits your system. However, the long-term affect of repeated sugar intake actually harms your body by reducing its ability to correctly metabolize food, transforming it into energy. Once the body becomes use to a quick energy boost, it will begin to look for that and once the sugar is not found, the crash that is associated with it will happen.
10. Your willpower improves.
Sugar is incredibly addictive. That is why people often refer to their “sweet tooth” or “sweet cravings.”
It is often beyond a person’s control to decide whether they want sugary foods and snacks and if they do not get them, they can show major signs of withdrawal, sometimes as severe as you might see in someone trying to give up tobacco.
However, once you begin to see the differences in how you feel and look, your willpower levels will increase drastically.
11. Joint pain and inflammation decrease.
Joint pain and inflammation will decrease as your sugar levels decrease.
Refined and processed sugars can either cause or contribute to inflammation in many different ways.
In addition to making autoimmune disorders worse, the increase of sugar into the body causes insulin levels to rise and insulin can cause inflammation to worsen, which inadvertently leads to joint pain as well as other bodily pains.
The less sugar you eat, the less inflamed your joints will be, giving you much relief.
12. Your oral health improves.
Your mouth and dental health will begin to improve immediately. When you consume sugar, especially in liquid form, much of it adheres to your teeth, even if you swish your mouth afterward.
Bacteria immediately latch onto this sugar and begin to eat it, after which acid is produced. The acid begins to eat away at the enamel found on teeth and thus begins a horrid cycle for your mouth. Cavities, gum disease and gingivitis are well on their way.
Even brushing immediately after consuming sweets is a bad idea, because it makes your enamel softer and more prone to being brushed away.
13. You increase the levels of good cholesterol in your body.
Consuming less sugar can increase your levels of “good” cholesterol.
The job of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, is primarily to take up extra levels of the “bad” cholesterol, or LDL.
This means that for health reasons, you definitely want your good cholesterol higher than your bad cholesterol, but sugar can lead to a decrease in HDL.
A greater sugar intake has also been known to cause higher levels of triglycerides, and all of these increase your risks of developing heart disease.
Triglycerides, however, do not dissolve in the blood stream and continue to travel throughout the circulatory system where they cause damage to artery walls and can cause hardening of the arteries.
14. Your liver becomes leaner.
To create fat, the liver uses sugar, specifically fructose. The more sugar you consume, the more chance your liver has to produce copious amounts of fat, which can result in a fatty liver.
While it is specifically called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, it looks exactly like the livers of those who overindulge in alcohol. If detected early, it is reversible, but becomes less so the longer the damage continues.
15. You lower your risk of some types of cancer.
You can lower your risk of some types of cancer by avoiding sugar.
Cancer cells are fed by sugar, which encourages ongoing cancer cell growth. Cancer cells’ rate of sugar uptake is more than 10 times higher than the rate at which regular healthy cells make use of it.
Cancer cells are also known to thrive in environments that are acidic in nature. Since the pH of sugar is about 6.4, it provides a very cancer-friendly atmosphere. Sugar is linked to more cancers of the breast, prostrate, endometrium and pancreas.
Sugar substitutes are not a good replacement for sugar, as they are also linked to cancers such as bladder cancer, lymphoma and leukemia.
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