I quit sugar for one month, and I had no idea how challenging it would be. When you think about it, sugar is everywhere, whether it’s in its natural form or it’s processed and added. From breads, to salad dressing, to milk and fruit, it’s a difficult ingredient to avoid. The average person does not pay much attention to the amount of sugar they are consuming on a day-to-day basis, however, it is something that we should all be mindful of.
Like the demonized calories and carbohydrates, sugar has a bad wrap. Although we should be aware of how much sugar we are consuming, “real sugar” (the kind that exists in natural foods) is less harmful than processed. Natural sugars are better than processed as the amount of natural sugar found in whole foods is usually quite modest and they often contain a host of other beneficial nutrients.
On the other hand, refined sugars can be very harmful when over consumed. Over-consumption of refined sugars has been linked to an impaired immune system, heart disease, manic depression, cloudy thoughts, and type 2 diabetes. Although consuming a moderate amount of sugar is very unlikely to lead to these more serious issues, the problem is that many people are unawarely over-consuming sugars in their day to day diets.
Cutting out (or reducing) sugar consumption has an array of benefits. See below:
Improves skin including eczema and acne
Improves gut health
Improves heart health
Decreases the risk of many diseases
Helps maintain a healthy weight
Increases energy levels
Improves mental health and memory
Balances mood and hormones
Improves dental health
What to Expect
When quitting sugar, it is not uncommon for one to battle with certain symptoms of withdrawal and strong food cravings. Studies have found that individuals who have consumed a high sugar diet for an extended period of time may face challenges with relapse and binge eating. This is all tied to the addictive effect that sugar has on the brain. The reason why eating sugar feels good is because it activates the pleasure and reward center of your brain and stimulates the release of dopamine. When this happens, a reaction in the brain is produced that is similar to the mechanism of a drug (however, less intense).
Tips & Tricks
Below are some simple tips to help reduce your sugar intake.
Read the label: Although simple, this may be one of the most important things you can do to have more control over the quality of food that you are consuming.
Learn to substitute: There are several healthier alternatives you can add to foods in place of artificial sweeteners such as coconut palm sugar, stevia, agave, maple syrup or honey.
Identify the weakness: We all have that one sugary treat or flavoring we can’t get rid of. Cutting out this treat and substituting it for a healthier alternative will be an important step in your journey of reducing the mindless consumption of sugar.
Out of sight, out of mind: Aim to remove sugars from your home so they are less accessible.
Just start: There is no “right” way to quit sugar - start somewhere and take it day by day.
Although natural sugars in small amounts can be a part of a healthy and balanced diet, be mindful of your consumption of refined sugars. Temporarily quitting sugar (or even reducing consumption) gives us the opportunity to reset and rethink our future food habits.