For years, doctors and health and fitness experts told us that fat was the enemy. However, more recent research began to show that there was another evil at play. Over the past five years or so, medical professionals have sought to educate us about the dangers of sugar – which is now thought to be the more damaging factor in our health.
If you are among the thousands of people who now count the sugar content in your food as well as the fat, you will hopefully have seen the effects of good nutrition and sugar regulation. But for those who are yet to get their sugar intake under control, here’s what you can look forward to when you begin to tackle the issue.
You’ll sleep better
We’re all familiar with the inevitable crash that comes with a sugar high. Sugar-laden breakfasts such as cereal can leave you feeling sluggish during the day, meaning you end up having afternoon naps and being unable to sleep properly at night.
Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet can help to alleviate this, keeping us alert throughout the day and sleeping better at night. Reducing sugar in your breakfast is as simple as switching Nutella on toast to sugar-free peanut butter, or trying a bowl of porridge instead of cereal.
You’ll get more nutrients
Cutting down on added sugar is more than ditching sweets and fizzy drinks: added sugar is in everyday foods such as cooking sauces, cereals and snacks. If you cut out most of the added sugar from your diet, you’ll need to replace it with something else – which should mean more whole foods.
If you are swapping a jar of pasta sauce for a tin of tomatoes, and trading the frosted cornflakes for an omelette, you’re immediately consuming more vitamins and minerals. The best way to track what you eat is to cook more meals from scratch and don’t risk eating hidden sugars or other problem ingredients. By planning meals it is possible to maintain a more balanced diet and include the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy.
Your risk of type 2 diabetes will reduce
Research suggests that cutting down on sugar in the diet makes you three times less likely to die from a heart problem. This is because overloading your body with sugar results in a spike in a blood sugar. This demands that the body increases the amount of insulin it produces, which can in turn raise blood pressure. Maintaining more consistent blood sugar levels allows insulin production to be more steady, too. This is a crucial factor in avoiding type 2 diabetes.
Of course, type 2 diabetes has also been widely linked to weight problems. As one of the key factors in causing obesity, it is thought that reducing sugar and achieving weight loss as a result will directly reduce instances of type 2 diabetes.
Your skin will improve
An excessive sugar intake is known to cause inflammation and hormone fluctuation, both of which can result in acne. One study found that drinking a can of fizzy drink every day for three weeks increased inflammation levels by 87% - and many of us consume much more sugar than that each day.
Sugar is also linked to the premature ageing of the skin, as sugar in the bloodstream can combine with certain proteins and become damaging to collagen and elastin – these are the proteins that keep the skin looking firm. This is a natural process that happens as we age, but it has been suggested than an excess of sugar in the bloodstream can cause this process to happen at a faster rate.
Your mind may even get sharper
Studies performed on animals have suggested that sugar can inhibit memorisation and general learning, as a high consumption of sugar over time can hinder communication within the brain. One study found that rats who were fed a lot of sugar had limited brain activity compared to their sugar-free siblings. And experts believe that this trend in sugar intake is something that may also be true of humans.
If you’ve been experiencing a foggy mind as of late, perhaps you might want to reconsider that can of cola or bar of chocolate. Try and cut down on the amount of added sugar that you consume, even just for a week, and see if any of these problems relating to concentration, energy and fatigue improve.