How much sugar should we consume? If you have a sweet tooth and love to eat sugary foods and beverages, be aware that too much sugar isn’t so sweet for your health. Taking less sugar would result to some incredible health benefits such as Low cholesterol level, low risk of diabetes, increase in oral health and to mention a few.
The naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables are absolutely fine. The problem starts when you consume more than the recommended amount of sugar that is added to foods and beverages. According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amounts of added sugars that one can consume in a day are:
Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons)
Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons)
Added sugar is one of the worst ingredients in the modern diet. It provides empty calories with no added nutrients and leads to many health issues.
1. Aids Weight Loss
Sugar is just empty calories that you are eating and causes weight gain. When you eat more sugar, your body converts as much as it needs into energy and stores the rest away as body fat. Eventually, this fat starts showing on your waist, hips, thighs and face.
A 2005 study published in Nutrition & Metabolism concludes that the alarming increase in fructose intake is an important contributor to the epidemic of obesity and insulin-resistant diabetes in both children and adults. This study emphasized the urgent need for increased public awareness of the risks associated with high fructose consumption.
A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed several short-term and long-term studies and found that fructose consumption results in decreased circulating levels of insulin and leptin when compared with glucose. This contributes to weight gain and obesity.
Quitting sugar can help you finally lose some of the extra pounds and prevent health problems that come with being overweight. You may crave for more sugar in the beginning but over a period of time you will experience lesser sugar cravings.
2. Lowers Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Level
Ditching sugar means a healthier heart. It can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol level.
High sugar intake raises insulin levels, which in turn activates the sympathetic nervous system. This leads to an increase in blood pressure and heart rate.
High blood pressure makes your heart and arteries work harder, which gradually damages the whole circulatory system. Eventually, this increases the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, strokes and other serious coronary conditions.
3. Reduces Your Risk of Diabetes
Excess sugar intake leads to a buildup of fatty deposits around the liver, which contributes over time to insulin resistance by affecting the functioning of the pancreas.
A study published in Diabetes Care in 2010 concludes that in addition to weight gain, higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with development of metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes.
This study even provided empirical evidence that intake of sugar-sweetened beverages should be limited to reduce obesity-related risk of chronic metabolic diseases. As sugar intake is likely a leading cause of diabetes, those who are at a higher risk of diabetes in the coming years can benefit greatly from avoiding sugar completely.
4. Prevents Energy Slumps
Eating more sugar can lead to energy slumps, leaving you exhausted and irritable. Consuming high amounts of any type of sugar appears to raise energy levels in proportion to the amount consumed. But it soon results in a sharp drop in energy levels.
Sugar gets broken down very quickly and causes a spike in blood sugar levels. During this time, the brain stops producing orexin, the neuropeptide responsible for feeling alert. Excess dietary sugar affects the brain, nerves, digestive system and muscles. If the body is not receiving proper nutrition, it results in fatigue and tiredness.
Instead of going for a sweet beverage or a sugary dessert, opt for a protein-packed snack to keep you alert and full of energy.
5. Promotes Sound Sleep
Cutting back on sugar can help maintain blood sugar levels and also increase the level of serotonin within the brain, promoting a healthy and consistent sleep pattern. Eating sugary foods causes blood sugar spikes, which leads to adrenal exhaustion. This affects sleep quality.
Also, sugar suppresses the activity of orexin, a neurotransmitter produced in the brain that helps regulate arousal, wakefulness and appetite. High sugar leads to large amounts of glucose in the bloodstream, which suppress the activity of orexin neurons in the brain.
Try cutting sugar out of your diet, or at least limit your intake, to enjoy better sleep. You might be surprised by how much better you are sleeping!
If you need a snack before bedtime, try some oatmeal or a whole-grain sandwich.
6. Slows Down Skin Aging
High sugar intake can even accelerate the skin-aging process. It can make your skin dull and dry, which makes it more prone to wrinkles.
Sugar intake leads to a process known as glycation, in which sugar attaches to and damages proteins like collagen and elastin. These proteins are needed to keep your skin smooth and flexible. Damage to the collagen and elastin can make your skin more likely to sag and develop wrinkles.
7. Prevents Fatty Liver Disease
A diet high in sugar can exacerbate fatty liver disease. Eating a sugary item leads to a spike in insulin and also drives fat into the liver cells, which in turn causes inflammation and scarring.
Sugar is made up of glucose and fructose, which are metabolized in the liver as only the liver has a transporter for it. When excess sugar is consumed, the liver converts it to a lipid. Overproduction of lipids leads to hormonal changes in the body, which can affect liver function.
8. Improves Oral Health
High sugar intake and poor oral health go hand in hand. When high sugar intake is combined with poor oral hygiene, the results can be disastrous.
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, there are hundreds of bacteria inside the mouth, many of which are beneficial. However, certain bacteria feed on the sugars and create acids.
The acids can destroy the tooth enamel, which is the shiny, protective outer layer of the tooth. This in turn can lead to cavities, which if not treated timely can cause severe toothaches and possible tooth loss.