Sugar-free eating isn't just about losing weight, although that may be a motivation. There are a lot of benefits to the body and mind when you cut out refined sugar. Excessive sugar consumption has been linked to obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, liver disease, and high blood pressure, to name a few. Plus, because sugar stimulates hunger hormones, it can actually cause some people to eat more. There are plenty of good reasons to give up the sweet stuff, and here are nine benefits to eating sugar-free.
Help Stay a Healthy Weight
One of the main problems with sugar is that excess consumption can lead to unhealthy weight gain, which can set you up for a host of health problems, from high blood pressure to diabetes to heart disease. Being sugar-free helps the metabolism regulate, and cravings for empty-calorie foods dissipate as the levels of leptin, the hormone that regulates hunger, stay consistent. This ensures you eat when you're actually hungry—and not when the spiking hormones want to convince you otherwise.
Though it sounds counter-intuitive, given sugar is pure energy, but when you cut out the sweet stuff your body remains more alert. While eating sugar will first give the brain a boost of strength by raising blood sugar levels, it also triggers insulin and tryptophan to release, which can make you sleepy. This is one reason why after the so-called "sugar rush" and subsequent crash, the body craves more to keep going. Without refined sugar the body and brain can stick to a more natural rhythm, getting fuel from the wholesome nutrients in other foods, and reap the benefits of exercise and sleep.
Clear and Healthy Skin
The idea that sugar causes pimples isn't completely an old wives' tale. Sugar raises the insulin levels in the body when can then result in inflammation, and in turn, make for blotchy skin. The sweet stuff also increases the production of skin oils which can contribute to clogging the pores and creating pimples. Sugar also has been known to dehydrate the skin, which can lead to dark circles and wrinkles that make one appear older. Eliminating sugar isn't a guarantee for great skin, but it certainly will help.
Control Hunger and Cravings
When you cut out eating sugar, it becomes easier to curb strong cravings for other foods such as pizza, chips, and hamburgers. How does that work? Added sugar in the diet increases the appetite by stimulating ghrelin, one of three hunger hormones in your body. And it's not usually fresh vegetables one craves, but high-fat, salty, and sugary foods. In this way, eating less sugar will cause the body to want to eat less food in general, and after a few days, the cravings for sugar will lessen, too.
Keep Teeth Healthy
Most people learn as children that it's smart to brush your teeth after eating sweet foods, and there's truth to this practice. Sugar really can accelerate tooth decay and contribute to gum disease. While a lot of the issues with sugar and cavities can be taken care of by brushing regularly, eating less sugar can only help the health of your teeth.
The change in weather to colder temperature certainly impacts the way viruses can transmit, but we suspect the influx of sugary treats around the holidays has something to do with illness, too. In fact, eating sugar lowers the immune system and causes inflammation. The immune system behaves like a gatekeeper, protecting our bodies from invasive germs. However, if the gate is damaged, it's easier for viruses to enter.
Make Room For Healthy Foods
You may have noticed that a doughnut or super sweet coffee drink you had at breakfast filled you up and now there's no space for a piece of fruit or eggs. If you crowd out sugar off the plate, there's a lot more room for nutrient-rich foods such as nuts, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains.
Prevent Chronic Diseases
While eating an ice cream cone or chocolate bar here and there won't cause a chronic illness, consuming a lot of sugar on a daily basis may increase the risk of developing certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Reducing or eliminating your sugar intake can help reduce your risk.
Increase Mental Clarity
Sugar can stimulate areas in the brain that make us crave more of it, but it can also result in irritability, sluggishness, and aggression. It's also believed sugar blocks memory receptors, causing one to forget things more easily.