You probably know that sugar is bad for you, but are you aware of how much you’re eating? For many of us, the answer is too much. In the UK, for example, an average of 140 teaspoons is consumed per person, per week.
You’ll find natural sugars in many foods – it occurs as fructose in fruit and as lactose in milk, for example. But many processed foods, such as sweets, cakes and biscuits, contain lots of added sugar. And eating too much sugar over a long period can put you at risk of health problems, including weight gain, tooth decay and conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
So read on to discover the potential benefits of cutting out added sugar – and tips to help you do it.
You’ll have less tooth decay
The moment sugar passes your lips, the bacteria in your mouth produce acid – and over time, this can lead to tooth decay.
The natural sugars in fruit and vegetables are less likely to cause tooth decay, because they’re contained within the structure of the food. But bear in mind that if you blend them into a juice or smoothie, the sugars that can damage teeth are released – so it’s better only to drink these occasionally.
And while dried fruit can be a good option when you fancy something sweet, it’s still very sugary. It’s better for your teeth if you eat it as part of a meal, rather than as a snack – try adding it to your breakfast cereal, for example.
It will help you maintain a healthy weight
When you eat too much sugar, your body may be taking in more energy (calories) than it can use – which can lead to weight gain and obesity.
Cutting out foods high in added sugar – as well as the sugars found in syrups, honey and juice – can lower your calorie intake and help you maintain a healthy weight. Try to get most of your calories from starchy foods such as potatoes, rice and pasta (choose wholegrain versions), fruits and vegetables.
Keeping to a healthy weight can also help you avoid serious health problems, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The less you have, the less you’ll crave
Here’s an interesting fact: the more you succeed in cutting out sugar, the less you’ll want it. As you start to reduce your sugar intake, your craving for it will become less strong – which will make it easier to cut it out for good.
You’ll avoid the post-sugar ‘crash’
When you eat something sugary, the sugar enters your bloodstream and releases its energy faster than when you eat some other foods, which need to be broken down. This gives you an instant burst of energy, which is often called a ‘sugar rush’.
However, after this ‘rush’, the drop in energy that follows can leave you feeling tired and sluggish. This can lead to a lack of activity, and cravings for caffeine or more sugar. Cutting out food with added sugar will help you avoid these highs and lows in energy.
You’ll lower your risk of type 2 diabetes
Eating too much sugar can cause a build-up of sugar (glucose) in your blood, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
This is because whenever you eat sugar, your body releases a hormone called insulin to manage the sugar levels in your blood. But if this happens too often, your body can stop reacting to the insulin. The result: too much sugar in the blood and a higher risk of diabetes.
As well as cutting out sugar, you can lower your chances of type 2 diabetes by taking more exercise and keeping to a healthy weight, as obesity can also affect how insulin works.
You’ll reduce your risk of heart disease
Putting on too much weight by eating a lot of sugar can ultimately lead to heart disease, which is a leading cause of death worldwide.
Diet and lifestyle changes can help to lower your risk – as well as cutting down on sugar, you can take regular exercise, eat a healthy diet and quit smoking.
How to remove sugar from your diet
Now that you know the benefits of cutting out sugar, how do you remove it from your diet? You can try:
- sweetening food in healthier ways, such as adding fresh fruit or spices such as cinnamon
- avoiding processed foods that contain added sugar (including fructose), such as soft drinks, baked goods and sweets
- making sure you get enough sleep – tiredness can cause sugar cravings
- eating foods that will make you feel full for longer, such as proteins and wholegrains, so you’re less likely to want sugary snacks
You can find more tips for cutting down on sugar.
- too much sugar is bad for you, and cutting down has health benefits, including helping you avoid tooth decay and weight gain
- maintaining a healthy weight reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease
- cutting out sugar means you’ll avoid ‘sugar rushes’ that can leave you feeling tired