I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but I woke up today with a Christmas hangover … but maybe not in the way you think. My head was achy and my eyes felt blurry as dragged my body out of bed, and stumbled to the kitchen. My energy was absolutely zero, my stomach was queasy, and I felt puffiness around my eyes. Here’s the thing: I could have avoided most of my pain by cutting out sugar.
While I didn’t overdo it on the alcohol on Christmas, I did overdo it on sweets and processed foods I don’t typically eat. Have you experience this before? The thing is, sugar can cause just as much damage to your body as alcohol, and it affects your brain in much of the same way too.
Click below for a super-interesting illustration of the reward system in our body that makes sugar act similar to a drug (and how we become addicted):
How Sugar Affects the Brain
In the video, did you notice they mention increased tolerance to sugar as a a side effect of sugar consumption? So the more sugar you eat, the less you tend to notice it’s effects.
This can be seen when you clean up your diet, and then have a much stronger reaction to sugar and the other foods you are sensitive to. This is actually a GOOD thing. Your body is supposed to have a negative reaction when you eat too much of a food that is bad for you! These bad feelings should spur you on to avoid those foods.
If, however, you can consume a large amount of sugar and not really feel the effects, you may be in even more need of a change. Your body may have built up a tolerance, and is no longer able to warn you of the effects the sugar is really taking inside your body.
How much sugar is too much?
Dr. Joseph Mercola suggests “an appropriate amount of fructose is no more than 25 grams per day, but if you’re overweight or at risk of (or have) heart disease, cancer, or type 2 diabetes, then you’re probably better off cutting that down to 10-15 grams per day.”
It is very easy to reach 10-15 grams of fructose with just the naturally occurring amounts in fruits and other whole foods. Adding processed foods or processed sugar is a quick way to skyrocket past that limit. Plus, processed foods are hard on your system for other reasons too.
Check out this site for a table of sugar and fructose amounts in different fruits.
For a simple plan, stick to a no-added-sugar diet, with no limits on very low-sugar fruits (like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, watermelon and citrus). You can also consume small to moderate amounts of higher-sugar fruits (like bananas, blueberries, grapes, mangoes, and apples). It’s best to avoid dried fruits, which can have up to 55 grams of sugar in a half cup (for dates, one of the sweetest)!
It’s up to you if you enjoy an occasional treat with small amounts of natural sweetener like pure stevia (probably the best sweetener to reach for, since it doesn’t affect blood sugar). You could also occasionally use coconut sugar, honey, or real maple syrup, but remember that even these types of sugar release dopamine in the brain and can send your body into an addicted state if you over-consume.
Steer completely clear of artificial sweeteners like Splenda and aspartame, as these are toxic and also can leave you searching for more sugar because of their sweet taste. Also, avoid agave and corn syrup, which are very concentrated forms of sugar!
6 Benefits of Cutting out Sugar in 2018
Ok, so we KNOW sugar is bad, and can be addictive. Let’s get motivated to switch to a no-sugar diet, and talk about some of the benefits you will see right away if you cut it out!
There are SO many benefits besides the obvious of losing weight and shrinking your waistline. Here are six awesome benefits of cutting out sugar:
1. Cutting out sugar decreases your risk for a heart attack
Higher sugar consumption leads to higher risk of heart attacks compared to those who consumed less added sugar, according to The American Heart Association. They cited a study which found those who got 17 to 21 percent of calories from added sugar had a 38 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, compared to those who consumed 8 percent of their calories from added sugar.
“For every extra soda or sugary drink you consume, you may raise your risk of heart disease by 25%,” says Darria Long Gillespie, M.D., a board-certified emergency physician at Emory University Hospital.
2. A no-sugar diet keeps your brain sharp
Did you know that sugar can eat away at your brain power? Research shows that eating too much sugar can impair cognitive function and reduce proteins that are necessary for memory and responsiveness.
Dr. Josh Axe agrees that too much sugar consumption will give you ‘foggy’ thinking. Reduce or remove the amount of sugar you eat on a regular basis, and you will notice that you are more alert and able to think clearly.
3. Skipping the sugar keeps your skin looking younger
Eat too much “added sugar” and you will have skin that is dull and wrinkled. This is due to a process called glycation, where the sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form advanced glycation end products (AGE). AGEs damage collagen and elastin, the protein fibers that keep skin firm and elastic, and that damage leads to skin wrinkles and sagging.
4. A no-sugar diet will help you breathe easier
Recent studies like this one suggest that a high-sugar diet can increase the likelihood that you will suffer from asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
5. Cutting out sugar will give you more energy
Processed sugar can give us an ‘energy boost’ but that boost comes with a price of a crash. Your blood sugar level is increased and decreased rapidly, which means you are left feeling lethargic and groggy. Remove the processed “added sugar” and replace it with natural sugar foods and high protein foods. You will feel a marked difference in the energy you have and how easy it is to sustain that energy through the day.
6. Going sugar-free will save you money
You can make fewer doctor and dentist visits, purchase less nutritionally-empty junk food, and save on health insurance premiums. In the end, you will save money – money you can use toward accomplishing goals, buying new clothes, or purchasing a gym membership!
Changing the Sugar Habit for Good this Year
I hope these benefits will motivate you to make a change this year! If you are making it your goal to cut sugar in 2018, take some time to think about your WHY. If you have a reason to cut back, write it down and post it where you can see it. Hint: your reason needs to be something that is going to motivate you more than that piece of chocolate cake.
Dig deep for your why to STAY motivated, and you won’t suffer a sugar hangover like I did this Christmas.
If you need more inspiration to change your habits and beat the sugar addiction, join us for our FREE 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge. The challenge begins in January 2018! Drop your email address below for motivation, encouragement, and real-life tips to eat clean and stick with it this year! … I might even share some of my favorite “clean” coffee recipes, along with simple meal and snack ideas!
Hope to chat with you soon about your goals, challenges, and success in 2018!
Sign up for our Free 30-day clean eating challenge
Start the New Year with improved health and energy! Get motivation, encouragement, tips and recipes, FREE in your inbox. Begins January 2018.