Do you fly into a panic if there’s no chocolate in the house? Have you experienced the dreaded “hanger” of waiting too long to eat? How about the perils of yo-yo dieting? If sweet cravings are taking over your life, there might be one culprit to blame.
Sweets raise our blood sugar levels, and release dopamine into the brain, rewarding us for the short-lived spike in energy. You want to feel good, so your brains sends another signal for more of the “sweet stuff.” This hormone exchange is fundamentally why food makes us so happy. But what happens when the food you are consuming has a villain hiding in the backdrop?
Yes, we all know sugar is bad for us, but how often do we think, “Just a little is ok?” Or, “It’s just a treat?” Today, we’re exposing all the ways sugar could be derailing your diet success, and why you should be proactive in your mission to eat less sugar. From your physical to your spiritual health, sugar causes a complex series of knock-on effects that take away from your best efforts.
Causing diabetes to heart attacks, sugar addiction and more, we strongly believe cutting down on sugar is a sure-fire way to lead a more healthy, fulfilling, and rewarding life. Best of all, you don’t even have to give up sweet foods to undo the damage. Many sweeteners, like monk fruit (more on this later), can give you the same delicious taste without spiking your sugar levels.
Let’s find out more!
Reason 1: Sugar Only Offers Empty Calories
When it comes to calories in-calories out, sugar provides the least bang for your buck. Sugar contains no vitamins, no minerals, or anything else of value for that matter. Furthermore, many foods with lots of sugar also contain very little added nutrients and are therefore "empty" snacks - what a waste!
Just look at cotton candy, jelly beans, and soda. These snack foods are literally just sugar and water, with perhaps a flavoring agent or an added preservative. They are worse than not eating because unlike consuming zero calories, empty calories still trigger a series of reactions within your body and cause your body to respond unfavorably.
You can’t gain weight by not eating but you can gain weight quickly by eating sugar, as you are about to find out.
Reason 2: Sugar Turns to Visceral Belly Fat
If you think that beer is to blame for your bloated belly or muffin top, think again. Fat trapped in the abdominal cavity is particularly problematic as it is a damaging substance called visceral fat (as opposed to subcutaneous fat, which exist in the outer layers).
Visceral fat is the hardest fat for your body to metabolize when it needs energy because it is so deeply embedded into your gut. If you have tried to lose fat, and still have a pot belly, you will know the struggle is real.
A waist size of 35 inches or more suggests visceral fat is putting you at risk of increased risk of a heart attack, diabetes, and cholesterol. Many people respond favorably by simply dropping sugar from their diet; not calories. Cardio or low-impact exercise such as walking or riding a bike can also help you burn stubborn belly fat.
Reason 3: Sugar Raises LDL (Bad) Cholesterol
Speaking of cholesterol, many people are quick to blame fat for an increase in LDL, the bad cholesterol, when in all actuality, sugar is usually the villain at play. In a controlled study, people were instructed to drink 25% of their daily calories as either a glucose-sweetened drink or a fructose-sweetened drink for ten weeks, to see what impact sugar - not fat - had on their LDL levels.
The results were consistent throughout the fructose group:
- Increased blood triglycerides levels
- Elevated small, dense LDL and oxidized LDL levels
- Experienced higher fasting glucose and insulin levels
- Decreased insulin sensitivity
- Increased fat in the abdominal cavity (visceral fat)
This means that in just ten weeks sugar can impact your quality of health. The good news is that by removing sugar from your diet, your body can repair itself very quickly as well.
Reason 4: Meet Sugar’s Evil Twin - Fructose
Have you read labels that say “No added sugar”? What the manufacturers really mean is “No added fructose,” aka High Fructose Corn Syrup. The sad truth is that no added sugar does not mean a product does not contain any sugar. It simply means they did not add even more. A fruit drink, for example, contains a lot of naturally occuring sugar; but it might also say “No added sugar” on the label. No wonder people are confused!
Labeling is not telling you the whole story. You might know High Fructose Corn Syrup is bad for you and even seek to avoid it, but do you understand why it’s so toxic? Do you know to look for fructose on the label - not just “sugar”?
Why is this important? When you consume fructose, and your liver is full of glycogen (as most are), your body has no choice but to turn fructose straight into fat for storage. It’s this process that is largely to blame for diabetes and the obesity epidemic at large.
By simply eliminating sugar, you remove the risk of consuming fructose. Many people naturally lose weight because their body is not actively trying to store excess fat.
Reason 5: Sugar Causes Insulin Resistance
When functioning correctly, insulin helps move glucose from the bloodstream into cells. But in the Western world, we’re seeing more people become insulin resistant. When you eat a Standard American Diet (SAD), there is simply not enough insulin to move all of the glucose from the bloodstream. Therefore, the pancreas has to create more, and more, until it becomes horribly ineffective at its job.
When the body continues to experience this resistance to insulin, the beta cells in the pancreas eventually become damaged and lose the ability to produce sufficient insulin. This is how you can ultimately become a type II diabetes, which is a health condition that now afflicts 300 million people worldwide.
By simply eliminating sugar, you can remove the risk of type II diabetes, and reduce the need for your body to overproduce insulin.
Reason 6: Sugar Can Lead to Heart Attacks
Another serious health condition that fat gets the blame for is heart attacks. In many cases, a diet high in sugar can raise bad cholesterol, triglycerides, and causes various other issues that can ultimately lead to heart disease. Too often, people will say that fat has clogged the arteries when they really mean cholesterol.
The next time you are in the drive-through, waiting for an order of french fries, remember that fast food is one of the biggest offenders or “added sugar” in unsuspecting foods. Many fast food places don’t add fat for flavor, as it’s not cost-effective. Instead, they load up foods with sugar - even the savory items - to invoke that addictive response.
Now, when you are hungry, your brain remembers the reward of eating fast food and tells you to go back for more. And so the cycle begins.
Reason 7: Sugar Doesn't Cause Satiety
How many times have you eaten a snack only to be hungry again an hour later? When you eat sugary snack foods, you confuse the part of your brain - the Hypothalamus - which regulates how hungry you feel. It doesn’t matter how big the snack is, if you consume a lot of sugar, your brain gets a message to send even more food, as it thinks you are hungry.
So what happens? You eat another snack, probably calling on something high in sugar, until you never feel satiated. Ever.
Another way to think of satiety is to think of it as metabolic satisfaction; while sugar-filled foods create a sense of gluttonous satisfaction, it does not satisfy your body's nutrients needs, which will continue to call on food until it is satisfied. Fat is the best way to provide your body with the satiation it desires and can curb your hunger for longer because you brain isn’t prodding you to refuel every hour. Fats do all this because they provide a nutrient dense and high-calorie profile which is the Holy Grail for brain food.
Reason 8: Sugar Causes Leptin Resistance
The body has many different levers it can pull to tell us we are full. One of the most common levers - or hormones - is Leptin. Leptin is secreted by fat cells, and tells our brain, “Hey! Stop eating!” But if you become resistant to leptin, that message is no longer being sent. The brain assumes the fat cells must be depleting or in need of more energy, as they are not satiated.
As sugar is a fast-acting energy source, and the body thinks it’s in trouble, it sends a signal for sugar, and we are only too happy to oblige.
Fructose is another lever that aids in this failed messaging system. Firstly, insulin blocks leptin in addition to sugar. And, as we know, fructose increases insulin resistance, which reduces leptin and fructose also increases blood triglycerides, which also block leptin. That’s a massive attack to try and defend, and it all starts with sugar!
Reason 9: Sugar Sets You Up To Fail
Now that you understand leptin resistance, it’s important to acknowledge that without leptin, or a fully responsive messaging system, it’s impossible for you to retain willpower. The messages your body is receiving is like adding a 100-pound backpack while walking through the desert - it will only drag you down, and it will do so at your weakest moment.
When hunger strikes, your body has an obligation to do whatever it takes to get energy into you as quickly as possible. It doesn’t understand you have fat to metabolize in that moment, it’s in a sink or swim crisis.
By eliminating sugar from your diet, your body will stop flooding you with messages to eat more and will help boost your willpower by supporting better food choices. So while you might think a small cheat here is no big deal, it could be the reason you are coming undone.
Long-term failure is also a cause of depression and a lack of self-confidence. Sugar is never the solution, and won’t make you happy over time.
Reason 10: Sugar Deposits Fat in the Liver
Another serious health condition caused by sugar is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease; and while you might think that this is caused by eating too much fat, you would be wrong. If liver glycogen is low, such as after a run, the liver calls on fructose to replenish it.
However, as many people are not consuming fructose after an intensive workout, it’s safe to say that in many cases, all that fructose is being deposited unnecessarily in the liver. Over time, the liver holds onto residual fat, as it is unable to get rid of it all. This build-up causes Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.
When symptoms occur, they may include fatigue, weakness, weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, spider-like blood vessels, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), itching, fluid build up and swelling of the legs (edema) and abdomen (ascites), and mental confusion.
However, in many cases, no symptoms are present. More often than not, Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease may cause the liver to swell (steatohepatitis). A swollen liver may cause scarring (cirrhosis) over time and can even lead to liver cancer or liver failure.
Reason 11: Sugar Contributes to Brain Fog
If you have ever walked into a room only to forget what you went in for, or failed to come up with the name of a friend in conversation, you have experienced brain fog. For many people, sugar can actually increase the intensity and frequency of brain fog, and can impact all aspects of your life.
A study from the University of South Wales in Australia confirmed that sugar impairs cognitive function, and that ‘brain fog,” or Hippocampal-dependent memory, can be better managed by reducing sugar intake. They found that an obese body is unable to function effectively and that in many cases, brain fog is a symptom of obesity and poor lifestyle choices.
The study also highlights “super-sized, cheap, extremely palatable, high-energy foods” high in sugar, not fat, as being the complication in the situation. Prolonged exposure to these can put you at a higher risk of memory diseases as you get older. The recommendation for memory diseases, such as dementia? To reduce sugar in your diet.
Reason 12: Sugar is Super Addictive
So, you might be wondering why people still eat sugar after reading any of the items on this list, but the sad fact is the more sugar you eat, the more you want it. Sugar triggers the release of dopamine, which is responsible for the feeling of pleasure. This is why drugs like cocaine are so addictive. And, much like drugs, certain people are pre-dispositioned to be programmed to an addiction.
Researchers found that rats can become physically dependant on sugar. This is harder to prove in humans, but scientists do agree that people who consume high quantities of sugar seek it out in a pattern that is typical for addictive, abusive compounds. From the mood wings to the sense of withdrawal or depression, sugar is not a casual conversation.
The good news is that many of these items respond positively by removing sugar from your diet (and stay away as long as you do not eat sugar). Switching out sugar for natural sweeteners like monk fruit and Stevia, like we use in Nui cookies, is a delicious way to satisfy your sweet craving without raising your blood sugar levels or impacting the quality of your health.
For more tips and tricks on how to lead a more vibrant and impactful life, with less sugar, follow us on social media @eatnui and see how living a reduced sugar diet doesn’t have to mean giving up on the foods you love. In fact, life is sweeter without sugar!