Avoiding processed sugar is a challenge to daily life, but for some adults, stopping sugar is something that has to occur for health reasons. Sugar consumption can have long-term effects on your health, and sugar is associated with some conditions in multiple ways. For starters, consuming sugar in large amounts can lead to a strong addiction to sugar. Further information can be found in our guide to sugar addiction, but in short, once the mind is in the state of addiction, kicking the habit can be a challenge.
Generally speaking, many people get addicted to sugar because their diet is loaded with processed sugar. The standard American diet typically well exceeds the recommended daily amount, and some sources suggest that many adults consume, on average, a cup of sugar per day. Eating too much sugar can have a significant effect on your body and your health. A complete picture of this can be found in our article on how eating too much sugar affects the body.
Generally, sugar addiction starts from intense cravings that continue regularly. These sugar cravings tend to cause you to eat too much sugar, which then causes even more cravings, and hence creates a vicious cycle. Sugar cravings are about much more than just simply consuming more sugar than what is recommended; the complete guide to what causes sugar cravings breaks it down even further, with details on everything you need to know about your cravings.
What to Expect When You Stop Eating Sugar
Now that you have a bit of information about sugar, cravings, addiction, and what causes the myriad of issues from consuming too much of it, now is the time to take a deeper look into what happens with your health when you stop eating sugar. Listed below are some aspects of health that you should expect to improve when giving up sugar in your diet.
1. The Cravings Will Start
One of the first and most noticeable things you may notice when you stop eating sugar is you may have intense cravings. Generally speaking, the cravings could tempt to eat or drink something that is sweet and sugary, but this depends on your level of dependence. In addition to the cravings, if you had a sugar addiction, there is a chance that you could experience some sugar withdrawal symptoms. These include headache, lethargy, nausea, a foggy mental state, and more. The first day or two after you stop eating sugar is usually the most challenging, but once you overcome this initial stage, you should start to notice some of the health benefits.
2. Improvements in Cardiac Health
Your heart health is one of the first systems to face issues when your diet is high in sugar. For starters, the consumption of sugar increases inflammation in your body, which can lead to heart disease and other conditions. When you stop eating sugar, there are a few ways that your heart could be affected, several of which are described below.
High blood pressure is a common condition among individuals who consume large amounts of sugar. While the consumption of sugar does not directly lead to high blood pressure, excess sugar in the diet can lead to obesity, which is strongly associated with high blood pressure. Also, studies have shown that increased salt intake tends to lead to an increase in sugar intake, leading to a doubled effect on your blood pressure. While cutting out sugar from your diet may not directly affect your blood pressure immediately, it could have secondary benefits that can help to reduce your pressure. Consider cutting both sugar and salt as a method to lower your blood pressure levels.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is found in your body, and while we tend to see cholesterol as a bad thing in health, it plays a vital role in the stability of your cells. However, high cholesterol levels are increasingly common for adults, and it is a leading cause of stroke and heart disease as well. Throughout your life, inflammation damages the arterial walls in your body, which causes micro-scarring. When this happens, small bits of bad cholesterol (LDL) molecules attach to the scarred areas and begin to build up. This buildup is called atherosclerosis, and it is a leading cause of heart attacks for adults. Excessive sugar intake plays a negative role in your cholesterol health, causing your bad cholesterol to increase and your good cholesterol to decrease. When you cut sugar from your diet; however, your body may adjust to the change in your diet by increasing your good cholesterol and decreasing the bad. The types of foods you eat and your level of exercise helps to determine this, but overall, the better you eat, the less sugar that you should be taking in day after day.
5. Heart Rate
One interesting finding on increased sugar consumption is that it can have an impact on your resting heart rate. Your resting heart rate is usually a measure of your fitness level, or simply the measure how efficient your heart is at pumping blood to the body. The more times it beats, or the higher your resting heart rate, the harder the heart is working to meet the needs of the cells and tissues. A lower resting heart rate means your heart can effectively pump blood throughout the body without any problems. However, there appears to be a link between the consumption of sugar and resting heart rate. A recent study found that an increased resting heart rate is associated with poor blood glucose control, meaning a higher resting heart rate is associated with diabetes. While many factors contribute to your resting heart rate, it’s possible that when you cut back on sugar that your resting heart rate may improve, but this has yet to be confirmed in research.
6. Effects on Obesity
Obesity is one of the biggest topics in health in recent years, and current estimates suggest that roughly 36 percent of adults in the U.S. are obese. Obesity can be defined in some ways, but the most common way to define it is with the body mass index. The body mass index, or BMI, is a comparison of your height and weight and it produces a numerical value. A BMI of greater than 30 is considered obese. One of the contributing factors to obesity is the consumption of sugar. Sugar plays a role in obesity, and listed below are some factors that you can expect to improve when you cut back on sugar.
7. Fat Storage
You eat food throughout the day to refuel your energy levels so that you can maintain your health. Those fuels include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Carbohydrates get broken down into sugars like glucose. Sugar is needed by the body, especially the brain. However, the typical American diet includes far more sugar than you need, and when you over consume sugar, your body stores the extra as fat. Even if you are eating a very low-fat diet, if consume more sugar than your body requires, it will convert the excess to fat and store it for a later time. This can be frustrating in any weight loss program, but the good news is if you stop eating sugar, you should expect that your fat storage should slow down. This is encouraging for anyone looking to lose weight or simply wants to stop gaining weight.
8. Improved Brain Health
Your brain function is deeply affected by addiction and substance dependence. With that said, you should notice some changes when you stop eating sugar. These changes will vary for each, but some aspects are similar to everyone. Listed below are some of the mental improvements you might expect to see.
9. Cognitive Function
Your cognitive function is at great risk when you eat high amounts of sugar in your diet every day. For one, it may seem that consuming sugar can help to pick you up when you are feeling lethargic, but the opposite is true. When you stop eating sugar, you should expect mental clarity to improve, and you may even feel a bit sharper as a result. While it may not be an immediate response when you stop eating sugar, your patience will pay off in the end, and your mental health should benefit from this lifestyle change.
10. Effects on Behavior
Another element of your mental health that is involved in sugar consumption is your mood. Your general effect, or your mood, is usually noticeable from the various highs and lows when you eat sugar. Some people may call it being “hangry;” however, it is more appropriate to call it a sugar craving or addiction. When you stop eating sugar, you should notice that you have a better mood in general, and your mood swings should be better controlled as a result as well.
11. Your Cravings Should Diminish
Sugar cravings can cause a lot of issues in your daily life, and they are generally caused by increased consumption of sugar. Yes, it is a vicious cycle, and the continued consumption of sugar has many implications. Consider taking a look at our guide on what to eat when craving sugar. In the meantime, consider how to decrease your cravings ahead by lowering your daily consumption of sugar.
Naturally, if eating sugar has caused addiction and intense cravings, then the most logical conclusion is to stop eating sugar. While this appears to be an easy task, there are barriers that can prevent the overall success in quitting sugar.
For starters, many manufacturers add sugar to foods to improve flavor. Most restaurants also add sugar to dishes for similar reasons. Also, foods and beverages that are advertised as being sugar-free typically contain artificial sweeteners, which are much sweeter than regular sugar. With that said, if you can overcome the simple barriers, and you can overcome withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, then you should notice a great difference in your cravings when you stop eating sugar.
12. Improved Energy Levels
Sugar is an energy source that your body uses throughout the day. However, consuming sugar is not a good long-term option for your energy levels. The primary fuel sources in your body are sugars (the result of breaking down carbohydrates), fats and proteins. Typically, fats are the fuel source for long duration activities at lower intensities. This means that much of your activities throughout the day should be fueled by fat. However, sugar is responsible for providing quick bursts of energy. Typically, your brain uses glucose as an energy source, and your quick bursts of energy are fueled by sugar. So what happens to your energy levels when you stop eating sugar?
13. No More Sugar Highs and Lows
In general, you should expect no more sugar highs, no more sugar lows, and this is all made feasible with a well-maintained blood sugar level. The more stable your blood sugar levels, the better your energy levels are throughout the day. Once you cut back on sugar and you make it through the initial stages, you should start to notice that you no longer have a craving for a midday pick-me-up.
How to Avoid Sugar
Now that you have information on what to expect when you stop eating sugar, it’s time to make quitting sugar happen. For this to be a successful journey, consider the tips below to boost your overall success.
1. Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
If at all possible, consider avoiding artificial sweeteners whenever you can. When you stop eating sugar, your brain will more than likely crave something sweet initially, and consuming artificial sweeteners can increase the cravings.
2. Read all Food Labels
Every food product you purchase in packaging by law should contain a list of ingredients. The best way to avoid sugar is to carefully read your food labels and ingredient lists to ensure that added sugars are not included.
3. Prepare your Own Food at Home
The best way to ensure that you are not consuming any sugar in your meals is to prepare your meals at home. You should expect that any time you eat out somewhere that there is some hidden sugar included, so the best way to avoid sugar is to prepare your meals yourself.
4. Swap Soda for Carbonated Water
If you like drinking soda, then consider making the switch to seltzer or club soda. Many carbonated water options now include natural flavors as a way to enhance the water you drink. The best part about these is that they include no sugar or sweeteners (but make sure to still double-check the labels for yourself).
5. Clean out Your Kitchen
If you want to avoid sugar, then you need to get rid of the sources of sugar in your home. This should be considered rule number one when it comes to avoiding sugar from here on out. If you are to succeed in your journey to stop eating sugar, then you need to eliminate all temptations as soon as possible. This should start with your kitchen pantry.
There is a lot that can happen when you stop eating sugar, and generally speaking, the hardest part of stopping is in the initial stages. Typically, lethargy sets in and a slew of sugar withdrawal symptoms can set in, which include headaches, nausea, and mental fogginess. However, once you get past these issues, you should expect to notice health improvements including blood pressure and mood. To achieve this success, it is important to find ways to avoid sugar at all costs. After all, if you reintroduce sugar too soon in your diet, you could have a setback, and the process might start all over again.