30th September 2019
9 reasons why experts say to cut back on sugar, from boosting your productivity to saving you money
You've probably been hearing for years that you should cut down on sugar.
Well, when experts say 'cut out sugar,' they don't mean all sugar. That would not only be nearly impossible, but it would be harmful, because we actually need some sugar to power our bodies.
What experts mean is cutting back on specific kinds of sugars, like refined and processed sugars, typically sucrose. We're talking the sweet stuff you find in cookies, donuts, baked goods, cocktails, syrups, cereals, and pretty much anything that comes in a packaged box with a long list of ingredients.
Cutting down on those kinds of sugars can have numerous benefits, and not just direct health benefits. It can also lead to improved sleep and productivity, and it might even save you money.
We asked health professionals to list some compelling reasons you might want to rethink a high-sugar diet. Here are some of the reasons they listed.
You might find yourself more focused.
We're all familiar with the expression "sugar crash."
The reason that consuming sugar leads to an energy drop is because it decreases blood glucose stability. This in turn has a cascading effect whereby mood and concentration levels are also decreased.
"Simple sugars get digested very quickly in your GI tract thus causing them to be absorbed rapidly into your bloodstream," Joseph Koudelka, a personal trainer and body coach at TB12, told Business Insider. "When the blood sugar level rises rapidly, this signals your body to release insulin into the bloodstream and, after a brief sugar rush, a rapid decrease in the blood sugar levels ensues, causing energy levels to crash."
You'll likely have more energy — all while avoiding a nasty sugar rush and crash.
Foods that are high in sugar can spike insulin levels, offering a short boost of energy followed by a major and long-lasting crash.
"When the mid-morning or mid-afternoon office slump hits, opt for healthy snacking instead of a sugary energy drink or snacks," Nadia Murdock, a fitness coach, told Business Insider.
Almond butter and sliced apples, for example, offer a good amount of protein and fiber along with naturally occurring sugar. The sugar from the apple won't spike blood-sugar levels because of the belly-filling fiber.
You'll save money by not reaching for the mid-morning coffee — and even time running to fetch it.
Because of the energy crashes people get when they consume a lot of processed sugar, there's a tendency to reach for a cup of coffee.
Cutting down on sugar means you won't need to spend that money throughout the day, Koudelka said.
"Financially, cutting out refined sugars and eating a balanced diet of whole foods will … save you money from needing a caffeine boost from coffee or sugar-filled energy drinks several times throughout the day," he said.
Sugar is one of the least energy-efficient calories in your diet.
"If you were to look at your grocery cart as a team of employees that are all there to keep your body operating effectively, sugar would be the lazy freeloader that holds every project up," Kevin Curry, founder of Fit Men Cook, told Business Insider.
"Sugar's good for short-term bursts of energy, and that's about it."
You're more likely to have a healthier gut.
Refined and processed sugars damage gut health because they're low in fiber. Fiber is essential for feeding the billions of good bacteria in our gut. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation, if you consume too much sugar you'll have less good bacteria — which in turn often causes inflammation, bloating, and constipation.
You can reduce sugar-related muscle aches and joint pain.
Koudelka said that excess sugar consumption can cause muscle aches and joint pain.
"This reason is a big burden on your happiness, as quality of life is decreased when you're in pain or your body is in a state of dis-ease," Koudelka said.
You'll be less hungry throughout the day.
Sugary foods are low in fiber, and fiber is key for keeping you feeling full.
"Like many businesspeople, I'm always on the go so I look at food as fuel to power me through my days. I don't always have time to stop for a snack, so I have to make every meal count," Jillian Bridgette Cohen, CEO and cofounder of Virtual Health Partners, told Business Insider. "Sugary foods don't keep you full for very long, which can leave you feeling hungry between meals and snacks."
Excess sugar consumption can make you sleep less and more poorly.
"Consuming refined sugars may be associated with having a lighter and more disruptive sleep because they're not easily digestible, which can cause indigestion and bloating," Koudelka said.
Tanya Freirich, a nutritionist at Sweet Nova, also told Business Insider that sugary foods are thought to impact sleep hormones.
Even worse, it has been shown that a lack of sleep makes you crave more sugar meaning that a poor night's sleep can keep you in this vicious cycle of craving those same sugars that caused your problems the day before.
And some experts think you'll have better skin.
There's a longstanding debate about whether sugar causes acne, but that's not all it may do to skin.
"Too much sugar in your bloodstream causes glycation, which is a process that can hinder the repair of the collagen in your skin," Sarah Gordon, a skin-care specialist and founder of Square Organics, said.
She continued: "Lower levels of collagen means your skin has less elasticity and will cause more wrinkles. Of course, aging of the skin will inevitably happen to everyone with age, but eating excess sugar will cause many more issues with your skin than just acne."
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