Bittersweet: How Sugar Affects the Body and Ways to Cut Down
Many of us reach for sugary snacks out of habit, perhaps if we are feeling stressed, tired, or as a treat. While eating sugar is not a problem if done so in moderation, it can lead to weight gain, which in turn increases the chances of developing health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Because many of the foods we tend to reach for are high in sugars, it can be difficult to cut down without feeling deprived. Here are some tips on how to cut down on sugary foods and improve your health in the process!
The impact of sugar on your body
Understanding the impact of sugar on your body can go some way to empowering you to cut down on sugary snacks. Firstly, although it can be hard to break relationships between food and emotions, there is no real evidence to suggest that sugar is addictive in the same way as, for example, tobacco or alcohol. Knowing this can make it easier to break any habits you have formed around eating high-sugar foods. The physical, and even psychological effects, of too much sugar vary from person to person but, according to research, can include low energy, tooth decay, skin problems, weight gain, mood disorder, and inflammation. Eating sugar causes blood sugar spikes, which result in sharp crashes, causing further cravings. Breaking free from this rollercoaster ride is essential for achieving stable energy levels and overall well-being.
How to break the sugar habit
As we said earlier in this blog, there is little evidence to suggest that you can be addicted to sugar, however, habit is a powerful force and it can be difficult to break routines. Keeping a food and mood diary can help you work out what causes your sugar craving, which will help you place yourself in the strongest position when the craving hits. Gradually reducing your sugar intake is a good way of allowing your body time to adjust, and can reduce feelings of deprivation.
If you reach for the cake after dinner, keep a bowl of healthy snacks nearby to make it easy to initiate a swap. If you tend to binge while watching TV or a film, make a healthy snack tray to keep next to you during the evening. If your temptation is to buy treats while shopping, make sure you eat before you leave.
Opt for whole, unprocessed foods and natural sources of sweetness like fruits, to satisfy your cravings in a healthier way. Explore sugar alternatives like stevia, monk fruit, or spices such as cinnamon or vanilla to add sweetness without the added calories. Prioritise balanced meals that include protein, healthy fats, and fibre, as they help stabilise blood sugar levels and reduce sugar cravings. Allowing yourself sugar in moderation can help you adjust psychologically, and changing your environment by, for example, going for a walk, can also help reduce the urge to eat sugar.