Could Quitting Sugar Improve Gut Health?

Is refined sugar preventing you from reaching your health goals? Read about harmful simple sugars, why it’s easy to give up sugar and how it will improve your health.

Refined sugar is enemy number one in the western diet. If you’re trying to eat healthily, it’s usually the hardest ingredient to give up, especially if chocolate or sweet treats are a staple in your daily diet.
Giving up refined sugar is not only great for your body, but can help improve your concentration and mood. Here’s how to beat sugar cravings and what to use instead.

Juice made of fresh fruits and veggies is much healthier!

What is sugar made of?

Sugar is made up of multiple carbohydrates. Your body breaks these carbohydrates and uses them to replace glycogen in your muscles lost through exerting energy. Any excess is stored as fat.

The main naturally occurring ‘simple’ sugars found in food are:

    • Glucose

This is the purest and most natural form of sugar, our bodies actually produce glucose when needed. It is used in the process mentioned above, i.e. either used by the liver or muscles right away, or ‘stored’ for later (if you ever were to get into a state of caloric deficit). White rice is a typical source.

    • Fructose

Fructose is an inflammatory sugar also known as a ‘fruit sugar’. Fructose is known to have a damaging effect on hormones. Honey and high carbohydrate fruits, like bananas have high doses of fructose.

    • Sucrose

Sucrose is a simple sugar and is found in it’s purest form in pure sugar cane.

Fresh green juice

    • Lactose

Lactose is the sugar found in dairy. Up to 75% of the population are lactose intolerant, most evidently to milk and soft cheeses.

These naturally occurring sugars should be eaten in moderation and only when consumed through fruit, vegetables and legumes. By consuming the majority of naturally occurring sugars through fibrous foods, the negative effects are counteracted by the minerals and nutrients. When food contains sugars, as well as minerals and nutrients, it can positively benefit health. It’s actually the refined and added sugars that will play havoc with your health, if eaten regularly.

Difference between refined sugar and simple sugars

Refined sugars are sugars that have been through a process. This process rids sugar of any nutritional value, and therefore deems it an empty calorie. You will find refined sugars in your supermarket.

They’re what you would describe as ‘everyday sugars’ like:

  • Granulated sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Raw sugar

Switch to classic greek yogurt

Refined and added sugars are also found in processed foods like:

  • Cakes
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Low fat products like yoghurt
  • Gluten free products

Having refined and added sugar in your everyday diet is not great for your body and can be toxic in the long term.

So are simple sugars good or bad?

Having refined and added sugar in your everyday diet is not great for your body and can be toxic in the long term.

If sugar is in it’s simplest form, but teamed with complex carbohydrates and fibre found in foods like beans, fruits and vegetables, then it will be processed beneficially. If it is added through table sugar, soda or as a syrup, (like corn or brown rice syrup) then it has absolutely no positive effect on your body and should be avoided.

Among yogurts, choose classic greek one

The effects of sugar on the body

Having refined and added sugar in your everyday diet is not great for your body and can be toxic in the long term. We have talked about what sugar is made of, but it’s also important to understand the impact it has and what it does upon entering our bodies.

When you eat sugar, it is first detected by the pancreas. The pancreas then releases insulin which is used in the body to regulate sugar in the blood. If a lot of sugar is consumed, then more insulin will be released.

Insulin plays a role in helping the body store excess glucose in the liver and muscles as glycogen. If there is too much glucose to use as energy, it will then be stored in the fat cells instead. The body doesn’t respond to over saturation of sugar well and if too much insulin is produced too quickly, then blood sugar drops. This results in something called a sugar crash, which leads to sugar cravings and can cause a vicious cycle. If this happens too often, then the body becomes less likely to use the sugar as energy and stores more of it as fat. Which can and often does lead to weight gain and obesity.

Cakes and other sweets - are they really healthy?

Instead of listing the negative impacts of sugar on health, it’s more beneficial to understand how quitting sugar will help you live a healthier life.

How cutting out added sugar will boost your health

As mentioned above, when too much refined sugar is consumed, the cells can actually stop responding to insulin. This is described as ‘insulin resistance’. The pancreas keeps churning out insulin and the liver responds by producing more glycogen (as glucose) which prolongs the cycle. Stop eating sugar and this stops too.

    • Weightloss

Eating processed food and excessive sugar leads to weight gain. This is due to the overload of glycogen that is stored as fat and empty calories. If you consume less of this, then you are more likely to lose weight.

Cinnamon can change the taste of any drink. Try it with simple coffee instead of regular cappuccino

    • Reduce the risk of heart disease

In a study, people who ate 25% ( or more) of their calories as sugar, were shown to be at risk of developing heart disease, compared to those who ate less than 10% sugar as calories in their diet. It makes sense that, the more sugar floating around as glycogen, not being absorbed, the more that will be stored as fat. The study also found, that if there is a heightened amount of fat in the blood stream, then this can ultimately lead to heart disease. More sugar in the body also contributes to increased blood pressure, which can again, lead to heart disease.

    • Age slower and live longer by eating less sugar

Research has shown that both men and women who have high blood sugar tended to look older than those that have a lower, more stable blood sugar. People who have diabetes ( where blood sugar is constantly elevated ) also looked older than those who didn’t. The limitation of simple carbohydrates in the diet has also been shown to actually increase the lifespan of subjects, if followed consistently.

    • Gut health

Too much fructose causes an inflammatory effect on the gut lining. Fructose has detrimental effects on the gut lining and leads to chronic illnesses like: leaky gut, sibo and crohn’s disease. Many people don’t realise how their diet can effectively ‘make or break’ their gut health. The gut microbiome impacts how the body functions over time. Reducing sugar will help your gut stay healthy, in turn, helping to keep your whole body performing at and feeling it’s best.

Brown sugar

Ways to reduce sugar intake everyday

It’s easy to eat foods without added sugar, to live a longer and healthier life. These simple food swaps will ensure blood sugars are kept at a stable level and fuelling the body with beneficial mineral and vitamins, rather than filling it with refined sugars, which, as pointed out, can be detrimental to health.

  1. Pick up full-fat greek yoghurt instead of your usual low-fat option to easily reduce sugar everyday. Low-fat yoghurts (and many other low-fat products) replace much of the fat with added sugar or sweeteners, both are known to have undesirable effects on your body. As an added plus, their taste is so much better, too and most of them contain probiotics, which have been shown to have further beneficial effects on health and well-being.
  2. Switch store bought fruit juice (think: sweet orange juice) for homemade smoothies or freshly squeezed juices.
  3. Try mixing cinnamon and warm almond milk to make a comforting weekend drink, instead of the usual cappuccino.
  4. Eat clean, natural food instead of processed foods, like fresh vegetables, beans, meat and fish.
  5. Use pure, locally produced honey in moderation, or swap entirely for high grade maple syrup or sugar alternatives like stevia or xylitol.

Go for pure, locally produced honey

It’s easy to reduce sugar in your diet, especially when you know how much healthier you will feel for it. Share these tips with your friends and family and help them live a more balanced life too!

Written by: Emily Dallara

Source of images: pixabay.com

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