There are a few signs you're addicted to sugar, even when you think you're not. For example, you’ve been putting off a trip to the dentist for years. You find chocolate wrappers in various nooks and crannies around your house. You’ve launched an office bakeoff as an excuse to eat cake. You carry change specifically for the 3pm trip to the vending machine. These are signs that your body and brain could be under control of the white stuff.
Enjoying a treat as part of a healthy diet is totally normal, but feeling that you need something sugary is different. As is, raiding the work vending machine every afternoon when your mind boils over.
Keep reading to find out why ditching sugar could help you realise your healthiest self this summer.
How bad is sugar for you?
The long-term impact of excess sugar consumption extends beyond weight gain – and the inflated risk of obesity-related diseases – with researchers from Harvard linking it with high blood pressure and chronic inflammation, both precursors to heart disease.
Elsewhere in the body, sweet treats really do your dental health no favours.
They’re one of the main causes of tooth decay, thanks to the erosive acid produced when the bacteria in your mouth breaks down sugar.
As for your mental health, beyond the all-too-familiar sugar crash – the immediate spike and subsequent plummeting of your blood sugar levels – studies have also linked excessive long-term sugar consumption with mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
This isn't a call to sugar-free diet but a way to ditch processed sugars and detox from your bad habits.
How much sugar should I have a day?
The NHS recommends focusing on your intake of ‘free sugars’, reducing it to less than 5 per cent of your total energy intake, or around 30g per day. This refers to monosaccharides (glucose and fructose) and disaccharides (table sugar) that manufacturers add to all sorts of food and drink products, such as ready-made sauces, salad dressings and energy drinks, as well as the kind naturally present in fruit juice, syrups and alt milks.
Ditching sugar: how to do it
Beyond the easy wins – swapping the honey on your toast for banana and buying unsweetened cereals and alt-milks – wising up to nutrition labels is key.
Look for the ‘of which sugars’ term and consider anything upwards of 22.5g of total sugars per 100g as high in sugar, and anything lower than 5g as low. If in doubt, the NHS Change4Life Food Scanner app reveals the sugar content of a product when you scan the barcode.
As for offsetting existing damage, a study by researchers at UCLA found that diets rich in an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA – found in salmon, walnuts and flaxseed – can reverse the harmful effects of excessive fructose consumption, which can damage genes in your brain, potentially leading to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, depression and bipolar disorder.
What happens when you eat less sugar
If that's not reason enough to forget about those 3 pm doughnuts, here are the other benefits for your mind and body when you curb your sugar cravings.
Reduce acne when you ditch sugar cravings
Sugar causes inflammation and binds to collagen, reducing skin elasticity in a process called glycation.
Help your mental health by detoxing from sugar
Less sugar means less chance of developing mental health problems.
Think more clearly
Reducing your consumption of glucose and sucrose can boost cognitive performance.
Future-proof your memory
Consuming a lot of sugar raises your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Cutting down on sugar will result in fewer sleep disruptions. Better zeds? Sweet.