Sugar is not a necessary nutrient but is present in many foods and snacks we consume. It is delicious and activates some receptors in our brains, which is why we get that emotional high after feasting on those cakes, chocolates, or candy and washing them down with soda.
Unfortunately, a great proportion of these treats have added sugar for additional sweetness. This type of sugar has negligible nutritional content but packs a lot of calories which is unhealthy and if left unchecked, detrimental to your health.
Despite the well-established benefits of lowering consumption of added sugar, shaking off the habit is one of the hardest resolutions to keep. How do you keep your sweet tooth in check at a wedding or birthday party when the pastry chef was clearly on a mission?
What about that cold soda on a hot afternoon? This is where challenges like the 30 days without sugar get their relevance. They provide the structure for a month-long hiatus from added sugar which can be a very effective way to wean yourself off it.
If you are contemplating trying out the challenge, you will find this article quite helpful in preparing yourself. It covers what will happen to your body if it goes with no sugar. Besides the benefits, we also discuss how to quit sugar and what to expect during and after the 30 days.
How Does Your Body Benefit from Going Without Added Sugar?
Below are some convincing reasons to regulate the amount of added sugar you consume in a day. The rest of your diet influences the nutritional value of your food. The useless extra calories can come from other foods in your diet, which goes beyond sugar.
Improved Blood Sugar Management
Frequent consumption of foods and beverages that contain high levels of added sugar makes you susceptible to developing type 2 diabetes. Sugars like high fructose corn syrup are rapidly absorbable and will spike your blood sugar levels to the extent that your body develops insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone that regulates your blood sugar level.
When the body realizes that insulin is not working, it will produce more insulin which still won’t work but will result in an elevation of both sugar and insulin in your blood. This can lead to cell damage which exposes you to many diseases and health complications.
Cutting back on added sugar consumption is an effective way to regulate your blood sugar and insulin levels, mitigating the risks of sugar-related health issues.
Body Weight Management
Added sugar in foods and beverages increases their calorie count without adding any filling nutrients like protein and fiber to the body. Because you won’t feel sated, the urge to eat more will be a constant nuisance, further increasing the possibility of gaining weight.
Part of the weight gain from empty calories is due to visceral fat, the hidden fat stored in the belly that wraps around organs, like the liver and intestines. Besides making your belly stick out, visceral fat produces chemicals and hormones. These can be noxious to the body and carry many health risks. These risks include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Removing added sugars from your diet will help you lose weight, including the accumulation of visceral fat. You need to replace sugars and the foods that contain them with a diet full of fiber and protein to improve portion control and enhance nutritional value. Keep at it beyond the 30 days to maintain the health benefits and make the impact more visible.
Added sugars are linked to cavities, gum diseases, and associated oral health problems like bad breath. When the bacteria in your mouth break down sugar, it produces acid, which may damage your teeth. Reducing added sugars in your diet removes one of the major contributors to tooth decay from the equation, making it easier to manage oral hygiene.
Cutting out sugar does not absolve you from taking care of your teeth and will not be effective in isolation. There are other causes of tooth decay, plaque, and gum diseases you should also address for this to be effective.
Reduction of Liver Fat
Continuous ingestion of high sugar foods leads to a buildup of fat levels in the liver and visceral fat, making you susceptible to developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and its related conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, or even liver cirrhosis.
NAFLD in its early stages doesn’t cause any harm and is easily reversible with proper diet and exercise. A healthy liver has little to no fat, and going on a 30-days without sugar diet is a step in the right direction. Cutting foods and beverages with sugar for as little as ten days has a significant impact on reducing liver fat by upwards of 3%.
Improved Heart Health
Weight gain, high levels of bad LDL cholesterol, visceral fat, and a fatty liver accompanied by excess triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood which your body transforms excess calories into) takes a heavy toll on your heart. This combination leaves it vulnerable to disorders and diseases, increasing the possibility of mortality through heart complications.
Diets with minimal added sugar not only support weight loss, the consequent reduction in fat, triglyceride, and LDL cholesterol levels will significantly reduce the risk of developing heart disease. It is a great motivation for not consuming added sugar for 30 days.
The Ability to Maintain Steady Energy
Substituting refined foods with wholesome foods high in protein and healthy fats improves your energy and sustains it for longer periods than the empty calories from added sugar. Added sugar provides quick bursts of energy that also fade away instantly, often leaving you tired with a headache that has you craving for another quick fix. The quick fixes take up space that might have been reserved for healthier calories.
Too much sugar in the bloodstream causes dryness and loss of skin elasticity due to glycation, which affects collagen and elastin, the proteins that keep the skin springy and elastic. The sugars weaken them, making the skin dry and wrinkly. It will also sag and become dull in appearance.
The condition is more prevalent in people with diabetes as they have less control over their blood sugar levels. They are more susceptible to acne and skin aging.
The artificial highs and lows caused by a sugar rush have been linked to anxiety and depressive symptoms in severe cases. The weight gains and poor health occasioned by too much artificial sugar might also play a role in aggravating mental instability.
Weaning yourself out of depending on the sugar highs impacts more than your physical health. The energy and stimulation that comes from natural sources are also more sustainable and reliable.
Enduring No Sugar for 30 Days
The first 24 to 48 hours of quitting sugar will be the most excruciating and usually determine if you will stick with the program to the end. It will be hard to stay sane; to some, it feels like you are giving up the very oxygen you need to stay alive.
You will go through periods of lethargy that you can’t fix with a self-induced sugar rush from, say, soda because all-natural sweeteners are prohibited. You will also be highly irritable due to the reduced supply of glucose to the brain. Sugar stimulates pathways in the brain associated with pleasurable feelings, affecting your ability to work and concentrate.
If you cannot bear the cold turkey approach to curbing your sugar habit, you can start by minimizing the portions of your favorite treats or cutting back on the frequency. After all, half a cup of ice cream will have half the amount of refined sugar as a full cup, which is an improvement.
What Will Happen to Your Body After 30 Days?
The diet will undoubtedly improve your overall health during the month. Some of the effects, like weight loss, are not noticeable immediately. Reverting to your old ways will undo what you have accomplished faster than it took you to achieve those gains. You should maintain as much of the routine as you can to sustain the health benefits.
Incorporate Natural, Wholesome Sources of Sugar
Not all sugar is bad sugar. Sugar that occurs naturally in foods like fruits, honey, or unsweetened milk comes packaged with fibers, minerals, vitamins, and other forms of nutrition that the body needs.
Natural sugars are also self-regulatory and equipped to offset their negative features, so they are not harmful to the body. Fresh fruit, for example, contains fiber, which reduces the body’s rate of absorption of sugar. The slower absorption allows the body time to utilize the sugar, preventing the accumulation of sugar and insulin in your blood, concentration of visceral fat, or formation of LDL cholesterol.
Natural sugar is a great replacement for the hidden sugar so prevalent in processed food when you want to follow a wholesome, healthy diet.
The challenge is a great opportunity to take stock of just how much added sugar you consume in a day. Thirty days without it can help you reset your sugar cravings for a lifetime. After the initial struggle, it becomes a walk in the park. Once the health benefits become tangible, you will also have that extra motivation not to break the habit.
To see the effects of any diet, you have to be consistent, which is why 30 days are ideal. If you can hack the 30, you can change your consumption completely. Don’t revert to your old ways after being sugar free for 30 days, as you will lose any benefits you’ve gained.