Have you ever wondered what happens to your body when you quit eating sugar? Many myths surround this topic, but this blog post will uncover the truth.
Our body needs sugar to function, but too much sugar can be harmful. Excessive sugar can cause many complications in our bodies, such as weight gain and even diabetes. When you eat foods containing carbohydrates or sugars, your body releases insulin to move the sugar (glucose) into your cells to then be us.
However, when you consume too much sugar, your body can't keep up with the demand and eventually becomes insulin resistant. Thus, people might think that they can just quit eating sugar altogether without any complications in their system. While this might sound like a great idea, medical experts have repeated that we still need sugar in our bodies to remain metabolically flexible, or else our bodies will not function as normally as they should.
This is why balanced sugar intake is key—it's not about completely cutting sugar from our diets, but instead consuming the right amount of sugar for our individual needs. Keep reading to learn more about what happens to your body when you quit eating sugar.
How Much Sugar Is Too Much Sugar?
Americans consume an average of 270 calories of added sugars per day, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. That's 17 teaspoons of sugar daily, roughly equivalent to the maximum daily added sugar intake of 9 teaspoons (150 calories) for men and 6 teaspoons (100 calories) for women.
Many health experts advise against eating too many sugary foods. In particular, consuming too much refined sugar can cause many health issues including chronic inflammation, negative impacts on your immune system, elevated stress hormones, and of course high blood sugar levels. Not to mention, too much sugar may even impact mental health and your sex life!
It can be challenging for those with a sweet tooth, because for many of us eating sweets is an emotional act. So unsurprisingly, when you quit eating sugar, your body goes through different stages of withdrawal as if you were detoxing from a harmful substance or addictive drugs.
It is possible though, to strike a balance between a nourishing diet and one that feels and tastes good. When we eat things that make us happy and nourished it improves feelings of satiety and helps us feel good physically and emotionally as well.
Stages of Sugar Detox and Side Effects
The first stage of sugar detox is the honeymoon phase. At this phase, your body is getting rid of all the sugar that has been building up in your system for years.
You might start to think you are feeling better and that quitting sugar will be easy. However, don't be fooled, for this is only the beginning.
Next comes the rebellion phase. During this stage, your body realizes that it will not get any more sugar and start to rebel against you.
You might feel exhausted, moody, and have no energy whatsoever. This is also when you will begin to crave sugar even more.
The third stage is desperation. Your body is starting to feel like it is going to die without sugar. You might even feel sick or lose weight rapidly. Side effects include brain fog and becoming very forgetful.
Finally, the last stage is acceptance. You realize you need to give your body sugar in the right amount to function properly. You will start to feel better and have more energy. You will also stop craving sugar and may notice that natural foods that seemed tart before start tasting incredibly sweet!
Why You Should Not Quit Sugar Cold Turkey
Like we mentioned above, if you stop eating sugar all of a sudden, your body will not be able to handle it.
You need to balance your sugar consumption, not completely cut sugar out of your diet. That said, you should slowly wean yourself off of sugar so that your body can adjust properly. This way, you can avoid going through all five stages of withdrawal.
How to Control Sugar Intake and Stop Sugar Addiction
Start by doing a sugar detox or reducing the amount of sugar you eat every day, and eventually, you will be able to wean yourself off too much sugar. It's not going to be easy. It might take a while, but it is worth the effort for your health.
One way to help control sugar cravings is to make sure to exercise regularly. Exercise will help burn off the sugar in your system and help improve your mood. If you are feeling down, working out will help perk you up.
Sleep impacts your hormones, including cortisol and insulin. When you don't get enough sleep, these hormones can become out of balance, leading to sugar cravings. Make sure to get at least seven hours of restorative sleep every night.
When you are stressed, your body releases the hormone cortisol. This hormone tells your body to hold onto sugar for energy.
If you don't handle your stress effectively, it can lead to sugar cravings and overeating as a way of self-medicating. Stress management techniques like meditation or yoga will help relax the body to release less cortisol in response to stressful situations.
Sugar Alternatives For Healthy Living
It is impossible to eliminate sugar intake in our bodies. Even foods like rice and wheat contain the sugar levels necessary for the body to function properly. Keep in mind that the goal is not to eliminate sugar from your diet. It is to find a balance on your plate that feels good for your body and still makes you happy!
As a result, experts advise replacing refined sugar with healthy sugar alternatives to provide you with the sweetness you want in your meals and snacks without jeopardizing your health.
Some healthy sugar substitutes include:
- Maple syrup
- Agave nectar
- Coconut sugar
- Date sugar
- Sugar cane
Pair Your Sugars & Avoid Naked Carbs
Another method is to pair your sweets with protein, fat, and foods that contain natural dietary fiber (like whole vegetables or fruits). When you dress your carbs up or pair them with protein, fat, and fiber instead of eating sugary things alone, you still get to enjoy the foods you are craving but in a way that nourishes you. This keeps you feeling fuller longer and helps you avoid the “crave, sugar crash, repeat” cycle.
Benefits of Healthy Sugar Alternatives
Natural sugars contain essential minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients that are essential to keeping your body healthy while satisfying your sweet tooth. In addition, these natural sugars are slowly absorbed by the body, thus preventing any sudden sugar spikes that can pose potential health complications.
These substitutes also have a lower glycemic index than regular sugar, so they will not cause your blood sugar levels to spike.
Another benefit of using these healthier sugar substitutes is adding flavor to your food. If you are used to eating sweet things, it might be hard to give up eating sugar.
However, by using natural sweeteners in your food, you can still enjoy the sweet flavors without all the negative health consequences of consuming refined flavors sugar.
The Downside of Artificial Sweeteners
While artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Equal are calorie-free, they are not healthy for you. In fact, studies have shown that these sweeteners can actually be harmful to your health.
Some potential side effects of consuming artificial sweeteners include:
- Weight gain
Eating large amounts of refined sugar and artificial sweeteners are things that we should all try to be mindful of. They can cause many issues, which can also affect different aspects of our health, from stress hormones to high blood sugar levels and even repercussions on mental health.
Weaning ourselves off of a high sugar diet is a process, but it is worth it in the end. Try reducing the amount of sugar you eat every day until you're able to quit eating it altogether. Replace sugar with healthier alternatives, and in time, you will be able to quit eating sugar! And finally, make sure to exercise regularly–this will help burn off the sugar in your system and improve your mood.
It is impossible to cut the sugar in our diet completely because the body still needs sugar. However, you can lower and monitor the sugar intake and replace white sugar or any other forms of refined sugar with healthier options, such as honey, stevia, and more.
Remember to do things in moderation and be mindful of how much sugar you're eating in a day. In a nutshell, sugar addiction can be avoided if you have the self-discipline to resist junk food and sugary treats, especially those with a high glycemic index. Be conscious of what you eat, and if you are in doubt, always consult with a trusted registered dietitian.