Why Everyone Is Quitting Sugar This February, And You Should Too

by Liberty Stembridge, Health Columnist

Published in Health and Lifestyle on 16th January, 2019

What Is Sugar Free February

Sugar free february is a new challenge, started by Cancer Research Uk, encouraging people to raise money for cancer research by ditching sugar for the month of february. If this sounds easy, it's not.

For most people, giving up sugar is much harder than they anticipate, since sugar is in so many of our foods and can be pretty addictive. By ditching the sweet stuff this february, you will be not only testing your willpower, but hopefully improving your health and raising some money for a good cause.

how to go sugar free

But what actually counts as cutting out sugar? Doesn't everything have a little bit of sugar in it? While this is true, if you're a beginner looking to cut out sugar, you don't need to go as extreme as only eating leafy greens and vegetables. Most people start off by cutting out all fizzy drinks, sugary snack and treats that they have in their everyday life, and replacing them with three healthy low-sugar meals a day (and a lot of water).

Why Should You Quit Sugar

The question that pops into mosts people's minds when they are challenged to quit sugar is, why? Why bother quitting sugar when it's such a hassle. Well, turns out there's a lot of reasons. To start, more and more research is now coming out showing sugar to be quite dangerous when consumed in large amounts or very often.

The Dangers of Sugar

Weight Gain

If losing weight is one of your new year's resolutions, quitting sugar might be a good idea. The consumption of sugar, especially processed sugars like fructose, are linked to increased weight gain and a reduced ability to control appetite. Part of this is to do with the fact that sugary drinks and foods tend to pack in a lot of calories, without offering much nutrition and as a result, you are left still feeling hungry, even though you may have consumed over half the calories you need in a meal.

This can result in unintended weight gain. Not only this, but when we consume more sugar than we need, the body doesn't know what to do with the excess sugar and ends up storing it as fat. This fat then accumulates around your body and can cause weight gain.

May Increase The Risk Of Heart Disease

Heart disease is one of the biggest causes of death worldwide, if fact you probably know someone who either has it, or is at risk of developing it. Increasing amounts of research are linking excess sugar consumption to a higher risk of heart disease.

prevent heart disease

High-sugar diets are known to be linked to obestity, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, all of which are risk factors in developing heart disease. In fact, a recent study found that if 17-21% of your daily calory intake comes from sugar, you are 38% more likely to develop heart disease.

May Increase The Risk Of Developing Cancer

If you were wondering why a cancer research charity were so invested in encouraging people to give up sugar - here's why. Turns out, there may be a strong link between sugar intake and your chances of developing cancer.

A study conducted on over 430,000 people found that increased sugar intake was associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer, intestinal cancer and pleural cancer. Not only that, but the chances of developing endometrial cancer for women nearly doubled with increased sugar consumption.

Could Accelerate Aging

Turns out, sugar could even have an impact on how fast you age. This is because sugar has been found to shorten structures at the end of your chromosomes called telomeres. These telomeres are thought to control how fast you age, as they act as a protective cap on your chromosomes. As you get older, these telomeres shorten and your chromosomes can start to unravel, causing you to exhibit signs of aging.

Consuming high amounts of sugar is associated with accelerated telomere shortening and thereby increasing cellular aging more than normal.

The Benefits Of Quitting Sugar

Quitting sugar doesn't have to be all doom, gloom and cookie cravings. There are a lot of benefits to quitting sugar that you may not have thought of.

More Energy

Sugar gives you a temporary boost of energy, known as a "sugar rush" but it quickly subsides into a "sugar crash" where you feel lethargic, dizzy, grumpy and tired. Excess sugar consumption on a regular basis can lead to prolonged feelings of tiredness and lethargy, to the point where it may even feel like this is your new "normal". It doesn't have to be though. By quitting sugar, you can effectively reset your body and get back to feeling more energized throughout the day.

Eat Healthier

There's no denying that when you quit sugar, you have to pretty radically change your diet, and oftentimes this change will be for the better. Most people who give up sugar find themselves eating more fruits, veggies, greens and water than ever before. Because you are essentially forced to rethink the way you eat, you can start to learn more about healthy eating and planning healthier meals.

eat healthier

Lose Weight

Reducing your sugar intake can not only prevent you from gaining extra weight, but also help you to lose and excess weight that you've been carrying. This is often largely to do with the healthier diet you will be eating, with less calories and more nutrients, but also due to the increase in energy helping you to exercise more and be more active throughout the day.

Test Your WIllpower

Sugar can be a highly addictive substance, and for many people it's a very difficult habit to kick. By setting yourself the challenge to quit sugar this february, you can test your willpower and find a sense of achievement in your new healthy habits. Who knows, you may even improve your health for the rest of your life.

How To Quit Sugar

How do you go about quitting sugar? What does quitting sugar even mean? Most experts agree that there is no way to 100% get rid of all sugar, and even if there was, it wouldn't be recommended. However, there are some recommended guidelines to follow if you're just starting out with quitting sugar.

  • Try to find products with zero added sugars. This means that the sugar in the product only comes from the ingredients themselves, not from extra sugar included in the recipe. So, for example, if you buy a fruity breakfast bar, many of them will pack in a lot of extra sugar on top of all the fruit, nuts and oats etc. A breakfast bar with no added sugar only contains to sugar from the fruit and other ingredients.
  • Do not add any extra sugar to your food. You may think this sounds easy, but it's surprising how many of us instinctively sweeten our food without even thinking about it, the same way you would put salt on your dinner. Make a conscious effort to avoid putting sugar in your coffee, or maple syrup on your pancakes. It might be tough, but once you get used to it, you may actually find that you get to enjoy your food in an entirely different way.
  • sugar free
  • Eat fruit in moderation. Lot's of our fruit nowadays is packed full of sugar, and while of course, your fruit is not going to be as bad for you as a can of coke, it can still lead to unintended excess sugar consumption, so just be mindful of how much fruit you are consuming and what fruit it is. Dates are much more sugary than bananas, for example.
  • Track your food consumption. When you're just getting started, you may not be entirely aware of how much food you are consuming and just how much sugar is in it. It may be cumbersome at first, but get into the habit of writing down what you eat every day, and an estimate of how much sugar you consume. Then you can start to work on reducing your sugar consumption from an informed position.
  • Cut out the sugary drinks. Drinks like pepsi, coca cola, lemonade and many alcoholic drinks too are full of sugar and will deceptively lure you in. One of the best ways you can decrease your sugar intake therefore is to cut out all sugary drinks and replace them with water.
  • Hair play and all kinds of roleplays, such as doctor examinations

Final Thoughts

Cutting out sugar is no easy task, for some people it can be as difficult as giving up smoking, but what with the health benefits it can offer you - why not give it a shot? There's no need to be perfect, just try your best.

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