Could this be most impactful health change?
If you want to make one change that will produce significant and immediate changes, I suggest removing sugar from your diet, completely! Cutting out sugar may be one of the most impact health changes you can make. If you can make this change, you are building a strong foundation to make other changes that will make you feel happier and healthier.
If you are dealing with anxiety, you might want to know that your body can start to feel anxious from either your mind or your body. Whether the body starts the reaction, or the mind, they both join in. This means that if you body starts to feel symptoms of anxiety like increased blood sugar, then you brain will respond with anxious thoughts to match the feeling.
If you are dealing with depression, be aware that low blood sugar can contribute to feelings of fatigue and problems with sleep.
Why avoid sugar?
Sugar has several negative effects on the body. I’ve bolded the ones directly related to anxiety and depression. Note that the others may also indirectly contribute to mental health issues.
- Excess sugar is stored as fat, making sugar is a major factor in obesity.
- Sugar contributes to inflammation, which contributes to depression and anxiety and heart disease.
- Sugar can be addictive and leads to cravings, which puts stress on several body systems.
- Excess sugar contributes to blood sugar imbalances, which can produce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and a “hangry” (hungry + angry) feeling. Frequent changes in blood sugar level can make it hard for the body to respond effectively, which leads to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.
- Sugar reduces the effectiveness of the immune system.
- Sugar disrupts the balance of gut bacteria, which interferes with digestion, immune system function and the production of neurotransmitters.
Research indicates that artificial sweeteners and natural sugar substitutes can produces the same issues as sugar since food that taste sweet can trigger the same response as foods that are actual high in sugar. Artificial sweeteners also contribute to problems with gut bacteria.
Where do I start?
Here’s a simple plan to cut out sugar – it will take discipline and persistence – but it isn’t very complex:
- If you want to start gradually, first try cutting out sugar at breakfast. Choose a breakfast that contains protein and healthy fats to start your day with a consistent source of energy. Try My Favourite Breakfast recipes for some ideas.
- Next, remove processed foods because they often contained added sweeteners. A recent survey showed 2/3 of foods contain added sugar (source) and 74% of packaged foods contain added sugar (source).
- Be sure to include extra proteins and healthy fats to give your body a more consistent source of energy and to avoid cravings.
- Keep drinking water to help your body stay hydrated through this transition.
- After you get used to this step, try cutting out all sources of sugar and sweeteners. Here’s a list of 61 different names for sugar.
- You might want to experiment with cutting out sweet fruits like mango, grapes and bananas since they are higher in sugar than berries, apples and pears. This could help if you are still experiencing cravings and energy crashes.
I’ve cut out sugar before, so I know it isn’t easy. But, I found that my body and my tastebuds adapted to the change in about a week, if I was consistent. After that, I didn’t really crave sugar and I found that sweetened food no longer tasted appealing. But, I also know from experience that if I start eating sweeter foods again – like I did over the holidays – it is very easy to get back to a higher sugar diet.