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A short and sweet guide to the health benefits of going sugar-free

Inspired by Cancer Research UK’s “Sugar-Free February” campaign, and in the interests of improving workplace health and wellbeing, we thought we’d take a look at the health benefits of going sugar-free.

For years, scientists have been trying to tell us that sugar, not fat, is the no-go ingredient when it comes to a healthy diet. It upsets our blood sugar and insulin levels, encourages fat storage and, many believe, is contributing to the rise in obesity, type 2 diabetes and other health issues. So here’s our short and sweet guide for how you can go sugar-free.

The two types of sugar

Sugars are divided into two types: naturally occurring sugars, and free sugars.

You’ll find naturally occurring sugars in fruit, vegetables and milk-based products. These contain calories but they’re not considered harmful to your health.

Free sugars include monosaccharides and disaccharides which manufacturers, cooks or consumers add to foods and beverages. They’re also naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.

While fruit and dairy products can be a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre, food that contains free sugars will often have very little or no nutritional benefit whatsoever. Plus, the body can generate energy from carbohydrate in fruit, vegetables, bread, pasta and rice. So there’s no need for added free sugars in your food.

Sugar substitutes – friend or foe?

You might be tempted to use a sugar substitute but if you do, you need to be careful.

Sugar substitutes can be divided into four general categories: artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, natural sweeteners, and dietary supplements.

The European Food Safety Authority assesses the use of artificial sweeteners in food and drink. But just because they’re safe it doesn’t mean they are healthy?

Studies have suggested that artificial sweeteners could contribute to both weight gain and insulin sensitivity more than sugar.

Some sugar alcohols can be a better alternative to refined sugar, fructose or artificial sweeteners.

When it is pure, xylitol is one of the better sugar substitutes, since the potential side effects are minimal. All-natural Stevia (pictured above), Lo Han Guo (also known as Buddha fruit), and dextrose (pure glucose) are also good options.

5 top tips for eliminating sugar from your diet

We’ve established that you don’t need additional sugar in your diet. So how can you start to cut it out? Here are five simple changes you can make to your eating habits right now:

1. Eliminate processed foods

Buy fresh, whole, seasonal foods and make your meals and snacks from scratch so that you know exactly what’s in them.

2. Read food labels

Look at the packaging to see if sugar has been added to food and drink. Avoid anything with ingredients that end with “-ose”, such as ribose, dextrose or xylose.

3. Beware of 'natural' sugars

Even in its natural form, sugar will impact your blood sugar levels in the same way.

4. Avoid fruit juice and sweet drinks

The fibre in fruit lowers the impact of it on your blood sugar levels. The juicing process removes this fibre. Many drinks will also have added sugar, so try and stick with water.

5. Exercise

Being active in the workplace and at home will reduce your craving for sugar.

Avoid a sugar crash

Don’t go from eating sugar non-stop to completely eliminating it in 24 hours. This will most likely backfire.

Take a gradual process and try reducing your sugar intake each day. Cut out the sugar in your coffee or tea. Look at your condiments (ketchup, mustard, mayo, etc.), which may have added sugars in them.

When you start to cut sugar out of your diet, you’ll experience some short-term withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, fatigue, and sugar cravings. This is likely to last a couple of days, possibly up to a week.

By exercising and drinking lots of water, you can make going sugar-free a lot easier to cope with.

The benefits of going sugar-free

Once you’ve passed the withdrawal stage, you’ll start to notice the benefits of successfully ridding your body of sugar.

These will vary from person to person but can include:

  • Less headaches
  • Feeling more energetic
  • Improved mental state
  • Fewer mood swings
  • Weight loss
  • Healthier skin

A balanced and controlled diet is just one part of living a healthier life. Something as simple as being more aware of the sugar that’s in the food you currently eat and getting rid of the worst culprits could have an immediate effect on your wellbeing.

This can be achieved both at home and in the workplace. At Fusion OH, our occupational health surveillance can assess employees within an organisation to ensure that their needs are being met.

Give us a call to find out more.

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Categories: Health & WellbeingHealth SurveillanceOccupational Health

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