Keto or Not, Why Everyone Should Go on a Low-Sugar Diet
I have been following a low-sugar diet for a few years, and have also switched to a keto diet since. I do not really eat sugar, although I do have some fruit every now and then. For most people, this sounds crazy, and the thought of giving up sugary treats or following a keto diet is rather daunting. I suppose that people who consider going on a low-sugar diet as only giving up obvious things, such as chocolate or added sugar in their coffee, will be shocked to find out that most of their “healthy” snacks, such as low-fat yoghurt, muesli, and fruit smoothies are actually packed with sugar.
If you are keto, your sugar intake will probably be extremely low, but most people do not have the self-discipline to give up sugary treats to that extent. As long as you go as low-sugar as possible and currently reasonable, you will make a big difference in terms of improving your health.
And before you think that a low-sugar diet means you have to sacrifice your daily treat, think again. A quick Pinterest search will open up a whole new world of low-sugar or sugar-free treat possibilities.
The Side Effects of Consuming too Much Sugar
Sugar has quite a few side effects, especially when consumed in excess, but before we can get into that, it is important to understand how sugar is processed in the body. We know that sugar is bad for us, but we need to know why as well.
Eating sugar sends signals to the brain, which then releases dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. This is part of why we love it so much. When sugar reaches your stomach, your body separates the sugar into two types: glucose and fructose. Most sugar sources consist of a combination of both glucose and fructose.
During digestion, glucose seeps through the small intestinal wall, and signals the pancreas to start secreting insulin. This hormone allows the body to use the glucose in your bloodstream for energy. However, eating sugar causes a spike in insulin, which then leads to a surge of energy, followed by a sugar crash. This is one of the more obvious side effects of sugar.
Insulin resistance occurs when the pancreas over-produces insulin, due to excess sugar intake, and the cell walls become insulin-resistant. As a result, the excess glucose remains in the bloodstream, and can lead to diabetes.
When the pancreas produces too much insulin, it can become overwhelmed, and create excess inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation, caused by sugar, can show up in the form of various side effects, such as acne, joint pain, digestive problems, etc. A keto diet is therefore great as a treatment for people with a lot of inflammation, as keto ensures that your intake of inflammation-causing sugar is as low as possible.
Fruit is not really a big part of my low-sugar diet, as too much fructose is really bad, and perhaps even worse than the more commonly recognised sucrose. Fructose enters the bloodstream and goes straight to the liver, whose job it is to metabolise fructose. Too much fructose overwhelms the liver, and can trigger fat production in the liver, which can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease over time.
The side effects of sugar can show up on your waistline. Too much insulin also prevents the production of the hunger hormone, named leptin, which is responsible for signalling your brain that you are full when eating. Therefore, too much insulin leads to overeating and excess fat storage.
On top of everything, sugar damages the collagen in your skin, and decreases the effectiveness of collagen and elastin, making your skin age faster. I do not know about you, but for me, candy really is not worth the wrinkles. This is due to a process called glycation, in which sugar attaches to proteins and forms harmful new molecules that damage other proteins in the body, such as collagen and elastin.
How to Start Switching to a Diet That is Low in Sugar or a Keto Diet
When it comes to healthy eating, sugar can be described as the root of all evil, and there is sugar in nearly everything. When starting a mostly low-sugar diet, you can go cold turkey, and do a complete sugar detox for a few weeks. You can cut out all sugar, including fruit, candy, most sauces, low-fat yoghurts, granola, etc. You might experience some side effects when going on a low-sugar diet at first, but it will go away in a few weeks.
If you need more time to say goodbye to sugar completely before going on a low-sugar diet, start by cutting your intake of obvious sugars (birthday parties do not have to count), and then reduce your sugar intake further as you feel ready. The negative effects on your mental state might not be as brutal.
For most people, we recommend the 80/20 rule when it comes to eating sugar. Cut out sugar 80% of the time, and allow yourself to have sugar the other 20%. This will allow you some freedom with social events. You can be stricter if you want, but 80/20 is perfectly okay.
If you want to try the keto diet, you will need to lower your intake of carbohydrates in general, as they are converted into glucose. You will indulge in sugar less often on the keto diet, but with the keto fat bombs and keto desserts you can make, you won’t feel it.
How to Reduce the Impact of Sugar
You should accept the fact that you are human, and you might eat sugar from time to time. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help reduce the impact of the sugar on your blood sugar levels and system. These include:
Consuming sugar with something containing cinnamon, which lowers the amount that blood sugar levels rise thanks to the chromium content.
Pairing a high-sugar food with herbal tea like green tea or vinegar, which also lower the amount that blood sugar elevates after the meal. The acetic acid in vinegar is what has this beneficial effect.
Having sugar just before or just after working out. Your glycogen stores in your muscles can become depleted during exercise. If you have something with sugar before a workout, then you will use the glucose for energy during the workout, and if you consume the sugar afterwards, it will replenish the glycogen stores in your muscles and aid muscle repair.
Keto or simply on a low-sugar diet, everyone should reduce their intake of sugar to improve their health. You can also cycle between the keto diet and a low-sugar diet that includes some carbs. It really is up to you.