We all know we’re supposed to cut down on the sweet stuff (keeping it below 6 teaspoons a day is a popular recommendation), but it can be extremely challenging to do so. Because, let’s face it, tons of sugar (and sodium) we eat daily is not consumed with the teaspoon. It’s hidden.
In the processed foods and drinks (that make up to 60% of the average calorie intake in the U.S.) lay the invisible but very real sugar bombs that will go off inside your body and work against your health.
While it’s difficult to be mindful of the exact sugar content of all your beverages and foods, there’s an easy way to know when you’re overindulging. Your body will literally tell you! Just watch out for the following 15 symptoms:
1. You’re abnormally thirsty
Unless it’s a really hot day and you haven’t been drinking enough water, a strong sensation of thirst and dry mouth can be a signal that you’ve had too much sugar, which triggered a diuretic effect. Now you need to restore your water balance — but don’t reach for soda to get your hydration fix! It won’t do much to help andthere’s more sugar in it than you’d think. If pure water feels unsatisfying, infuse it with fruit, ginger, or cucumber slices.
2. You can’t lose weight
Did these clothes shrink after the last washing or have you gained a few extra pounds? Contrary to popular belief, you are actually more likely to gain weight from sweets than from fatty foods. Soda and sugary coffee/tea are especially sneaky because hey, they are not even foods! But if you steer clear of the sweetened beverages (and replace them with water, plain coffee and tea), you’ll shed a few pounds without even trying!
3. You have sweet cravings
Yeah: sugar makes you crave more sugar. Its effects are addictive: sugar spike causes the release of dopamine, the “happy hormone”. As the effect wears off, your body wants another fix — that’s just the way we’re built. Same as with other addictions, your body slowly develops tolerance to the substance in question, and therefore, the more you consume, the more you want. The result? Even when you’re not hungry, you just feel like something sweet.
4. You became unproductive
Excess of sugar in the diet results in poor absorption of glucose by the organs and cells — including the brain cells. The result is an immediate decrease in learning ability and memory, fatigue, and lack of focus. You can also get a headache from eating too much sugar at once. All of these effects taken together certainly don’t make for a productive day! A quick tip for improved performance: balanced and nutritious breakfast will prevent blood sugar spikes and will keep your energy levels stable throughout the day.
5. Your skin looks dull and dry
The sugar in your bloodstream negatively affects the mobility of collagen, the protein in charge of keeping your skin young and tight. If your blood sugar levels are elevated for prolonged periods of time, you will notice that your skin is losing elasticity — meaning more fine wrinkles, sagginess, and other signs of early aging. The good news is, once you stop putting too much sugar into your system, start to hydrate properly and eat better, you’ll get the glow back!
6. You have acne breakouts
According to the recent study, the diet high in added sugars increased your risk of developing acne by 30%. Now: there are lotsof factors that can lead to acne breakouts, but if you mainly break out around your chin and cheeks, uncontrolled sugar intake may be the cause. To check if that is the case for you, try eliminating sweet treats from your diet and see if your skin looks better about a week after.
7. You get cavities and gum issues
Sugar provides easily digestible energy for you andfor the harmful bacteria in your mouth. After every sugary meal, the bacteria will thrive and multiply in the hospitable environment around your teeth and gums, releasing acid byproducts that cause cavities, enamel demineralization, and gum sensitivity. You can probably save a small fortune in dentist bills by reconsidering your diet or at least brushing your teeth after indulging in sugary treats!
8. You experience digestion problems
“Soda belly” is an actual thing, so if you often feel bloated for no apparent reason, your poor dietary choices might be the cause. Try cutting down on refined carbs and sugar and swap them for complex carbohydrates (bonus points for adding fiber-rich foods). See if this makes your tummy happier, and never look back if it does!
9. You have less energy than before
Feel sick and tired of being sick and tired? All the sweet munchies might be to blame, especially if you notice a clear pattern of energy ups and downs throughout the day. Stabilizing your energy levels can be as simple as keeping your blood sugar stable by consuming foods that take longer to digest — complex carbohydrates, good fats, and healthy proteins come to mind!
10. Sweet does not seem sweet
What your taste buds will interpret as “sweet” depends highly on your sugar intake. Take a can of coke: it will taste sweet as syrup if you try it after a burger, but almost sour after a cake. It’s the same drink, but your baseline for sweet would be a lot higher after already having a cake!
Eating too much of anything changes the way in which your taste buds perceive it. Reduce the impact of added sugars, and you’ll be able to enjoy more subtle, natural sweetness again.
11. You have mood swings
Added sugars increase your risk of mood disorders and even depression. There is actually more than one factor in play; first off, there are simply the blood sugar swings which make you feel happier at first but leave you cranky and tired soon afterwards. Secondly, sugar can affect the mood-regulating neurotransmitters in your brain in ways which can lead to longer-term effects on your moods and even trigger onset of depression.
12. You don’t sleep well
There is some evidence to suggest a link between sleep disorders and consumption of sugar. If you keep having blood sugar spikes and crashes throughout the night, the sleep you get won’t be as regenerating as it should be, which can leave you experiencing mood swings, fatigue, and headaches during the following day. It is therefore recommended to cease the intake of any sugary foods and drinks at least to hours before bedtime, so that it’s already out of your system when it’s time to nod off.
13. You’re always hungry
Overindulging in foods (and especially drinks) with high sugar content contributes to cravings and throws you into the cycle of false hunger. Foods that don’t have much protein or fiber won’t fill you up, but they will cause your blood sugar to spike and dip, and make you crave more carb-heavy foods to bounce back. But calories are calories, and sugar packs a lot, so you will easily send your calorie count through the roof without actually feeling sated. This can — and will — lead to weight gain.
14. Your joints hurt
Sugar and joint conditions are not very closely linked, but hear us out. Sugar, no matter where it’s coming from, is linked to chronic inflammation — a process which leadsto a higher risk of arthritis. Some studies have even shown a correlation between sweetened beverages consumption and increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis in women. If you’ve been experiencing any sort of joint pains, it may be the time to start monitoring your sugar intake.
15. Your blood pressure is high
There’s been a lot of research in recent years proving that added sugars put you at a higher risk for high blood pressure. In fact, one of the studies showed that sugar is even worse for your blood pressure than sodium! To increase both your systolic and diastolic pressure, you would only need to eat a high-sugar diet for a couple of weeks. If you’ve already been experiencing blood pressure issues or are at risk of developing hypertension, talk to your doctor about the recommended quantities of added sugar.