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By Nthabiseng Mokonyane

A sugar diet, also known as a no-sugar or sugar-free diet, involves avoiding added sugar while allowing some natural sugar in your diet.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood: Sugar cubes in a glass jar

The no-sugar diet restricts sugary foods that contain added sugar, such as candy, cakes, cookies, pies, sweet rolls, pastries, doughnuts, dairy desserts, and sweetened drinks.

There is a clear distinction between added sugar and natural sugar. Added sugar is mainly in processed foods and drinks, and natural sugar is in whole, unprocessed foods. The Family Doctor says, "These include fruit, vegetables, dairy, and grains. Fructose is a natural sugar found in fruit. Lactose is a natural sugar found in animal dairy products."

Research suggests excessive sugar consumption is fuelling obesity and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) epidemics worldwide. South Africa, a prominent sugar consumer, is also Africa's most obese country, with NCDs accounting for 40% of all fatalities.

Individuals find themselves caught up between different dietary measures they can use to lose weight, fix their skin, and reduce their risks of certain diseases such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and liver disease, among others. However, different people go for different diet plans because of specific goals.

The one type of diet most people sleep on is the one mentioned above. One can cut down on sugar without having any underlying illness or disease. Cutting down on sugar should not be drastic. One can start with a 15-day challenge, where they do not consume foods with added sugar. If they love the results and if their health improves, they can move to the 30-day challenge. The challenges are good at helping one get used to the diet. It is not a very restrictive diet because one can still eat ice cream without sugar and other foods without added sugar.

Ways in which the no-sugar diet can be beneficial:

Cutting down on sugar in one's diet can be beneficial in many ways. Here is how:

1. It helps in weight management.

Diets high in added sugar are associated with obesity. The diets get linked to belly fat, also known as visceral fat. Choosing options with low-added sugar is recommended to help manage weight and reduce belly fat.

2. It helps regulate your blood sugar.

Insulin resistance is the inability of the cells in your muscles, fat, and liver to absorb glucose from your blood easily. Your pancreas produces more insulin; as a result, allowing glucose to enter your cells more efficiently. It can lead to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Reducing added sugar, exercising, and eating a healthy diet can improve insulin sensitivity.

3. It helps your heart health.

Added sugar is directly and indirectly linked to heart disease. Consuming foods heavy in processed sugars and carbohydrates might cause heart palpitations if you have low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia). According to Health, "Diets with greater than 20% of total calories from added sugars are associated with high levels of triglycerides, a type of blood fat. Elevated triglycerides can boost your risk for heart disease."

4. It helps improve your oral health.

Tooth decay, or dental caries, occurs from the mouth. It develops when oral acid damages the teeth's enamel and dentine, forming holes and cavities.

Health asserts that one's risk of developing cavities can decrease by limiting added sugar in your diet to less than 10% of your daily calorie intake.

One should practice good oral hygiene regardless of their sugar intake by:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush.

  • Flossing once daily.

  • Brushing your tongue.

5. It may help lower your risk of depression.

Food can have a wide range of impacts on one's mood and emotional state. When one is hungry and desires sustenance, they may become irritable, agitated, or even resentful. Conversely, when one has enjoyed a mouth-watering meal, they may experience euphoric feelings.

The Healthline says, "eating too much sugar may increase your risk of mood disorders, including depression." It would be good to monitor your added sugar guilty pleasures to help with mental Health.

6. It may reduce acne and improve skin health.

Sugar stimulates oil production in the skin. Sebum, an oil created by the sebaceous glands in your body, coats the skin in a protective and hydrating layer by nature. According to some studies, excessive sugar consumption may be linked to increased sebum production, resulting in oily skin. Sebum may result in acne. Cutting down on added sugar may slow down ageing and maybe the reaction of the foods with your skin's collagen and elastic fibres.

7. It helps reduce your risk of liver disease.

It is your liver's job to break down fructose, a type of added sugar. Excess fructose—particularly from sweetened beverages—that reaches the liver becomes fat. Eventually, when too much fat gets stored in the liver, you can develop NAFLD. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which fat builds up in your liver. However, reducing your added sugar intake can help reduce your risk for liver disease.

Embracing a sugar-free diet can be a transformative journey towards improved health and well-being. By eliminating or significantly reducing added sugars from your diet, you empower yourself to make mindful choices that positively impact your physical and mental health. A sugar-free lifestyle can lead to better weight management, reduced risk of chronic diseases, stabilized energy levels, and enhanced overall vitality. As you embark on this path, remember that moderation and balance are key; focusing on whole, nutrient-rich foods and finding alternatives to satisfy your sweet cravings can help you succeed in the long run. Embrace the challenge with determination, and savor the rewards of a life that is not only sweeter but also healthier. Your body will thank you for the nourishing choices you make today, as you pave the way for a vibrant and fulfilling future.

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