The University of North Carolina reports that the average person shovels in 300 calories from added sugar every day - that's a lot. On top of this, roughly 20 percent of Americans exceed 700 calories of added sugar on a daily basis, which is pretty much an entire cup of sugar. This isn't just from the obvious places like cakes, candy, and soda, but it's also coming from healthier-sounding packaged products like salad dressing, pasta sauce, and yogurt.
If we're being truly honest with ourselves, most of us could stand to cut back on sugar. If and when you decide to ditch the sweet stuff, you'll experience some weird and wonderful things (wonderful being relative to what you think is wonderful). Here are a few strange things that happen to the average American's body when you cut sugar out of your diet.
1. You'll boost your heart health
Cardiovascular researcher James J. DiNicolantonio says: "added sugar chronically raises insulin levels, which activates the sympathetic nervous system, increasing blood pressure and heart rate. Within a few weeks' time, you might expect to see a 10 percent decrease in LDL cholesterol and a 20 to 30 percent decrease in triglycerides." Healthier blood pressure can allow you to exercise better.
2. Your skin will be clear
Forget zits. Systemic inflammation is a known acne trigger and sugar, wouldn't you know it, is inflammatory. A study in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when non-soda-drinkers consumed one 12-ounce can a day for three weeks, their inflammation levels increased by 87 percent. Try and give up soda and other sweetened drinks, and you might be one day waking up to smoother skin.
3. You'll sidestep diabetes
The more sugar you eat, the more fatty deposits buildup around your liver. The more this happens the more your body becomes resistant to insulin. The more this happens, the more your pancreas gets bunged up and after that, you eventually find yourself with Type 2 diabetes. In a study of sugar consumption in 175 nations, eating 150 calories of added sugar is 11 times more likely to contribute to the development of Type 2 diabetes, compared with 150 calories from protein or fat. So swap that sugary granola for a handful of nuts, pronto.
4. You'll sleep way better
The crash from a sugar high leaves you with that mid-day sluggishness and an itching need for a nap you're probably all too familiar with. Added sugar triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, which interferes with slumber. Giving up added sugar will leave you feeling more awake and alert during the day, plus your sleep will be so much better.
5. You'll remember a lot more
Battling a foggy brain? Well, sugar may be to blame. One animal study at UCLA concluded a diet high in added sugar hinders learning and memory. Over time, eating lots of sugar may actually damage communication among your brain's cells, the study shows. You'll be a lot sharper without sugar, I promise. Leave those donuts alone.
6. You'll finally lose that extra 10 pounds
While you'll probably replace some of those sugary calories with other foods - like trading a sugary granola bar for a handful of almonds - you won't be eating as many calories overall. Scaling back on your sugar habit by 200 calories a day could help you drop 10 pounds in five to six months. Ain't that sweet.
I hope these weird and wonderful things give you the inspiration to have a go at cutting added sugar from your diet. I could bet my (imaginary) house that you'll feel so much better when you do. Ranch dressing is overrated anyway.