Cutting out added sugars in your diet can have some pretty amazing health benefits. This article review some of the benefits of a sugar-free diet.

fruits and veggies on a counter.

Why Try a Sugar-Free Diet?

The American Heart Association recommends that women should only consume around 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily and that men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons of sugar per day. 

But the alarming truth is that most Americans consume a whopping 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day. 

Some of this comes from sugars that we add to foods ourselves, but much of it comes from processed foods and sugary drinks.

Excessive sugar consumption has been linked to a range of health problems, some serious. This has prompted many people to consider reducing their intake, or even trying to cut out sugar altogether. 

So what exactly are the advantages of going sugar-free? Can swapping sugary treats for wholesome, natural foods really make a big difference to your overall health? 

In this article, we will take a look at the many amazing benefits of a sugar-free diet and how it can improve your health and well-being in lots of different ways.

Potential Sugar-Free Diet Health Benefits

There are some significant health benefits from reducing or eliminating excess added sugars in your diet. These benefits are backed by scientific research so there’s no arguing the results.

But, of course, everyone is different. Some people may need to cut out sugar completely while others can tolerate natural sugars in foods, such as fruit. It’s important that you speak to your healthcare provider to determine how strict you need to be with avoiding sugars.

1. Lower risk of pre-diabetes and diabetes

doctor checking blood sugar.
Blood sugar test.

Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the levels of sugar in the blood become too high. 

This happens when your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin in the way it should. Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas, and it is essential for keeping blood sugar levels under control.

There are three different types of diabetes:

  1. Type 1 diabetes, where the cells that produce insulin are destroyed by the immune system
  2. Type 2 diabetes, where your body’s cells do not react to insulin, or where your body simply doesn’t produce enough
  3. Pre-diabetes, where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal and you have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes

There is also a temporary condition known as gestational diabetes which only appears during pregnancy and usually disappears once the baby is born.

Because it is caused by an autoimmune reaction, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented or controlled by any dietary changes. This includes reducing the amount of sugar you consume.

With type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes, however, the story is quite different!

Along with other healthy lifestyle changes like losing weight and staying active, reducing or eliminating sugar has been shown to help prevent, delay, or control symptoms of diabetes. 

An article from the Journal of Education and Health Promotion discusses the impact of sugar on diabetes

It recommends that all refined sugars – especially in items like soft drinks and sweets – should be avoided. This is because they contain simple sugar, which is easily absorbed by your body and causes the levels in your blood to rise sharply.

This guidance is supported by a great deal of evidence. This 2004 research studied the effects of sugar-sweetened beverages on more than 91,000 women and found that these drinks increased the risk for developing type 2 diabetes. 

Meanwhile, this study found that drinking just one sugary drink per day could raise your risk of type 2 diabetes by 13%.

Consuming too much sugar may also raise the risk of developing diabetes in other, less obvious ways. It can lead to weight gain, which is a risk factor for diabetes in itself.  And it can also cause liver problems which may go on to affect insulin production.

2. Reduced risk of heart disease

doctor holding stethoscope.

Medical research published in 2014 showed a clear link between consuming too much sugar and an increased risk of serious heart disease. 

A sample of US adults was studied over a period of 15 years. It was found that those who got 17% to 21% of their calories from added sugar were 38% more likely to die from heart disease than those whose calorie intake from sugar was less than 10%.

Doctors are not completely sure how sugar raises the risk of heart disease. 

One reason could be that sugar is metabolized by the liver in the same way as alcohol. This can cause fat to accumulate, potentially leading to fatty liver disease. This, in turn, can contribute to diabetes, raising the risk of heart disease.

Too much sugar can also cause inflammation in the body. This has been linked to an increased risk of heart problems.

See my list of the best natural sugar substitutes.

3. Lower blood pressure

High blood pressure can lead to all sorts of problems, including heart disease, heart failure, and strokes. 

Eating too much added sugar is one of the factors that contribute to high blood pressure. In fact, a 2014 article published in Open Heart revealed that added sugar is worse for blood pressure than salt. 

This has been confirmed by further research, such as this 2019 study of 128 women aged from 65 to 80. 

It highlighted a significant link between high blood pressure and the amount of sugar consumed. It also found that a decrease of 2.3 teaspoons of added sugar would lead to drops in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

4. Less chance of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a condition where your liver contains more fat than it should. It can lead to a range of health problems, including serious liver damage, diabetes, kidney disease, and high blood pressure.

Recent studies have suggested that drinking less sugary drinks and cutting your fructose intake – especially from added sugars – can help prevent the build-up of fat in the liver.

5. Better dental health

The negative impact of too much sugar on your teeth can’t be overstated! There are numerous studies to support the fact that it causes dental caries – more commonly known as tooth decay or cavities.

For example, “bad” bacteria like Streptococcus sorbrinus and Streptococcus mutans feed on the sugar you eat and then form plaque.

This is a film that covers the surface of your teeth. If you don’t brush it away, it creates an acidic environment in your mouth, which can cause the minerals in your teeth to dissolve and which will eventually destroy their enamel. 

The problem is compounded when you regularly drink sugary drinks or eat sugary snacks throughout the day. This exposes your teeth to these destructive acids for an extended period of time. 

The other problem is that many sugary snacks are especially sticky, so they cling tightly to the surface of your teeth and are not easily washed away by your saliva. 

Along with regular brushing, switching to non-sugary snacks and drinks can go a long way towards improving your dental health.

6. Lower chance of obesity

person on scale holding donut.

There are several different reasons why eating too much sugar can cause obesity. 

One is that it raises the levels of ghrelin in your body. Ghrelin is a hormone that is produced mainly by your stomach, and which increases your appetite, causing you to eat more. 

To make matters worse, sugar simultaneously lowers your levels of the hormone peptide YY. This is the hormone that signals to your brain that you are full. 

Another problem is that sugary foods tend to be low in nutrients, especially fiber and protein. Subsequently, they are not very satisfying, so you end up eating more. Foods packed with sugar also tend to be high in calories. 

But sugar-sweetened drinks may be the worst offenders, because it is very easy to consume far too many calories without even realizing it. 

Most concerning of all, sweet-tasting foods tend to be associated with pleasure, making it likely you will crave them even more.

The good news is that eating less sugar can reduce the risk of obesity in both adults and children. 

7. Reduced inflammation

Research has demonstrated that sugar can cause inflammation.

Inflammation is usually part of the body’s defense mechanism, helping it fight off any harmful organisms. But regularly eating foods that cause inflammation may lead to it becoming chronic (long-lasting).

Chronic inflammation has been linked to a range of serious conditions, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease

8. Improved skin clarity

If you are prone to acne or eczema then you may see an improvement by cutting down on sugar.

This is because the symptoms of both are worsened by inflammation. Other skin conditions – like psoriasis and rosacea – may also be improved.

Cutting down on sugar can keep us looking younger, too.

High levels of sugar in the blood can cause a chemical reaction called glycation. This has a detrimental effect on two of the proteins in our skin – elastin, and collagen. They weaken when they link with sugar, causing the skin to become less elastic and ultimately leading to wrinkles

9. Increased energy

Have you ever reached for a sugary snack mid-afternoon to give yourself a little boost, only to find yourself feeling even more tired? 

There’s actually a good reason for that! 

Consuming sweet foods does, indeed, give you a temporary spike in your blood sugar levels and makes you feel more energetic. 

But this brief burst of energy is quickly followed by a sugar crash. 

This is caused by your body rapidly producing insulin to keep those rising levels under control. It can leave you feeling exhausted, shaky, and irritable. And it may even cause you to feel hungry again, so you became trapped in a vicious circle of eating more sugary foods to compensate. 

By cutting out sugary treats and reaching for a healthy alternative like nuts, you can naturally raise your energy levels without any of the unpleasant after-effects.

See my complete list of healthy snacks you can make at home. You might also like my list of the best sugar-free jerky brands.

10. Fewer cravings

Our brains associate sugar with pleasure and rewards, which is why we tend to crave sweet foods far more than is healthy for us.

In fact, there are some studies that suggest that sugar may actually be addictive. 

But the more sugar you consume, the more you want.

If you start to limit your intake – choosing healthier alternatives to sugar-sweetened drinks and foods – you may find yourself breaking this unhealthy cycle. Your cravings should begin to diminish as a result.

See my related article with more tips to reduce sugar cravings.

11. Better sleep

Sleep problems may be a side effect of consuming sugar that you’ve never really considered before.

But research published in 2016 showed that excessive sugar intake can be linked with poor quality of sleep and frequent waking at night. 

This is probably due to fluctuating blood sugar levels that may cause you to snack late at night and overstimulate your body when it should be resting.

Keeping your blood sugar at just the right level by avoiding added sugar can be a great step towards more restful sleep.

12. Fewer mood swings and better mood overall

There are multiple studies that show that sugar can affect your mood. 

In some cases it might trigger a mild grumpiness – perhaps if you’re experiencing a craving for something sweet when you’re stuck at work. But it can be as serious as full-blown depression, particularly in men. 

Cutting down on your sugar intake can help in either case, curbing those cravings that can leave you feeling irritable and reducing the inflammation that is believed to contribute to depression. 

13. Less joint pain

Pain in the joints is often a result of inflammation. In fact, arthritis sufferers are specifically told to avoid added sugar because it tends to cause flare-ups.

And, there are various studies to back up this advice, such as this article published in 2018. 217 adults with rheumatoid arthritis reported that sodas with added sugars and desserts were the foods most likely to worsen their symptoms.

Try swapping sugary foods for natural, wholesome alternatives and you may just be surprised by how much less pain you experience as a result.

avocado toast with veggies and a fried egg.

More Sugar-Free Resources You Might Like

I’ve been writing about sugar-free diets for a few years now. Here are some other related articles that you might like.

See my index of sugar-free recipes and consider joining my Sugar Free Challenge!

Benefits of Going Sugar-Free: Conclusions

Science has shown us that we are naturally predisposed to enjoy sweet flavors. But it has also demonstrated that we can definitely have too much of a good thing.

Excessive sugar consumption can have negative effects on our physical and mental health, trapping us in a cycle where we end up craving the very thing that’s causing the problems.

Taking steps to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet can provide tremendous benefits in all areas of your life. And the good news is that there are many natural, healthy, and equally delicious foods we can enjoy in its place, with none of the harmful effects.

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About the Author: Carrie Forrest has a master’s degree in public health with a specialty in nutrition. She is a top wellness and food blogger with over 5 million annual visitors to her site. Carrie has an incredible story of recovery from chronic illness and is passionate about helping other women transform their health. Send Carrie a message through her contact form.

Note: this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations related to your individual situation.