Registered Dietitian, Rachael DeVaux, arms you with 10 life hacks to cut out sugar from your diet and live a sugar free lifestyle, not just for a couple of days, but for the long term.
It is estimated that the average American eats about 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day. This adds up to over 70 pounds of sugar a year! The majority of this sugar sneaks its way into staple household items, providing calories with no added nutrients and can create an intense addiction, making it hard to avoid sugar altogether or eat just small amounts of sugary treats. Too much sugar in your diet can lead to unhealthy weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. In fact, it has been projected that 6.4% of the world population is currently diabetic with predictions the incidence will rise to 7.7% by the year 2030.
The Sugar Industry Scandal
The negative side effects of sugar were tremendously downplayed in the 1960s Sugar Industry Scandal. Two Harvard nutritionists were paid to swap the blame from sugar to saturated fats as a major cause of coronary heart disease. The result: the low-fat diet craze of the 90s (still ongoing). “Fat-free” products took over the market. Unfortunately, fat-free essentially means more chemicals, additives and definitely more sugar. When fat is removed from a food, the taste is altered, which is why manufacturers replace it with sweeteners, chemicals, salt, flour, and thickeners to compensate.
Much of consumers’ confusion today is the result of these skewed studies, not to mention the disastrous health consequences we are left with as a society.
Side Effects of Too Much Sugar
While you may know that too much sugar can cause weight gain, here are some other effects that sugar can have on your body:
- Suppressed immunity
- Lack of energy
- Increased risk of coronary heart disease and high blood pressure
- Reduced HDL cholesterol and increased LDL cholesterol
- High insulin levels/insulin resistance
How To Cut Back on Sugar and Adapt a Sugar Free Lifestyle
- Up your protein intake to help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce cravings. Protein requires more work for the body to digest and therefore leaves us feeling fuller for longer. Protein also slows the absorption of sugar during a meal. I recommend eating a quality protein source with every meal and snack throughout the day to help curb hunger and to moderate sugar cravings.
- Increase fiber. Start eating more high fiber foods such as avocados, lentils, quinoa, brussels sprouts, peas, oats, berries, and beans.
- Start your day with a fiber and protein-rich breakfast to keep you full and less likely to reach for a sugary snack later on. Try some of these sugar free lifestyle foods instead.
- Get in the habit of eating healthy fats! Your body can either burn sugar for energy or it can burn fat for energy. By removing sugars from your diet, you will need to replace that void with more healthy fats. In addition, because fats contain more calories per gram as compared to carbohydrates or protein, they leave us more satisfied and provide so many benefits necessary for brain health and body functions. Choose sugar free foods like coconut oil, avocado, flax oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and wild-caught fish to help you stay sugar free
- Choose whole-food versus sugar-filled alternatives. For example, eat an apple over drinking apple juice. This will provide additional fiber and nutrients.
- Rid your pantry and refrigerator of all major sugar culprits—cookies, ketchup, bbq sauce, flavored yogurts, coffee creamers, chips, breads, cereals, spaghetti/tomato sauce, fruits canned in syrup, baked goods, and sports drinks. Replace with healthy options so you are less likely to reach for unhealthy alternatives. Try making your own sugar free spaghetti sauce with tomatoes, Italian seasonings, basil, and tomato paste.
- Learn how to say no to added sugars. When trying to figure out how to cut out sugar, it’s important to look for added sugars in foods. These are sugars or syrups added to foods during processing or preparation, and consumption of these processed sugars is what is predominantly contributing to obesity, diabetes, and other related diseases.The more you can turn your back on sugar and stay sugar free, the easier it becomes to avoid it and the less likely you will want it.
- Replace harmful sugar with natural sugars such as raw honey, maple syrup, dates, bananas, coconut sugar, applesauce, or Stevia. While these are not evaporated into the body in some magical way, they do provide some antimicrobial, antibacterial and trace mineral properties and are not as detrimental to your health as regular sugar. The main idea here is to reduce overall sugar intake and choose nature’s sweeteners when you have a sweet tooth.
- When it comes to fruit (natural sugars), remember this is still sugar and not to overdo it. To help limit the amount of fruit you’re eating, choose smaller fruits or pair fruit with a protein source like nut butters or raw nuts to leave you fuller longer. When picking fruit, berries are great because they’re packed with fiber, antioxidants and offer a variety of other health benefits.
10. Pay attention to labels. The recommended intake per day for women is 25 g (6 tsp) and 35 g (9 tsp) for men. To determine how many teaspoons of sugar a food contains, take the grams of sugar on the label and divide by 4. This will give you the total number of teaspoons of sugar that are in one serving. More often than not, there are several servings per package requiring you to double, triple, and even quadruple the serving size amounts to determine your total consumption.
In the end, sugar can have a different effect on almost everyone. For some, a small amount of sugar is fine every now and then and for others, acne, cravings, weight gain or migraines and more serious diseases may follow. Try experimenting with what works for you, but first I recommend going sugar free and trying a Sugar Detox, such as the Further Food 10 Day Sugar Detox Plan. Eliminate added sugars from your diet for a few days to see how your body feels. It may be hard at first but you’ll find that you have so much more energy, clearer skin, more level moods, and so many more health benefit from living a sugar free life!
Want to read more?
(Shaw, Sicree, & Zimmet, 2010)(“How to Kick Your Sugar Addiction,” 2015)(Franz, 1997)(Rippe et al., 2017)(“Be a Sugar Detective | YaleHealth,” n.d.)Be a Sugar Detective | YaleHealth. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://yalehealth.yale.edu/sugardetective
Franz, M. J. (1997). Protein: metabolism and effect on blood glucose levels. The Diabetes Educator, 23(6), 643–646, 648, 650–651.
How to Kick Your Sugar Addiction. (2015, July 2). Retrieved from https://draxe.com/sugar-addiction/
Rippe, J. M., Sievenpiper, J. L., Lê, K.-A., White, J. S., Clemens, R., & Angelopoulos, T. J. (2017). What is the appropriate upper limit for added sugars consumption? Nutrition Reviews, 75(1), 18–36.
Shaw, J. E., Sicree, R. A., & Zimmet, P. Z. (2010). Global estimates of the prevalence of diabetes for 2010 and 2030. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 87(1), 4–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.diabres.2009.10.007