How To Cut Sugar Out Of Your Diet

Sugars are an integral part of our daily lives, adding sweetness to our favorite treats and beverages. However, they have also become a subject of scrutiny due to their potential health effects when consumed in excess. This article helps us understand how to cut sugar out of your diet.1

In this article, we will delve into the world of sugars, exploring their different types, effects on the body, and the importance of moderation in our diets.

1. Types of sugars

There are two major categories of sugar2:

1.1 . Natural sugars

These kinds of sugar are present in whole foods and unprocessed foods. The sources of naturally occurring sugars include vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and some grains.

The natural sugar in fruits is “fructose,” and the natural sugar in dairy products is “lactose.”

1.2. Added sugar

The sugar that we add to different food items at our homes is also added sugar. Added sugar is present in fruit juices, drinks, and processed foods.

The added sugar enhances the taste of the food but does not provide any nutritional value to the food.

The reason why added sugar is used is mentioned below in the following points:

  • to increase the shelf life of baked foodstuffs.
  • to avoid spoilage of jams and jellies
  • to aid the process of fermentation3 in alcohol and bread
  • to enhance the texture, flavor, and color of the food items and drinks
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Photo by Mike Meeks on Unsplash

The major foodstuffs which contain added sugars are as given below:

  • Cakes
  • Pies
  • Cobblers
  • Sweet rolls
  • pastries
  • Candy
  • Doughnuts
  • Sweet drinks like sports drinks, fruit juice, soft drinks, and energy drinks
  • Cookies
  • Desserts such as custard, yogurt, ice cream

These are some high-sugar foods that most people love, and we often end up eating them more than the quantity appropriate for us, which leads to many health-related problems.

The sugar intake should be limited to 10% of our total calorie intake, which sums up to 50 grams of sugar intake per day. If you are consuming more than the given quantity, you should stop immediately.

2. Risk Of  Too Much Sugar

Too much of anything can be dangerous, so if you are consuming too much sugar, it may lead to various kinds of health issues that can stay lifelong.

Below are some of the problems related to high sugar intake:

2.1. Tooth Decay

Too much Added sugar badly affects our teeth. When we eat food high in sugar content, these sugar molecules mix with our saliva and the bacteria residing in our mouths.

This mixing of sugary food molecules with saliva and bacteria leads to plaque formation on our teeth.

If this plaque is allowed to set on our teeth, it may erode the enamel of our teeth, leading to tooth decay. Therefore, brushing your teeth after eating sweet stuff is always advised.

2.2. Fluctuating Blood Sugar Level

Excess sugar intake may lead to a sudden rise in blood glucose levels and immediately bring it down.

Too frequent rise and fall in the blood sugar level can lead to tiredness and weakness. It will also lead to blood glucose highs and lows and emotional mood swings.

2.3. Obesity

Excess consumption of high-sugar foods can lead to excess body fat and weight gain as added sugar in your diet plays a major role in elevating blood sugar, leptin resistance4, and insulin resistance.

2.4. Unhealthy Immune System

Excess sugar in your diet may make your immune system unhealthy. Sugar plays a role in suppressing the active immune response in our body.

The microbes present in our body often react with sugars and may imbalance.

2.5. Accelerated Aging

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Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

Excessive added sugar intake often leads to wrinkles and fine lines. When the sugar is consumed, it enters the bloodstream, and then it binds with a certain type of protein. This process is termed “glycation5.”

The glycation process is directly related to the loss of elasticity, which generally starts when the tissues of our body begin aging.

2.6. Gum Disease

Excessive added sugar intake may lead to the development of gum disease. If untreated, this gum disease can proceed to the advanced stage called “periodontitis.6

In periodontitis, the bone beneath the gums is also affected, along with the gum tissues.

2.7. Cognitive Response And Behavior Of Children

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Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

The blood glucose levels sharply rise after eating foods high in sugar content, hyperactivity can be seen in some people after the rise in the blood glucose level.

Diet food that is rich in carbohydrates can be associated with cognitive impairments.7

2.8. Anxiety And Stress

The level of stress hormones rises in response to lower blood sugar levels. This happens due to the fluctuations in blood glucose levels, which follows by sugar consumption.

When there is a surge in stress hormones, the human body reacts to it by feeling anxious and irritable. Shaking hands or hands turning cold may be noticed in some people.

2.9. Replacement Of Essential Nutrients

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Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Consuming excess added sugar may provide calories to the body, but those are “empty calories” because they do not contain any other nutrients.

Those who eat high-sugar foods often get devoid of essential nutrients like vitamin C and vitamin A.

Small children and adolescents are prone to deficient nutrients as they consume sugar in more than the desired quantities.

2.10. Heart Disease

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Photo by Ali Hajiluyi on Unsplash

Excessive consumption of a diet rich in added sugar may cause inflammation in your entire body, which can eventually end up being chronic inflammation8.

Due to this, your heart and blood vessels will be stressed and risk developing various kinds of heart disease.

Studies have proven that certain types of cancer are associated with diets having a high-glycemic index. This may happen due to a rise in insulin levels due to sugar consumption, which aids the process of growth of cancer cells.

The added sugars often found in sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with the development of type 2 diabetes.

This is because sugar directly affects the liver adversely, which indirectly leads to weight gain.

3. Guidelines On Sugar Intake

According to the guidelines by World Health Organization, children and adults are recommended to restrict their daily intake of added sugar to up to 10 percent of the total dietary intake.

However, to achieve additional health benefits, it is recommended to reduce the sugar intake to 5 percent or below, up to 25 grams per day.

The guidelines of WHO do not include the sugars present in vegetables, fruits, and natural milk because no evidence has been found to prove that their consumption is harmful to us.

4. Cutting Sugar Out Of Your Diet

We often experience sweet food cravings, and we all love to eat sweets at festivals, on some occasions, and in our daily lives.

But now, from the above discussion, you know how harmful it is to consume added sugars in quantities more than the desired quantities.

So it becomes really important to cut sugar out of your diet and curb sugar cravings that we face almost daily.

Given below are some of the ways to let you know how to cut sugar out of your diet:

4.1. Say No To Sugary Drinks

Sweet drinks like sports drinks, sweetened teas, soda, energy drinks, and some others are some of the major reservoirs of added sugars that can harm your body.

One thing that needs to be known is that our bodies react differently with the calories acquired from liquids and the calories acquired from food.

The calories acquired from drinks are comparatively quickly absorbable, which leads to a sudden surge in the blood glucose level, affecting the individual’s body weight.

Since consuming the drinks does not give a feeling of satiety, people who very often drink sugary drinks consume the same amount of food they generally consume, without any compensation.

The alternate options for such drinks, which are healthy, are as follows:

  • Unsweetened coffee
  • Black tea
  • Green tea
  • Unsweetened sparkling water
  • Herbal tea
  • Water

4.2. Say No To Sauces Containing Added Sugars

Generally, the sauces that we find at our homes, like tomato sauce, and barbeque sauce, often contain a hidden amount of sugar, and we do not even realize it because those do not taste sweet.

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Photo by Dennis Klein on Unsplash

To save yourself from this problem, you should always buy those sauces whose label says “no added sugar”

The alternate food seasoning options which are comparatively low in the content of sugar are:

  • chili
  • vinegar
  • mayonnaise
  • spices and herbs
  • mustard
  • lime juice

4.3. Include Whole Foods In Your Diet

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Photo by Scott Evans on Unsplash

Some examples of whole foods are whole grains, meat with bone, legumes, and vegetables. These are healthy options because they are not refined or unprocessed. They do not have any artificial substances or free additives.

The ultra-processed foods contain sugar, additives, salt, and fat to enhance the taste. Some ultra-processed foods are sugary cereals, fast food, soft drinks, and chips.

and nutrients. Some healthy snacks are no-sugar-added-jerky, fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, and hard-boiled eggs.

4.5. Notice The Nutrition Labels

Even if you avoid eating sweet foods, you can still keep consuming sugar in the form of hidden sugar, unknowingly. So it is always recommended to check the food labels.

You can see added sugars by various other names on food labels. So it is essential to know such names. Some of the names are listed below:

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Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash
  • cane sugar
  • cane juice
  • dextrose
  • rice syrup
  • caramel
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • maltose
  • invert sugar
  • molasses

4.6. Choose Natural Calorie-Free Sweeteners

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Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

You may find various artificial sweeteners in the market free of calories, like aspartame and sucralose.

Still, artificial sweeteners may cause other health issues like poor blood sugar regulation, imbalance in gut bacteria, weight gain, and increased food cravings. So it is better not to rely on artificial sweeteners.

Some natural zero-calorie sweeteners are promising, such as monk fruit, stevia, allulose, and erythritol. They are derived naturally and undergo the most minor processing.

4.7. Avoid Sugary Desserts

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Photo by Joyful on Unsplash

Desserts are rich in calories but have almost no nutritional benefits. Desserts are just meant to satisfy our tongue but may worsen our health.

Healthy alternatives to satisfy your sweet tooth are as follows:

  • Greek yogurt
  • dark chocolate (maximum cocoa content)
  • fresh fruit
  • cream with some baked fruit

Consumption of fresh or baked fruits is very advantageous for your body because it not only reduces your intake of sugar but also provides vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and minerals.

4.8. Consume More Protein

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Photo by Mark DeYoung on Unsplash

Protein is linked to reduced food cravings. One should consume a protein-rich diet that is high in protein and fiber. Consuming such a diet involves less added sugar. Including protein and fiber in your diet keeps you fuller for a long time.

Some protein-rich foods are eggs, avocados, meat, full-fat dairy products, fish, and nuts.

4.10. Avoid Sugary Breakfast

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Photo by nikldn on Unsplash

Suppose we choose a low-sugar breakfast over a sugary breakfast by including more protein and fiber in our breakfast. In that case, it will give a feeling of satiety and fullness, making you feel not to consume any snack in between.

Some alternatives for sugary breakfasts are:

  • Fruits and nuts along with Greek yogurt
  • Avocado with whole-grain toast
  • Oatmeal with some fresh fruits
  • Scrambled eggs with cheese and vegetables

5. Conclusion

Sugar is a very important part of our diet, but if it starts imposing various threats to our health, then it is high time to stop consuming sugar because nothing is more important than health. We often crave sweets and sugary stuff, but we all need to limit our cravings.

Having a balanced diet is essential for leading a healthy life. Besides these, proper sleep and exercise are important to lead a happy and peaceful life.

One should go for regular health check-ups to track whether there are any abnormalities in the individual’s general health. Blood sugar levels should be checked often because unregulated blood sugar levels lead to major diseases.

Various lifestyle diseases like obesity, polycystic ovary syndrome, and many more are caused by consuming high-sugar foods. If we improve our diet by including healthy options, only we will avoid these diseases.

There are various diets designed to cut sugar out of your diet, like the keto diet, low-carb diet, and many others.

If you face any health issues that need the removal of sugar from your diet, you can choose these diets. Such diets help you in aiding the process of your treatment and help you lose weight.

We should always be cautious about what we are eating. We should keep a check on our dietary requirements and our dietary intake.

FAQ

1. How much sugar should I consume daily?

The recommended daily sugar intake varies based on age, sex, and activity level. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is generally recommended that adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars (added sugars and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, and fruit juices) to less than 10% of their total energy intake. An intake of less than 5% of total energy intake per day is even more beneficial for health.

2. What are the health risks associated with excessive sugar consumption?

Excessive sugar consumption has been linked to several health risks, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, cardiovascular diseases, and an increased risk of certain cancers. Consuming high amounts of added sugars can also lead to weight gain and may contribute to poor overall dietary habits.

3. Is there a difference between added sugars and naturally occurring sugars?

Yes, there is a difference between added sugars and naturally occurring sugars. Naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in foods like fruits and milk. These sugars come with other essential nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants that are beneficial to health. Added sugars, on the other hand, are sugars added during food processing or preparation. They provide extra calories but often lack the nutritional value found in natural sources.

Read more

  1. Gittleman, Ann Louise. Get the Sugar Out, Revised and Updated 2nd Edition: 501 Simple Ways to Cut the Sugar Out of Any Diet. Harmony, 2008. ↩︎
  2. Debras, Charlotte, et al. “Total and added sugar intakes, sugar types, and cancer risk: results from the prospective NutriNet-Santé cohort.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 112.5 (2020): 1267-1279. ↩︎
  3. Gaden Jr, Elmer L. “Fermentation process kinetics.” Journal of biochemical and microbiological technology and engineering 1.4 (1959): 413-429. ↩︎
  4. Myers, Martin G., Michael A. Cowley, and Heike Münzberg. “Mechanisms of leptin action and leptin resistance.” Annu. Rev. Physiol. 70 (2008): 537-556. ↩︎
  5. Singh, R. B. A. M., et al. “Advanced glycation end-products: a review.” Diabetologia 44 (2001): 129-146. ↩︎
  6. Flemmig, Thomas F. “Periodontitis.” Annals of periodontology 4.1 (1999): 32-37. ↩︎
  7. Gauthier, Serge, et al. “Mild cognitive impairment.” The lancet 367.9518 (2006): 1262-1270. ↩︎
  8. Ospelt, Caroline, and Steffen Gay. “TLRs and chronic inflammation.” The international journal of biochemistry & cell biology 42.4 (2010): 495-505. ↩︎

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Bushra Tasneem

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