Want to know different ways how to cut sugar out of your diet? Keep reading!!
Sugar is a form of simple carbohydrate which provides calories in our food, to use them as an energy source by our body.
Types of sugars
There are two major categories of sugar:
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.”
2. Added sugar
The sugar that we add in different food items at our homes is also the 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 are 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 fermentation in alcohol and bread
- to enhance the texture, flavor, and color of the food items and drinks
The major foodstuffs which contain added sugars are as given below:
- Sweet rolls
- Sweet drinks like sports drinks, fruit juice, soft drinks, and energy drinks
- 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.
Too much sugar intake is risky, why?
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:
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 the 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. 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.
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 resistance, and insulin resistance.
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.
5. Accelerated aging
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 “glycation.”
The glycation process is directly related to the loss of elasticity, which generally starts when the tissues of our body begin aging.
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.”
In periodontitis, the bone beneath the gums is also affected, along with the gum tissues.
7. Cognitive response and behavior of children
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.
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 level, 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.
9. Replacement of essential nutrients
Consuming excess added sugar may provide calories to the body, but those are “empty calories” because they do not contain any other nutrients.
Small children and adolescents are prone to deficient nutrients as they consume sugar in more than the desired quantities.
10. Heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes
Excessive consumption of a diet rich in added sugar may cause inflammation in your entire body, which can eventually end up being chronic inflammation.
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 level 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.
Just how much sugar is enough: Guidelines on sugar intake for adults and children
According to the guidelines by World Health Organization, children and adults are recommended to restrict their daily intake of added sugar 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.
Not all sugar is visible, and many food items contain hidden sugar. Added sugars are often found in processed foods which are not generally sweet.
For instance, approximately 4 grams of added sugars (almost one teaspoon) in just one tablespoon of the tomato ketchup and 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of added sugars are found in one can of sugar-sweetened soda.
So we should always check the food labels to know the amount of hidden sugar present in that food.
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:
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
2. Say no to sauces containing added sugars
Generally, the sauces that we find at our homes, like tomato sauce, barbeque sauce, often contain a hidden amount of sugar, and we do not even realize it because those do not taste sweet.
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:
- spices and herbs
- lime juice
3. Include whole foods in your diet
Some examples of whole foods are whole grains, meat with the 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.
4. Avoid processed snacks that claim to be “healthy.”
Some snacks look healthier at first sight but are not that healthy. In some snacks like protein bars, granola bars, and dried fruit, a lot of sugar is present.
Dried fruits contain some amount of sugar naturally and fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients. Some healthy snacks are no-sugar-added-jerky, fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, and hard-boiled eggs.
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:
- cane sugar
- cane juice
- rice syrup
- high fructose corn syrup
- invert sugar
6. Choose natural calorie-free sweeteners
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 most minor processing.
7. Avoid sugary desserts
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.
8. Switch to full-fat foods
Whole fat foods are better when you are trying to cut sugar. We should be careful to include healthy fats in our diet.
For instance, if you consume 170 grams of full-fat plain yogurt, you get almost 105 calories, whereas if you consume the same amount of low-fat yogurt, you get nearly 145 calories.
9. Consume more protein
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.
10. Avoid sugary breakfast
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
Something to note
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.
We should track the sugar count of the stuff we consume to keep a record of our consumption compared to our requirements.
We should go for healthy sugar substitutes. We should avoid sugar as much as we can.
Even the diet drinks have sugar, so they should be better avoided. You can reach out to your dietician to help you plan a diet that is low in sugar if you are unable to do so.
I hope the ways or alternatives to sugar we have mentioned helps you keep your sugar consumption in check.
Do not completely cut out sugar, as low sugar levels in the body are far more dangerous than high sugar levels. Always try to maintain a healthy balance.
Any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.