With its own addictive seduction and treated socially as an acceptable addition to almost everything we consume, sugar is hard to avoid. Yet sugar hasn’t always been an integral part of the human diet––once sugar was hard to obtain in nature, so our bodies didn’t develop an off-switch for its consumption. And while 150 years ago we ate no sugar, now the average person is eating over 2 pounds (1 kilo) of it a week!
And while there is no physiological need for any of us to eat refined sugars, we’re hardwired to desire sweet food, with our sweet taste buds located right on the tip of our tongues (likely due to the fact that sweet foods were safer for ancient humans while bitter foods were often toxic). Moreover, in a recent article in the British Medical Journal, sugar was described “as dangerous as tobacco”, with a proposal that it be re-classified as a hard drug; in fact, sugar on the tongue produces morphine-like chemicals in the brain that produce a natural high, making it very hard for us to resist.
Identify the sources of sugar in your diet, and decide what to cut out completely and what to cut down on. There are many potential contributors but here are some top ones:
- Fast and processed food: Fast and processed food manufacturers add sugar to encourage you to want more. Three out of every four teaspoons of sugar is added to processed food.
- Cereals: They may have wholesome sounding names but if they contain sugar, they’ll contain a lot of sugar.
- Bread and baked products
- Canned products
- Juice and canned fruits
- Flavored dairy products, such as yogurts
- Ready meals and convenience foods
- Sodas and other manufactured beverages.
Recognize the “sugar aliases”. Sugar isn’t just white death in a package called “sugar”. It has other guises more cunning. Some of the aliases are digested more slowly than sugar but do your research before assuming any are worth keeping in your diet because they’re all still sugar. When checking the food labels of your pantry, look for these sugar aliases:
- brown sugar
- fructose and crystalline fructose; high-fructose corn syrup
- invert sugar
- rice/corn/maple/malt/golden/palm syrup
- corn sweetener
- raw sugar
Lessen the sugar intake by skipping any product that contains sugar (or one of the above aliases) in the first three ingredients. Absolutely avoid it if sugar gets mentioned more than once in the ingredients list. Be wary of anything claiming to be a “natural” or “organic” substitute for sugar; such sweeteners still contain calories and don’t bring nutrients to your diet that are needed.
- If a product claims to be “reduced-sugar”, say “so what, it still contains sugar”, and avoid it. Even half of what was once added is still too much and the items that go to make up its removal won’t be healthy for you either.
Go into your kitchen and throw out anything you have decided not to eat or drink anymore. This is the tough love stage but you have to go through it in order to change to healthier options. If you can’t do this because your family objects or you’re not in a position of charge over the household food, then put all of the other people’s ST (sweet things) in a drawer or shelf out of sight and- hopefully – out of mind!
- Tell your friends and family what you are doing and why. Chances are, they will be really into it and help you.
- If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, telling him/her might be a good idea so they don’t buy you chocolates or are offended when you don’t eat the cake they order.
- If you’ve stashed sugary treats anywhere else, be sure to toss them out too.
Ban sugary beverages in your eating regime. Begin at the place that you can control best, and that is sugary beverages. You don’t need sugary beverages, period. This includes flavored soda, fruit juice and energy drinks. Replace fruit juice with the real piece of fruit and get the benefits of the fiber interacting with the fructose to reduce its impact on your digestive system.
- If you feel resentful about giving up fruit juice, think about how much fruit is in a glass of juice. One standard glass of apple juice can contain up to four apples. Could you eat four apples in a row as easily as you can drink them? No, and that is why juice is unhealthy because it is too easy to consume and it lacks fiber and other nutrients present in fruit.
- Drink your coffee or tea without sugar. You can add cream to either (not advisable if you want to lose weight), and/or honey to your tea. If you’re used to adding a lot of sugar, then wean yourself off gradually by the teaspoon or packet. Eventually you’ll get used to it and you may discover the more subtle flavors of coffee or tea that were overpowered by sweetness before.
Quit snacking on sugar. Sugary snacks have a habit of sneaking into your daily diet in all sorts of seemingly harmless ways. The morning muffin, the afternoon candy bar and the evening candies. All of these soon add up, and mindless munching is not good for your health. Healthier treats to snack on include carrot and celery sticks, hummus, a few nuts, an apple, etc. Be careful of dried fruit; it’s full of calories and fructose.
- If you don’t want to give up all the candy, then make a chart of the days of the week. Decide how much sugar you are allowed to eat a day. For instance, on Mondays you need an extra kick in the coffee so you can have 2 sugars in it. Or on Saturday you go out with your friends so you are allowed to have a dessert. You can decide how restricting or not your graph is.
- If consciously treating yourself (as opposed to mindlessly shoveling in sugary treats), be aware that by not setting boundaries for yourself that involve not having the candies or sugar, you risk falling back into consuming far more than you intended.
Don’t skip breakfast and make sure it’s a healthy feast. Eat a good breakfast of toast or wholegrain cereals or oatmeal/porridge to keep you going through the day. These release energy slowly, so you will be less likely to crave sugar.
- Avoid sugary cereals. That means most of them. Look for wholesome cereals that make a virtue of missing sugar. Or explore the different varieties of porridge you can make, from amaranth to barley. A few blueberries sprinkled on top makes it all delicious!
Reduce the amount of sugar used in home cooking and baking. Unlike yeast, flour and fat proportions, the reduction of sugar often doesn’t have a detrimental effect in cooking, apart from getting used to the less sweet taste. And most cooking of main courses, breakfast dishes and snacks can benefit from less or no sugar. Experiment a little and purposefully prefer recipes that don’t use sugar.
- Use more spices to improve flavor. Sweeter spices can improve your tasting experience. Try such spices as vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, mint and angelica to add interesting flavors. For cakes, add one fresh piece of fruit rather than sugar; bananas are often a great addition, especially if they’re overripe and good for little else!
- For dessert, use fruit’s natural sweetness without added sugar. Poached fruit is always delicious, sprinkled with a spice or served with vanilla custard (sugar-free). Add fresh, unflavored plain yogurt as a topping to a fruit salad. Other delicious choices include a baked apple or frozen berries.
- Toast or bagels with slices of fruit or a thin layer of sugar-reduced jam can be a hearty substitute for candy cravings.
Keep your sugar-reduced life in moderation. There will be times to enjoy party foods. And that is at a party. Look forward to those occasions where a little indulgence can go a long way. Naturally, don’t indulge like this every weekend––as with alcohol, moderation is totally the key (and remember, many types of alcohol contain much sugar). And never bring party foods into your home as “daily snacks.”
Remind yourself that you deserve a sugar-reduced life, rather than focusing on feeling deprived. The benefits of less sugar in your life far outweigh the initial dislike of going without sugar and the longer you stick with less sugar in your daily eating, the more it will feel absolutely right and you’ll feel healthier. You are in charge of your eating as well as your destiny and goals.
- Decide on your goals and then hold yourself to those goals. Never permit exceptions!
- Read the labels on all foodstuffs – the most unlikely foods have sugar added to them: baby foods, tinned vegetables, crisps. These are the “hidden sugars” that do so much damage because we fail to account for it.
- When you go out to eat, share anything that is sugary. That way you can still have a taste without eating it all alone.
- Putting black pepper on strawberries makes them taste sweeter. There is also an herb called Sweet Cicely – beloved of diabetics – which does the same thing. Strange, but true!
- The average American consumes almost 160 pounds of refined sugar annually.
- One possible natural sweetener is Stevia, which is popular in Japan and South-America; it can be hard to obtain in some jurisdictions. You will need to do your own research into the utility of this sweetener for your diet and refer to your local jurisdiction’s assessments of it.
Eating less sugar is about preserving your health. Too much sugar is implicated in a range of disease from dental cavities to diabetes and causes energy slumps, hyperactive behavior in some and a source of empty calories, which we convert into unneeded spare tires around our bellies (stomachs are where our fat storage happens first, thanks to cortisol from stress).Reducing its role in your life can only benefit you and your loved ones.
Make a decision to stop eating too much sugar.Your motivation might be to lose weight, feel fitter, to reduce a yeast infection or simply to set a better example for your children. There are many good reasons to minimize the sugar you’re eating each day. Health is definitely a top reason, as too much sugar ingestion is implicated in a range of poor health conditions and diseases, including dental problems, acne, infertility, certain cancers and heart disease. Sugar may also have a role in inducing depression, mood swings, fatigue, memory loss, osteoporosis, vision loss and kidney disease. It is hard to fathom a need for any more good reasons to reduce how much you’re consuming.
- The World Health Organization recommends that the daily human intake of sugar in the average diet be no more than 10 percent, with a preference for only 6 percent. That amounts to about 7 1/2 teaspoons of sugar a day for a 2000 calorie diet.
- If you need some real motivation to ditch sugar, read Sweet poison: Why sugar makes you fat by David Gillespie. You won’t feel the same way about sugar again after reading this expose on the harms of sugar.
- Some people are more sensitive to sugar than others. This can be reflected in being overweight, lethargic, having poor skin and hair, irritability or mood swings and a lack of energy. If any of these sorts of things are affecting you, sugar may be an issue, although obviously talk to your doctor about other possible causes. If sugar is a cause of you being in less than great shape, reducing or removing it from your diet will result in dramatic improvements, including decreased cravings for it over time.
- As well as being very careful not to have too much sugar you should not have too little sugar as it can cause blackouts to happen.
- Don’t become a sugar-hating fiend. The aim is to reduce your intake by a great deal but there are going to be some foods and occasions where you will consume more sugar than you’d normally do. Everything in moderation is your byword, and also keep the amount of sugar in perspective. For example, a bottle of sauce may contain a lot of sugar, but if you’re only adding a dollop, you’re consuming very little of it.
- You should check your BMI or Body Mass Index. If you are going to start dieting or anything then make sure you do not become underweight.
Things You’ll Need
Clear out of processed foods containing too much sugar
Healthy recipe collection to inspire you
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