Cutting sugar from your diet could very well be the most important thing you can do for your health. Fat gets almost all the bad press but it’s actually sugar that presents the greatest danger to your health.
However, before you start throwing out fruit (which contains sugar), it’s important to understand that there is a HUGE difference between natural sugars and added sugars. They both contain the same number of calories but, in terms of nutrition, they are worlds apart.
Natural sugars, as their name suggests, occur naturally in the foods we eat. Fruit contains fructose – a type of sugar, and dairy contains lactose – another type of sugar. These sugars are accompanied by a host of important nutrients including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fiber which means that they are good for your health – essential even. Natural sugars are also slow to digest and have a limited impact on your blood sugar and insulin levels.
Added sugars, on the other hand, have been processed and extracted or even created specifically for their sweetness and with no respect to nutrition. They contain few or no important nutrients and are nothing but empty calories. They are quickly digested which mean they cause rapid surges in blood glucose levels and insulin production. Both high blood glucose and elevated insulin levels are inextricably linked to a host of diseases including Parkinson’s disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
Needless to say, if you care about your health and your weight, it’s time to start cutting down on sugar. The first step to doing this is becoming more label-savvy and learning how to identify the added sugar in your food. You can learn how to do this from out article “How to Identify Sugar on Nutrition Labels”.
Another step you can take is to start making more of your own food and buying less processed foods. Over 70 percent of process foods contain added sugar – even those that don’t taste sweet. From potato chips to soups, many foods contain added sugar. Processed food is one of the “5 Most Common Weight Loss Mistakes”
Then, you could stop buying sweet treats and learn how to make your own. That way, you’ll know exactly how much sugar your food contains and have the opportunity to add healthy, natural sweeteners in place of sugar – raw honey for example. Natural sweeteners still contain calories but also contain vitamins, minerals, amino acids and/or fiber which means they are more than just sweet-tasting empty calories.
Finally, you can take steps to seek out low and no-added sugar foods and start eating these in place of sugar-laden processed foods…
1. Instead of soda, drink more water
A regular can of soda contains as many as eight teaspoons of sugar! Imagine that in your coffee. And those giant cups you get in restaurants – it’s terrifying to think just how much sugar is in one of them! Soda might slake your thirst but it is water that your body needs. Water is naturally free from sugar and totally calorie-free.
If you are accustomed to drinking lots of soda, water can seem very bland but you can make it more interesting by adding pure fruit juice, making fruit-based smoothies, or adding the juice of a lemon. Cold, unsweetened green tea is also a great, healthy, alternative to soda.
And don’t go thinking that diet soda is any better for you – it’s not. Artificial sweeteners are every bit as unhealthy as sugar.
2. Eat natural yogurt with fruit and not fruit-flavored yogurt
Fruit flavored yogurt might seem like a healthy dessert because it’s low in fat but inevitably, it’ll be high in sugar too which severely limits its healthful properties. Usually flavored with fruit-flavored syrups rather than real fruit, fruit-flavored yogurt is not the healthy food you have been lead to believe.
Instead, buy natural yogurt with no added sugar (Greek yogurt is one of the best) and then add fruit to it yourself. A few ripe strawberries, blueberries, some mango, or a chopped banana will add natural sweetness to your creamy yogurt which is so much better than added sugar.
3. Stop eating regular breakfast cereals
With the exception of a few cereals and plain oatmeal, almost all the breakfast foods in your supermarket are PACKED with added sugar. Some even contain candy and chocolate! And those that have added fruit pieces? Sugar!
Breakfast cereals might be low in fat, fortified with vitamins, and sold as being heart-healthy but all the sugar that they contain makes them no better than desserts.
Do not start your day with a big bowl of sugary cereal. Instead go for a nutritious bowl of natural oatmeal, some eggs, a homemade smoothie, or seek out breakfast cereals with no added sugars. You might have to go to the health store to find these but they are available.
Alternatively, you can make your own no-added-sugar granola and muesli.
4. Switch to no-added-sugar desserts
Many people think you have to give up desserts if you eat less sugar; this is not the case. In fact, we published an article containing FIVE fabulous low-sugar desserts which will more than satisfy your sweet tooth. Low sugar desserts are often much tastier than those with added sugar as they contain natural ingredients. They are also more filling and satisfying – it’s all about quality and not quantity.
5. Stop adding sugar to tea and coffee
If you add two teaspoons of sugar to your tea and coffee and drink an average of four cups per day, you are consuming about 100 percent of your daily sugar allowance before you even eat any food!
You might not like the taste of tea and coffee without sugar but, over time, you can retrain your taste buds to appreciate the less-sweet taste.
There is no need to go “cold turkey” and quit sugar overnight. Just gradually reduce the amount of sugar you add to your drinks over a couple of weeks. And don’t be tempted to use a calorie-free sweetener; you already know these are unhealthy.
6. Learn to cook so you don’t have to eat processed meals
There is no denying that processed foods are an attractive option when you either don’t have the time to cook or you don’t know how to cook. However, eating processed meals makes it very hard to avoid added sugar as almost all of them contain added sugar.
Instead, learn to make your own food – it’s neither hard or time consuming. In fact, you’ll find FIVE great Lunch and Dinner recipes in these article that contain no added sugar and take as little as 20 minutes to make.
Learning to cook and prepare your own meals will give you dietary freedom; all the meals you eat will be healthy and you can choose exactly what you put into your body. This is a major step forward if you want to be healthy and control your weight.
7. Seek out sugar-free snacks
Many snacks are laden with sugar – especially the ones you can buy in most convenience stores. Even savory snacks are often loaded with sugar to make you eat more of them and add to the food companies already huge profits!
Instead, snack on no-added sugar foods like beef jerky, raw vegetable sticks, hard boiled eggs, baked bacon, cheese strings, nuts and seeds. They are all satisfying and low or free from sugar. And don’t fear fruit; although fruit contains sugar, it is natural sugar and not added. A couple of pieces of fruit per day will not do you any harm.
8. Go easy on fruit-only smoothies
Smoothies are awesome! They are healthy and a great way to get lots of fiber, vitamins, and minerals into your busy day. Ideal for breakfast, and also make a great dessert, smoothies can be a terrific addition to your healthy eating plan.
However, fruit-only smoothies can contain a lot of sugar. Okay, the sugar IS natural but if you blend a banana with an apple, a cup of berries, some mango and a pear, you end up consuming an awful lot of sugar in one go – far more than your body can comfortably cope with.
So, skip the fruit-only smoothies and base your blender drinks on vegetables and then add only a small amount of fruit for sweetness – say 1-2 small to medium-sized pieces. Vegetables provide all the nutritional benefits of fruit but without the sugar. Green smoothies are especially low in sugar.
By implementing these strategies, you should have no problem significantly reducing your added sugar intake. It might not be easy at first but, with perseverance, you can do it and you’ll soon notice the difference. Cutting down on added sugar will have a big impact on your health and also your weight and you’ll soon stop craving sugar as a result.