6 Steps to Reduce Sugar from Your Diet

It’s easier than you may think!

Americans love sugar. We eat it to celebrate and to console ourselves. It’s in our breakfast foods, our snacks, our drinks, and in foods that don’t even taste sweet. We love sugar so much that we eat more of it than any other country in the world.1 And we’ve got the health statistics to prove it: obesity rates are soaring2 and heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease are all leading causes of death in the U.S.3 Sugar may not be exclusively to blame for the sorry state of our health, but there is solid scientific evidence that high sugar consumption contributes to these very diseases.4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 You’ve likely heard all of this before, and know that you should cut back on the sugar, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed about where to begin. To aid you in the seemingly daunting task of reducing your sugar intake, I offer the following six steps.

Step One –

Work to keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the day. Each time you take a ride on the blood sugar rollercoaster, you are likely to crave sweets. To prevent your body from working against you in your goal to reduce sugar, it is critical to eat balanced meals at regular intervals throughout the day. Ensure that you are eating adequate protein, healthy fat, and carbohydrates in the form of vegetables at every meal. Eating this way helps you to feel satiated and keeps blood sugar stable, resulting in less sugar cravings.

Step Two –

Set a daily sugar intake limit and stick to it. Physiologically speaking, our bodies have no need for sugar, but most health experts agree that a little won’t kill us either. So what’s a little? The World Health Organization recommends no more than 10 percent of your daily calories come from added sugars (that is, sugar that is added during food processing or preparation, not naturally occurring sugars such as in fruit). They recently took it a step further by suggesting that limiting added sugars to no more than 5 percent of your daily calories provides additional health benefits, a recommendation closely echoed by the American Heart Association.15 16 So what does this look like? For an average sized adult consuming 2,000 calories a day, that’s no more than 200 calories (50 grams or 12 teaspoons), but ideally less than 100 calories (25 grams or 6 teaspoons) of added sugar a day. This means you must pick and choose where your added sugar comes from—don’t waste it on something you don’t really love. If meeting these goals sounds too hard, try eliminating just 1 teaspoon worth of sugar (about 4 grams) at a time, until you reach your goal.

Step Three –

Don’t keep sugary foods and beverages around. If you know that you can’t stop after just one cookie, why torture yourself and sabotage your goals with a family-sized pack? Don’t keep candy around for your kids or soda in your fridge for guests either. First, they don’t need the sugar any more than you do, and second, it just makes your work harder. Purge your house and your surroundings of the sugary things you are most tempted by. If you’d like a little treat buy a single serving, or better yet, make a homemade treat using healthier unrefined ingredients and share with friends, family, and colleagues so you don’t eat it all yourself.

Step Four –

Eliminate all sugar sweetened beverages. The biggest contributor to American’s high sugar intake is sodas.17 Think you are off the hook because you don’t drink soda? Better take a closer look—there are loads of drinks that have as much, if not more, sugar than soda. If you regularly consume sweetened tea, lemonade, flavored coffee drinks, energy drinks, chocolate milk, commercially prepared smoothies and/or fruit drinks, including 100% juice, you’re likely getting a massive amount of sugar just in what you drink. Don’t be tempted to simply replace all your sweetened beverages with artificially sweetened beverages though, that’s simply exchanging one poison for another. Instead choose pure clean water, make your own tea, and use a drop or two of natural flavor extracts such as vanilla, almond, or peppermint in your coffee instead of sugar. If you need a little more zing, try adding a small amount of 100% pure juice to a little sparkling mineral water or make some fruit infused water. Fermented drinks like kombucha and kvass are also great alternatives. It won’t be easy at first, but eventually your desire for sugary drinks will diminish and you might even find that they don’t taste so good anymore.

Step Five –

Get rid of sugar from the places where it doesn’t belong in the first place—and where you’re not likely to miss it. Sugar is so ubiquitous in our food supply that foods like salsa, spaghetti sauce, salad dressing, soup, bread, and many others routinely contain sugar. Be diligent about reading food labels and avoid those that contain added sugar, opting for the varieties that are made with little to no added sugar. Check out the “Sugar in Disguise” section below for a list of the many names sugar goes by.

Step Six –

Rely on naturally sweet foods to help satisfy your desire for sugar. Fresh fruit, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, and winter squash are excellent choices. Sweet spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and cardamom are great to “sweeten” things up. You can also use cooking techniques that maximize sweetness such as roasting veggies or caramelizing onions. A cup of peppermint or spearmint tea after a meal also does wonders to quell the desire for sweets. Eating less sugar and more naturally sweet whole foods helps to retrain your taste buds to appreciate the taste of sweet in a whole new and liberating way.

Reducing sugar from the diet isn’t the easiest thing to do. For most people, eating sugar has become a habit, one that is reinforced each time you have a taste, as the brain’s reward center is stimulated, making getting off the stuff a bit like getting off a drug. You might feel cranky or have low energy for a few days, and you’re likely to find yourself tempted at every turn. To make reducing your sugar intake a little easier, I recommend that you first make your intention to reduce your daily added sugar intake clear to yourself, and then let those around you know so they can support you in your efforts. Then start with step one and you will be on your way in the right direction!

Reducing Sugar is Not Just for Adults

Hypertension, high blood sugar, elevated triglyceride levels, and excess weight around the belly—collectively known as metabolic syndrome—is showing up at alarming rates in children. And excess sugar, particularly fructose, appears to be the cause. A study appearing this month in the journal Obesity, found that sugar independently contributes to metabolic disease in children, but that a reduced-sugar diet quickly and substantially improves metabolic markers.

The study included 43 children between the ages of nine and 18 who were obese and had at least one other metabolic disorder, such as hypertension. Each child was given nine days-worth of food, including all snacks and beverages, that restricted sugar but maintained the same number of calories as their normal diets. Total dietary sugar was reduced from 28 to 10 percent of total calories and fructose from 12 to 4 percent of total calories, which is in line with current recommendations. After only nine days on the sugar-restricted diet, virtually every aspect of the children’s metabolic health improved. Blood pressure and triglyceride levels decreased, LDL (the so-called “bad” cholesterol) decreased, liver function improved, fasting blood glucose and insulin levels decreased. These improvements were seen just by substituting starchy carbohydrates for sugar without changing calorie intake, weight, or exercise. Remarkably, the low-sugar food that was provided was “kid-friendly” junk food, and included hot dogs, potato chips, and pizza (in lieu of high sugar cereals, pastries, and yogurt)—far from a healthy diet, yet the children’s metabolic markers still showed significant improvement.

“I have never seen results as striking, or significant in our human studies...these findings support the idea that it is essential for parents to evaluate sugar intake and to be mindful of the health effects of what their children are consuming,” lead author, Jean-Marc Schwarz, PhD said.18 19

Sugar in Disguise

Added sugars are listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel under Total Sugars, but it is still a good idea to scan
the ingredient list for any of the following types of sugar:

  • Agave
  • Any ingredient containing the word syrup
  • Any ingredient ending in –ose (dextrose, glucose, fructose, etc.)
  • Barley malt
  • Cane juice
  • Corn sweetener
  • Dextrin
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Honey
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Treacle
  • Sucanat

Reduce Sugar Cravings with These Four Supplements

Multivitamin/Mineral. There are numerous vitamins and minerals involved in balancing blood sugar and deficiencies in many may actually cause sugar cravings. Cover your bases with a high quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement.

L-Glutamine. This amino acid helps to reduce sugar cravings and supports normal insulin secretion. Try 500 mg three times a day, between meals.20 21

Gymnena Sylvestre. Known as the “sugar destroyer,” this Ayurvedic herb has a long history of use. Gymnema supports healthy blood sugar levels by supporting the secretion of insulin from the pancreas. It also blocks the taste of sweet on the taste buds and slows the absorption of sugar from the intestines.22 23 Follow manufacturer’s directions.

Chromium.This mineral is essential for proper glucose and insulin function and is rapidly depleted by a diet high in refined sugar and carbohydrates. To support optimal blood sugar balance, try 500 mcg twice daily with meals.24


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