The average adult eats much more sugar than necessary, so reducing added sugar intake is a good idea for most people. Some people take it a step further and cut sugar entirely out of their diet.
The no-sugar diet has gained popularity as people look for effective ways to stay healthy or lose weight.
Not everyone is convinced that the low-sugar diet works, however. For all the health benefits of a no-sugar diet, there are also a few things to consider.
Whether cutting sugar out of the diet completely or just cutting back on sugar, we look at eight practical tips to reduce sugar intake.
Most adults eat much more sugar than recommended. The National Institute of Health (NIH) estimate that American adults get 15 percent of calories in their diet from added sugars alone. This sugar intake does not even include natural sugars found in products such as fruit and milk.
Excessive sugar consumption is linked to numerous health conditions, including:
- obesity and metabolic syndrome
- heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure and cholesterol
- chronic inflammation
- non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- dental plaque and cavities
Reducing the amount of sugar in the diet can help reduce the risks for these conditions. Replacing sugary foods with healthful ones can help a person get all of their essential vitamins and minerals. It may also help a person lose weight.
Here are eight simple tips a person can use to cut sugar out of their diet:
1. Take it slow
One of the most important things to consider when changing the diet is to do so gradually. Going from a diet full of sugar to one containing no sugar should be a slow process.
It may help to start by eliminating the most obvious sources of sugar. Baked goods, such as cakes, muffins, and brownies, can easily be avoided. Eliminating candy and sugary beverages is an excellent place to start.
A person can also try reducing the amount of sugar and cream they put in their coffee or tea, gradually omitting it completely. Working up to a no-sugar diet can help retrain the palate, so a person does not crave the missing sugar.
2. Read labels
Once a person has managed to cut out the most obvious sugar from their diet, they can turn their attention to other products that contain sugar. Reading labels can help identify types of sugars to avoid.
Sugar has many names and is in many different syrups and concentrates. There are at least 61 different names for sugar on food labels. The most common ones include:
- cane sugar or brown sugar
- corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup
- evaporated cane juice
- invert sugar
- beet sugar
- coconut sugar
- maple syrup
- agave syrup
- rice syrup
- apple or grape juice concentrate
- panela or piloncillo
People should also be aware that anything ending in the suffix "-ose" is also a type of sugar. Examples include:
Sugars hide in many different foods in the supermarket, so reading the label is an absolute must for those wnting to follow a no-sugar diet.
Products such as salad dressing and condiments, pasta sauce, breakfast cereals, milk, and granola bars often have sugar in their ingredients list.
3. Avoid simple carbs
Many no-sugar diets also recommend that people avoid simple carbohydrates. Simple carbs include white flour, white pasta, and white rice.
The carbohydrates in these foods can be quickly broken down into sugar in the body, which may cause the blood sugar levels to spike. A person can replace simple carbs with wholegrain options.
4. Avoid artificial sugars
Artificial sugars are a subject of controversy in the diet industry. They are much sweeter than sugar but contain little or no calories.
However, eating artificial sugars can trick the body into thinking it is actually eating sugar. This can exacerbate a person's sugar cravings, making it more difficult for them to stick to a no-sugar diet.
A person on a no-sugar diet should avoid artificial sugars, including:
- Sweet'N Low
People can also look for the chemical names of these sweeteners in ingredients lists, especially in anything marketed as a low-sugar, low-calorie, or diet food. These include:
- acesulfame k or acesulfame potassium
5. Do not drink sugar
Sugar may be easy to avoid in processed foods, but sugar-sweetened drinks, such soda, specialty coffee, sweetened teas, and fruit juices, are one of the most significant sources of added sugars in the diet.
Replacing these drinks with unsweetened herbal tea, coffee without sugar, sparkling mineral water, or just plain water can help a person reduce their sugar intake and stay hydrated.
6. Focus on whole foods
A person on a no-sugar diet can also aim to eat 100 percent whole foods. Processed foods are more likely to contain refined ingredients or added sugars.
A diet with a focus on eating whole and complete foods will be rich in:
- lean meats, poultry, or tofu
- whole, unprocessed grains and legumes
- nuts and seeds
Some people may choose to keep a small amount of dairy in their meal plans, such as plain yogurt, simple cheeses, and milk.
7. Plan the meals
Sticking to a diet with no plan is difficult. When hunger strikes, a person may be more likely to reach for that unhealthful snack if they do not have nutritious meals and snacks to hand.
Many people take a day to do both their shopping and meal preparation for the entire week. With food at the ready, they are less tempted to reach for a candy bar or soda.
8. Spice it up
The palate often misses sugar because it has no other flavors to replace it. Many sweet-tasting herbs and spices can easily be added to food and drink to replace sugar.
Common replacements include cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and vanilla. These can be added to coffee or sprinkled on top of oatmeal or yogurt.
Eliminating added sugars and maintaining a diet rich in whole foods has many benefits for the body. Reducing sugar intake and eating a healthful diet may help people:
- lose weight and prevent obesity
- have more energy throughout the day
- have clearer skin
- avoid mood swings
- reduce inflammation
- reduce the risk of digestive conditions
- reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes
Risks and considerations
Before embarking on a no-sugar diet, a person should consider whether they want to eliminate natural sugars as well. Natural sugars are found in fruit and some dairy products.
While some no-sugar diets say a person should eliminate fruit, this may not be a good idea. Fruit can provide many nutrients, fibers, antioxidants, and other healthy compounds that help protect the body from disease.
Including whole fruits in a no-sugar diet can still be healthful, as long as a person eats fruit in moderation.
Eliminating sugar from the diet should not be seen as a complete solution for weight loss. It is a part of a lifestyle change that includes regular exercise and a nutritious diet.
Anyone looking to start a no-sugar diet should speak to a doctor or nutritionist, especially if they have any underlying health conditions.
People should approach a no-sugar diet plan gradually. Alternating the diet plan or eating sugar on special occasions may help some people cope with the loss of sweetness in the diet.
Cutting back on sugar is probably a good idea for everyone, as it helps reduce the risk of numerous conditions and can improve a person's overall health.