Tips for Reducing Sugar in Your Diet

Tips for Reducing Sugar in Your Diet

Americans eat a lot of sugar. Average annual per capita sugar consumption in the U.S. has been variously estimated as anywhere from 76.7 pounds to 170 pounds! Processed foods contain surprising amounts of sugar, though it goes by many other names in lists of ingredients: agave nectar, brown rice syrup, high fructose corn syrup, cane juice, etc. We’ll show you how to reduce your intake of them all.

I know sugar is bad for me, but why?

Sugar causes a powerful insulin response, and excess calories (like sugar) are efficiently stored as fat. Visceral fat is especially dangerous because it acts like an accessory endocrine organ, pumping out cytokines and other inflammatory molecules. Your cells quickly develop insulin resistance (IR), your glucose stays elevated, and glycosylation of proteins, including hemoglobin, progresses. Left unchecked, you gradually slide from IR and metabolic syndrome to full-blown type 2 diabetes.

So how can I reduce the sugar in my diet?

Reducing sugar will take persistence and entails both learning and sacrifice. You will have to habitually:

  • Read food labels. You should keep in mind that sugar has many names and is found in places you’d least expect it: salad dressings, tomato sauce, and crackers to name a few.
  • Purchase unsweetened versions of the foods you love: applesauce, peanut butter, and instant oatmeal, for example.
  • Use spices and herbs liberally to enhance flavor. Some have additional benefits: cinnamon aids in regulating blood glucose; turmeric reduces inflammation.
  • If you add sugar to your morning coffee, decrease the amounts gradually over the next few weeks until you are adding no sweeteners. In the same vein, switch from fruited yogurt and kefir to plain, and if you must have fruit with them, make it fresh fruit.
  • Absolutely no sodas, including artificially sweetened ones. Drinking soda is the direct path to IR.
  • Eat more healthy fats like avocado and nuts. These will even out your insulin and glucose and reduce hunger so you will not reach for sugar-laden treats.
  • Skip the iced teas, commercial smoothies, sports drinks, and enhanced waters. They contain more sugar than you can imagine and will wreck your health. Cultivate the habit of drinking pure water first and foremost.
  • Ditch the cake, candy, and ice cream! If you must have them, small amounts eaten very infrequently will do less harm (but still some harm). It is possible to survive indefinitely without dessert.

Summary

Admittedly, your transition to sugar-free eating will be challenging. However, you can make it simpler by following a few rules:

  1. When fresh fruits and veggies are available, eat them and rest assured they contain only natural sugar.
  2. If it’s in a box, can, bottle, or bag, it’s likely processed and contains sugar. If you insist on eating this way (and it goes against best advice), you must read all labels and learn how much sugar you are eating, then reduce it. 
  3. Desserts are for special occasions only.
  4. Prepare your own meals and eat out less frequently. If you are a guest in someone’s home, and you know an entrée has sugar, be sociable, but eat only a small portion.

There are no excuses. Stop digging your grave with your teeth and a long and healthy life will be your sweetest victory.