10 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Sugar truly is the single worst ingredient in our modern-day diet. It is at the root of many diseases and is hidden in seemingly endless food and beverage products.
Reducing your sugar intake is probably the single best thing you can do for your health, and here’s why:
Sugar is an Anti-Nutrient
An “anti-nutrient” is a term that refers to any food that actually uses up more nutrients to process than it offers, leaving you in a nutrient deficit. Basically, it is the very definition of an “empty calorie.”
Basically, it is the very definition of an “empty calorie.”
Sugar contains no protein, no essential fatty acids and certainly no vitamins and minerals and can even cause nutrient deficiencies if eaten in excess.
Excess Sugar Can Lead to Insulin Resistance, Diabetes and Obesity
Insulin is the hormone that escorts glucose (blood sugar) to our cells, and also sends messages to the cells to burn glucose instead of fat. Studies show that if you have chronically high glucose levels from eating a high sugar diet, this can eventually lead to serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and obesity.
In fact, research also shows that each daily serving of sugary beverages consumed by children increases their risk of obesity by 60%!
Sugar Suppresses Your Immune System
As if that weren’t enough, sugar also seriously suppresses your immune system. Contrary to popular belief, that giant glass of orange juice when you’re sick isn’t the best way to get better.
Interestingly, research has found that vitamin C and sugar have similar chemical structures that compete for space in your white blood cells. So, the more sugar you eat, the lower your vitamin C content becomes. Vitamin C is essential for a healthy immune system.
And remember, these are only a few of the reasons that sugar is bad for you. Now, let’s take a look at how to reduce your intake. Here are 10 easy ways to reduce sugar in your diet.
Soda has no place in a healthy diet, plain and simple. It puts your sugar intake off the charts. Diet soda is no better (some claim it’s worse, actually) as it replaces sugar with artificial sweeteners that come with their own set of risks.
Opt for club soda with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Cut out Sauces (or make your own)
Many commercially prepared sauces are packed full of sugar. For example, spaghetti sauce often contains up to 10 grams per half cup, and a lot of Asian-inspired curries use a lot of white sugar. If you’re at a restaurant, ask about the sugar content, or skip the sauces altogether.
If you’re at home, try making sauces from scratch so you can control the ingredients. Here’s a sugar-free spicy tomato sauce.
Opt for Plain, Whole Yogurt
Yogurt can be a great addition to your diet as it a fermented food that offers many health benefits and probiotics (healthy gut bacteria). However, avoid low-fat and non-fat options, as these are almost always extremely high in added sugars, like high fructose corn syrup.
Always opt for plain, whole yogurt and add your own natural sweeteners.
Read Ingredient Labels and Avoid Ingredients Ending in “Ose”
Ingredients that end in “ose” (dextrose, maltose, glucose, fructose, etc) should be avoided as often as possible. These are all sugar sources under different names.
Eat Foods From Nature
Best-selling author Michael Pollan wisely advises us to avoid food products that our great grandparents wouldn’t recognize as foods. If it’s something that couldn’t be made in your own kitchen, it’s probably best to avoid (and it’s probably full of sugar).
Get Plenty of Sleep
Lack of sleep can make us fat. According to the National Sleep Foundation, those who get inadequate sleep have “physiological abnormalities that increase appetite and calorie intake.”
Have you experienced increased sugar and carb cravings after a night of bad sleep? This is due to physiological, hormonal responses, so make sure you’re doing everything within your power to sleep well.
Eat Fruit, Don’t Drink it
Fruit juice might seem healthy, but it is very high in sugar. Instead, opt for eating whole, fresh fruit, as this slows down the sugar release because it also provides fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
Make Dessert a Once in Awhile Treat
It’s easy to get into the bad habit of always craving sweets after your meal, so be sure to get plenty of healthy protein and good fats with each meal and snack, as this can help ward off post-meal sugar cravings.
Replace White Sugar with Honey or Maple Syrup
Replacing white sugar with honey or maple syrup can go a long way in cutting your sugar intake. Whether it’s in your coffee or tea or in baking, this simple switch is an important one.
Try Green Leaf Stevia
There you have it! Reducing your sugar intake might seem challenging, but after breaking bad habits and creating new ones, you will well on the road to feeling healthier and with more energy on a day to day basis. Start with these 10 tips.
Rachel Fiske is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and graduated from Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition in Berkeley, California. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Rachel focuses on issues of weight management, GI problems, hormonal imbalances, fatigue and more via a whole foods diet and lifestyle changes.