While it’s true that natural sugars are a normal part of adult diets, it is also true that most adults eat significantly more sugar than they they actually need for proper diets. Reducing the sugar intake is a way to start a healthier lifestyle that can also help you lose weight.
For some people, eliminating sugars from their diet is a necessity. If you have low self control, or your body can’t process sugars properly, then you need to eliminate it almost entirely from your diet. Here are some important things you should know about this diet plan before you begin and some tips to get you on track to a healthy and sustainable sugar free diet plan. Be sure to talk it over with your doctor before beginning to make sure this plan is the right decision for your health.
Why Eliminate Sugars?
For starters, as mentioned, most adults eat way more sugar than they actually need. The stuff tastes great, and it’s found in nearly all of the most common favorite foods, from desserts to freshly baked breads. Unfortunately, this makes it really easy for your body to get hooked on sugars and stop enjoying the tastes of foods that haven’t been supplemented.
The sugar epidemic has hit a level where the average American adult gets 15% of their calories form added sugars. This doesn’t even account for natural sugars in milk and fruits. Excessive sugar is the cause of a lot of health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, inflammation, cavities, and diabetes.
Eliminating sugars in your diet can significantly reduce your risk for an y of these conditions, especially if these sugars are replaced with healthy foods that are packed with the right vitamins and minerals. It can also help you lose weight.
The sugar free diet has a ton of great health benefits for the body aside from those listed above. When you reduce your sugar intake, you will maintain a healthier diet. This can help with:
1. Weight loss – sugars can cause obesity.
2. Regulating energy – no more afternoon crashes!
3. Clear skin – eliminate acne causing sugars.
4. Mood swings – your brain won’t be constantly addicted to a substance that causes slumps and problems when you don’t have it.
5. Reduce inflammation – if your joints and muscles are achy and swollen, it may be due to sugar issues!
6. Reduce the risk of digestive conditions – Sugar breaks down in your body differently than other food. Human bodies weren’t biologically designed for a ton of processed foods.
Before you begin this diet, it is important to talk to a doctor. Sugar is highly addicted and a huge part of your body’s system, and eliminating it all instantly can cause just as many problems as the sugar itself and make you feel miserable while going through withdrawal. A doctor can either help you through the withdrawal or help you find a plan for weaning your body slowly off sugar to avoid withdrawal symptoms and complications.
You also need to decide whether you want to eliminate natural sugars. These sugars are found in fruit and dairy products. Some sugar free diets insist upon eliminating fruit, but this may not be a great idea. Fruits contain tons of nutrients, fibers, and antioxidants that protect your body from diseases and maintain healthy metabolisms. Eliminating them from your diet may do more harm than good.
Eliminating sugars is also not an end all be all solution for weight loss. It is not a complete solution on its own, either. It is one part of a complete lifestyle change that includes exercise and a balanced, nutritious diet. Believe me, it’s still possible to eat an entirely unhealthy diet without sugar. Talk to your doctor or nutritionist – especially if you already have health conditions like high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and more.
How to Eliminate Sugar
The hard part about sugars and carbs in diets is that they tend to be insidious. Often times, you can become addicted to them without ever realizing this fact. Sugar is also added into nearly every product you might buy out of convenience – even those you wouldn’t expect to have it! Here are some of the things to think about when you start eliminating sugar and moving to a sugar free diet plan.
Imagine if a person went from drinking a few pots of coffee a day to completely eliminating caffeine overnight. They’d be miserable, they’d make others miserable, and they’d suffer withdrawal symptoms and headaches. It’s the same with sugars if you’re not careful.
Unlike a lot of diet plans, which ask you to instantly change your patterns of behavior, when you follow a sugar free diet plan you need to start slowly. Talk with your doctor about how to wean yourself slowly off of sugars and high fatty foods to avoid these symptoms of withdrawal.
You can start by just eliminating the easiest and most obvious sources. If you’re eating a lot of candy and baked goods (desserts, brownies, cookies, muffins, bagels…) you can avoid these pretty easily. The same is true of sugary drinks, juices, and sodas. If you’re used to drinking tons of soda every day, start by slowly reducing it to a glass or 2 a day, then a glass, then a few a week, and so forth until it’s gone.
With baked goods, limit yourself to 1 sugary snack each day, whether that’s in the afternoon as a pick me up or at dinner as a dessert. Gradually reduce this to every other day, 3 days a week, and then never.
Check Your Labels
Sugar is insidious. Nearly everything you see contains lots of sugar these days. After you’ve gotten rid of obvious sugars from sweets and treats, you can start eliminating the less obvious sugars. The good news is that if your body was getting tons of desserts and sugars drinks, by the time you’ve completed this process you can move a bit faster with the label sweets. You’ll be used to the lack of sugar in your diet, and this will be a much smaller amount to rid yourself of as time goes by.
Reading labels will help you identify and find sugar in products that you may not be aware are filled with the stuff. Sugar goes by a ton of different names, too, so just because it doesn’t say SUGAR doesn’t mean it isn’t sugar.
For example, these are some common forms of sugar found in labels:
1. Corn syrup (and high fructose corn syrup) is another name for SUGAR.
2. Cane sugar and brown sugar and raw sugar and turbinado sugar are all still sugar.
3. Evaporated cane juice is also sugar.
4. Inverted sugar and beet sugar and coconut sugar…. The name still says sugar for a reason! Healthy plant sources don’t mean healthy end results.
5. Maple, agave, ad rice syrup – also just sugar.
6. Honey is a marginally healthier naturally occurring type of… sugar.
7. Apple and grape juice concentrate is basically just concentrated sugar that removes the benefits of apples and grapes.
8. Sucanat, demerara, panela, piloncillo, and muscovado are also sugar.
Pro Tip: If an ingredient ends in –ose, it is a sugar. This includes sucrose, glucose, dextrose, and even lactose.
Supermarkets are amazing at hiding sugars, and you rarely notice when you have sugars. Condiments are frequently abused. They seem healthy enough when complimenting salads and vegetables, but if you don’t actually follow the minimal serving sizes, you are jut loading down your food with calories and sugars.
Pro Tip: Walden Farms makes a FANTASTIC line of condiments for sugar free diets. They include salad dressings, BBQ sauces, and more. Their stuff is sugar free, calorie free, carbohydrate free, and more. In fact, their line is even friendly for people whose bodies are in ketosis!
Simple Carbs Are Sugar
A lot of sugar free diets will recommend avoiding simple carbohydrates. These carbs consist of white flour, white pasta, and white rice. These break down quickly in your body, which will cause an increase in your blood sugar. These spikes are followed by quick crashes.
Essentially, these break down in your body in exactly the same way actual sugars do. If you love your baked goods and pastas, replace these simple carbs with complex ones. Whole grain pastas are a great option that still taste jut as good. If you want to go for extra healthy, then vegetables like spaghetti squash, zucchini, and cauliflower make extremely healthy substitutes for these meals.
Man made sugars aren’t actually any healthier for your body. They are still sugars, even if they are lab created. These sugars have caused a ton of debate in the diet industry because they seem healthier. While they contain little to no calories, they can be even sweeter than actual sugar.
Although for scientific purposes, these aren’t the same as sugar, and diabetics find them a great substitute that they can have in their diets, they can still trick your body into thinking it’s having actual sugar. This includes making your body crave more of these foods, which will make a sugar free diet nearly impossible to follow because your body will be driving you insane to try to get you to cave in to the cravings.
If you want a sugar free diet, then avoid these as well:
v. Sweet ‘n Low
Artificial sugars are also hiding in plain sight in a lot of labels by using their chemical names:
ii. Sucralose (again, -ose is sugar)
iv. Acesulfame K (or Acesulfame potassium)
Watch what you drink, too!
When people start their diets, they are constantly watching everything they eat. What you don’t know is that it might be what you’re drinking that is actually doing the most harm.
Sugars are pretty easy to avoid if you switch from a diet of mostly processed foods to a healthier option, but your drinks might actually be killing you. Sodas and sweet teas are pretty obvious and easy to avoid, but what else are you drinking?
If you’re grabbing the apple juice, orange juice, or cranberry juice in the morning for breakfast, or to add to your “healthy” smoothie as a base, you are taking in a lot more sugar than you realize! These drinks are full of sugars – both natural and unnatural. Milk is also pretty high in sugars. Even if it’s natural, it’s still sugar.
Do you have a lot of energy drinks when you work out or relax, thinking sports drinks are healthier than soda? Things like Gatorade and Powerade may be able to replenish your electrolytes, but they’re also packed with sugar.
How about your morning pick me up? If you’re adding sugar to your coffee to make it taste better, that can add up quickly, especially if you’re also adding milk or cream, both of which contain sugar. In fact, these are one of the most common forms of added sugars in the average diet.
Replace these drinks with healthier versions. If you’re a sweet tea drinker, start cutting tea. Trust me… It can be done, and won’t take long. When I did it, I went from southern style sweeter than sweet tea to drinking unsweet tea regularly within 6 months, just by starting to cut my tea 75% to 25%, then 60 to 40, 50/50, and so forth.
Whole Foods Are Friends
So, we have learned that a lot of processed foods, while far more convenient, are usually packed with sugars. This can be pretty depressing, and you may be feeling really anxious right now about following through with a sugar free diet.
It helps when you stop focusing on what you can’t have and start focusing on what you can have. Whole foods are pretty healthy, and 100% whole foods don’t have too much sugar. Fruits are the exception, but it is okay for diets to have a little bit of natural sugar, and fruits are a great way to satisfy that sweet tooth craving you’re getting from weaning yourself off of processed sugars without being too unhealthy!
Focus on eating whole and complete foods, and you’ll notice that your diet has a lot of these:
ii. Lean meats and poultry
iii. Tofu (unless you don’t like it, and that’s totally fine…)
v. Whole and unprocessed grains and legumes
vi. Nuts and seeds
Some people following a reduced sugar diet will keep a very small amount of dairy in their diets. Plain yogurts and simple cheeses are good options for this.
Spices Are Delicious
The problem with sugar is that it warps your palate. Sugar is delicious, but so are natural foods. When you cover your foods in processed sugars and condiments, it can be difficult to remember or enjoy the natural flavor of the food.
Spices are a great way to start enjoying the taste of your food. There are some very sweet tasting spices that your body will start to appreciate once it’s no longer hooked on sugar. For example, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and vanilla are all pretty sweet. Add these to coffee or mix them into your yogurt or oatmeal and you’ll find that they add a sweetness to the food that you will enjoy when your palate is no longer unable to recognize natural sweetness.