By Sola Ogundipe
The average person takes in 22 teaspoons of sugar daily. This is more than three times the amount suggested by nutritionists. Although it has never been considered a health food, new evidence shows sugar can do even more damage than previously thought. Extra calories raise your risk of obesity, which in turn sets you up for diabetes and heart disease.
But weaning yourself off sugar can be daunting. It’s tough to dodge because it hides in so many foods, and it provides an almost addictive. Cutting down on sugar is really worth trying, so go for your sugar rehab today and make your commitment stick. Go for your sugar detox!
Beware of refined sugar
The biggest sugar offender to steer clear of is refined white sugar, the kind spooned into coffee or added to baked goods. The bloodstream absorbs this simple sugar quickly, causing surges in blood glucose levels and insulin that can wreak havoc on the body.
Refined sugar is added to most food products during processing so beware. Avoid sugar passed off as molasses, honey, and maple syrup even though they’re not processed the way refined white sugar is, they have the same harmful effect.
Sweeteners could be worse
Exchanging sugar in favour of a chemical sweetener like aspartame or saccharin may not be the answer. Artificial sweeteners provide sweet taste without calories, so when you consume these products, hunger isn’t satisfied, leading you to crave more afterward.
Natural sugar is okay
The types of sugar you don’t have to avoid are found naturally in foods, such as fructose in fruit and lactose in milk products. These get a pass as long as you consume them in their original food form. Fruit, for instance, contains an amount of sugar that is in better proportion with the amount of fibre and other nutrients in it. These other nutrients mitigate sugar’s harmful effect.
Don’t be in a rush
Going sugar-free very abruptly can lead to crazy-intense withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, and mood swings. It’s better to ease yourself off it slowly by taking one step at a time, so your body has time to adjust. Slower changes tend to last, says Avena, especially when it comes to diet changes.
Give up sugary drinks
Soft drinks, fruit juice, sports drinks, iced tea—these and other sweetened beverages are sneaky sources of added sugar. One can of cola, for example, adds up to nine cubes, already a third more than the six cubes daily recommended limit. Sweetened beverages or drinks made from fruit juice are like liquid sugar, and they add lots of calories without satisfying hunger.
No to pastries
Pastries, cookies, muffins, and other white-bread, refined-flour treats offer little nutrition-wise but are dense with added sugar. And since they’re not hard to identify, it’s easy to slash them from your diet.
They mess with blood sugar levels, setting up a cycle of grabbing a donut or muffin for energy that doesn’t last, says Kohn. Instead, get your carb fix with whole grains. These are converted to sugar during digestion, but because they’re the complex kind rather than the simple type, they’re absorbed more slowly and provide steady energy.
Ease off table sugar
If you’re used to adding sweetener to your food and drinks, give yourself time to ease out of the habit. Typically start your day with two spoons of sugar or honey in your tea or coffee? Cut back to one sugar for a week, then slash it to zero a week later—or sweeten it with a slice of orange or a little milk.
Same thing with the sugar you put on top of French toast or cereal, or the maple syrup doused on your pancakes. Gradually reducing the amount will make it less noticeable that you’re cutting back, and you’ll be less craving-crazed for a sugar hit.
Pile protein on your plate
Cutting out sugar is the perfect
excuse to indulge in more healthy fats (nuts, olive oil, avocado, dairy) and lean protein (eggs, turkey, and legumes). Both keep you feeling satiated and energized, preventing the blood sugar rise and fall that can lead to hard-to-resist sugar cravings.
A protein breakfast help you start the day off right. Have a breakfast with protein and fat as the stars, like eggs and avocado, instead of the traditional starch and sugar combo, like a muffin or sweetened cereal.
Go with naturally sweet flavours
To satisfy a sweet tooth without resorting to refined sugar, try cinnamon or vanilla extract added to coffee, cereal, or baked goods. They offer a sweet taste without sugar’s side effects, and zero calories.