It’s no secret that sugar is bad for you. Studies show that too much of the sweet stuff causes diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and kidney disease. This isn’t a small problem! The average person should only have a few teaspoons of sugar per day. Women should stick to 25 grams, or six teaspoons, and men can only have up to 38 grams, or nine teaspoons. However, the average American consumes 82 grams (19.5 teaspoons) of sugar per day!
With sugar abuse being such a problem, it’s not unreasonable to suggest a drastic solution: giving up sugar completely. It’s not as hard as it sounds!
No Sugar Diet
It’s not impossible to avoid all sugar. You wouldn’t want to. Your body uses sugar as fuel! The food that you digest gets broken down into simple sugars like glucose. Without glucose, you wouldn’t survive long. The problem isn’t that you’re having any sugar. It’s that you’re having extra sugar.
If you go on a no-sugar diet, you’re committing to cut out foods that include added sugars. You may also eat less of foods that naturally pack a big sugar punch. These include:
- Cookies full of refined white sugar
- Granola bars full of refined brown sugar
- Soda and juice full of high-fructose corn syrup
- Potatoes full of natural starch
Calories in Sugar
You might not be surprised to learn that sugar contains a lot of calories. If you’re interested in learning about calories, I talked more about them in another article. Calories represent the raw power your body gets from food. If your body gets too many, it’ll happily store them as fat!
One cup of sugar weighs about 200 grams. This is more than ten times the sugar you should be eating in a day. That full cup of sugar also represents a whopping 773 calories! Unlike other high-calorie foods, like cashews, raw sugar contains no nutrients.
If you’re a woman, you should be consuming only six teaspoons of sugar per day. That comes to 98 calories. However, statistically, you’re likely consuming closer to 19.5 teaspoons. This is especially true if you’re fond of soda, juice, and fancy coffee! Those extra teaspoons represent 317 extra calories per day. Remember, sugar gives you no vitamins, no minerals, and no water! It may be tasty, but that cookie won’t satisfy you.
Low Sugar Diet
The good news about sugar is that it’s a gimme as far as dieting goes. According to WebMD, you may not even have to count calories if you cut out sugar! Going low-sugar means focusing on vegetables, fruits, and other unprocessed foods. Sugar is a good preservative, so packaged foods tend to have a lot. Your mission is to make real food for yourself…and lay off the extra honey!
Quitting Sugar Tips
- Quitting sugar is going to be a commitment. Don’t be afraid to plan your meals.
- Look out for sneaky sugar. High-fructose corn syrup is sugar by another name. So are agave nectar, honey, molasses, and maple syrup.
- Shop around the edges of the grocery store. Focus on whole foods like vegetables, fruits, and healthy meats.
- Prepare to cook. Check out my article on meal prep if this will be a lifestyle change for you.
- Sub in healthy snacks for sugary ones. Love potato chips? Try kale chips instead! Chocolate candies? Replace them with berries.
- Stick with it. Sugar is addictive. That means that it’ll be hard to stop. Don’t give up! Your body will be better off in the long run!
In nature, sugar occurs in tandem with the nutrients your body needs to be healthy. A sugary orange, for example, represents 117% of your daily vitamin C needs.
It also contains a lot of fiber. This sugar is just part of your natural diet. It’s fine as long as you vary your diet. But refined sugar doesn’t have any redeeming nutritional value. This is the sugar that goes into candy bars and soda. You’re better off without it!
Foods With No Sugar
Almost all foods contain some kind of sugar. Your goal should be to eliminate foods that contain additional refined sugar, which is what causes health problems. Try focusing on these low-sugar foods:
- Lean, unprocessed meat, like pork
- Low-fat, unflavored yogurt
- Cashews, almonds, and peanuts
- Dry salad
- Air-popped popcorn
- Salmon and tuna
- Non-starchy vegetables, like eggplant and brussels sprouts
Sugar in Grapes
The fact that candy bars are sugary is a given. But what about fruit?
Isn’t that full of sugar, too? On one hand, yes. One cup of grapes contains 15 grams of sugar.
That’s more than half of what the average woman should have in a day.
On the other hand, a single grape only contains less than half a gram of sugar.
So why eat a whole cup? Grapes are also great sources of vitamin B6 and potassium.
Their nutritional benefits shouldn’t be ignored. Go ahead and have a few!
Low Sugar Vegetables
Some vegetables will defeat your low-sugar goals. These starchy plants include potatoes and corn, which show up everywhere as chips and additives. In fact, potatoes are a risk factor for diabetes!
Try swapping them out for these healthy alternatives:
- Raw broccoli is a good substitute for chips at parties. Just make sure your dip is low-sugar!
- Though they contain some sugar, they’re so small that you won’t end up eating as much.
- Filling, refreshing, and minimally sugary.
- Easily transformed into healthy chips! This green is a great option for former potatoheads.
- Perfect if you miss that fried potato crunch.
Cutting Sugar Out of Diet
So maybe you’re convinced: now’s the time to quit sugar. But how should you start? Here’s your quick guide:
- Determine how much sugar you’re consuming now. Write down everything you’ve eaten today and look up the sugar content of each item. Don’t ignore drinks, dressings, and sauces! This will give you an idea of what you should cut out.
- Say goodbye to processed food. Almost anything that’s shelf-stable is going to be full of sugar. That includes cereal, canned meats, granola, and energy bars.
- Toss the treats. That six-pack of soda you have chilling in the kitchen is worthless to your body. Get rid of it.
- Make your own food. Not only will you have control over how much sugar your food contains, you’ll save money!
- Stick to it. Think of how much better you’ll feel when you shake that sugar addiction!
Low Sugar Foods
Fruits, vegetables, and nuts are great options for low-sugar eating. Unprocessed meat also tends to be low-sugar and high in nutrients. Here are some other other healthy alternatives:
- Sunflower seeds
- Spaghetti squash
- Unsweetened nut and soy milk
- Pumpkin seeds
How to Cut Sugar Out of Your Diet
One of the most complicated parts of leaving sugar is the emotional component. Studies show that even adults tend to associate soda with comfort.
It’s not unusual to let yourself have a piece of fudge or a cookie as a “reward” for doing something hard or making it through the week.
Learn to reward yourself in ways that don’t hurt your body. You will be treating yourself with love by treating yourself to blueberries!
What Are the Symptoms of Sugar Withdrawal?
Some studies suggest that sugar addiction is comparable to addiction to harder drugs. Withdrawal symptoms have been documented in rats, but there’s only anecdotal evidence that humans experience sugar withdrawal.
Here’s what other sugar quitters have reported:
- Low energy
- Sleep loss
How Do You Stop Sugar Addiction?
Sugar cravings can be debilitating, especially if you’ve relied on sugar for years. Luckily, you can silence them by eating other, less sugary foods!
Because all food has at least some sugar, your body will accept the healthy food in a pinch. Gradually, you can train it to look for an apple instead of a peanut butter cup. However, there are a few different strategies:
- Modify your habits. Do you like to relax in front of the TV after dinner? Do you tend to munch on cake or ice cream at the same time? Maybe it’s not the sugar that’s the problem, but the TV! Try shaking up your schedule.
- Go cold turkey. This tactic isn’t for everyone! You may experience the withdrawal symptoms I discussed above. That said, some people swear by it.
- Taper off. Learn what sugary foods you’re eating and gradually eat less of them over time.
Quitting Sugar and Weight Loss
Just reducing soda by one serving per day causes your body to lose about one pound in six months.
One serving of soda contains more than 24 grams of sugar! That sugar contains about 93 calories. If you have a couple cans of soda per day, you’re consuming close to 200 extra, empty calories!
Removing those from your diet will have a real, immediate impact on your weight. Cutting out all sugar will cause you to start losing pounds right away, especially if you’re also paying attention to your calorie intake.
Quitting Sugar Benefits
So why go to all this trouble? What will all of this withdrawal, personal discipline, and kale do for you? I can assure you that the benefits of quitting sugar are real and significant. Here’s what you’ll get:
- Decreased risk of obesity, as well as obesity-related illnesses like diabetes
- Your brain will be more adaptable, meaning you’ll learn better
All things considered, the question isn’t why…it’s why not!
How Many Days Does it Take to Detox from Sugar?
The answer to this question will depend on you. Every body is a little different. However, the Cleveland Clinic reports that it’s possible to break a sugar addiction in ten days.
That doesn’t mean that you can go right back to eating poorly afterward! In ten days, you’ll be able to establish new eating habits to take the place of your old ones.
After two weeks of no sugar, you’ll find yourself reaching for the sunflower seeds without so much as a second thought for chocolate.
Sugar is an alluring treat. But sugar’s effects on your body aren’t worth the momentary satisfaction it’ll give you. Now’s the time to take a stand. You’ll feel better if you eat better. All it takes is a commitment to yourself.
Do you have a hard time cutting out sugar? Let me know in the comments below.