How and Why to Rid Sugar From Your Diet

The bad news about sugar just keeps coming. Recent studies have linked consuming too much of the sweet stuff to a higher risk of dying from heart disease and an increased risk for tooth decay. Studies have also shown that people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages are more prone to developing obesity whether they are childrenor adults. Being obese increases the risk for developing hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. While sugar cannot be avoided completely, filling up on whole foods can help you to kick sugar to the curb and you may find it so much easier to stick to your weight loss goals.
Sugar Crazy
Excess dietary sugar is irrefutably harmful. The calories provided whether from sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, or any other variant, are empty, with no nutritional benefit and contribute to weight gain and obesity. Americans eat considerably more, on average, than the American Heart Association recommendations of 6 teaspoons (30 grams) per day for women, and 9 teaspoons (45 grams) per day for men. The average American consumes about 22 teaspoons per day, or 110 grams which is just too much.
The glycemic index of sugar, its tendency to raise blood sugar and in some cases insulin, can further contribute to extra pounds and obesity, as well as hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, and ultimately diabetes. Its enough to make you want to quit sugar altogether.
Some researchers say that sugar holds a power over many of us due to its addictive properties and that sugar produces changes in the brain and behavior that fuel our cravings. While others are more cautious, the conventional advice of moderation doesnt work on everyone, thus the addiction jury is still out on sugar.
Because of the hold that sugar has on most Americans, along with the fact that its in almost every food product in the grocery store, sugar can be hard to leave behind. If you are one of the people who have tried to embark on a sugar free mission and failed, you may not have had a good enough plan in place.
A Plan For Reducing Sugar Intake
Not all carbohydrates are created equal and generalizing them into one category is far too simplistic. Whole unprocessed carbohydrates give you long lasting energy, supply vitamins and minerals and are a good source of fiber. Easy to recognize, they are found in foods in their natural states and include fruits, vegetables and whole unprocessed grains. They take longer to digest which steadies blood sugar and promotes a feeling of satiety. Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, cookies, crackers, and soda are not whole foods and offer no fiber, minimal nutritional value and promote unsteady blood sugar.
While leaving sugar behind can be tough, its more than possible. Here are 10 tips for kicking the refined sugar habit if you would like to explore that possibility.
       Find Your Motivation: Ridding your diet of refined sugars takes some work, and if you are to be successful, the first step to doing so is to find your inner motivation. Will power is an exhaustible resource so your motivations for quitting sugar should be powerful like being around for your grandchildren or reducing your risk for diabetes. If you need some help getting motivated, watch a movie like Fed Upor read a book such as Suicide by Sugar.
       Sugar Comes in Many Forms: The ingredient list on foods is different than the nutrition facts panel. The nutrition facts panel will tell you how many carbohydrates and grams of sugar a product has but it will not distinguish between added and natural sugars. Get in the habit of looking at the ingredient list and check for whole food ingredients. If you see sugar, high fructose corn syrup, cane juice, malt syrup, anything ending in -ose, wheat flour or enriched wheat flour, then the product contains refined carbohydrates.
       Define Which Sugars You Will Limit: If you find it too hard to go completely sugar free, start by deciding which sugars you will limit. Try using unrefined sweeteners at home such as maple syrup, molasses, raw honey or coconut sugar. While still a source of calories, unrefined sugars will also provide vitamins and minerals. A better option is to choose stevia for a touch of sweetness without the calories. Stevia is made from a plant so it is natural and unrefined and it doesnt contribute to a rise in blood sugar.
       Eliminate the Obvious: Challenge yourself to reduce and eventually stop drinking any form of soda or other sweetened drinks. A 12-ounce can of soda contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar. If you can drop the drinks, you will instantly reduce your sugar habit significantly. Set a goal for yourself of cutting back until you can cut it out entirely. Aim to switch to water as opposed to diet soda which is full of artificial sweeteners.
       Reduce Hidden Sugars: The majority of refined carbohydrates and sugars lurk in common food items such as crackers, cookies, instant oatmeal, fruited yogurt, muffins, boxed cereal, salad dressings, chicken nuggets, pasta sauces and even ketchup. Even organic packaged foods often contain significant amounts of sugar. Pre-packaged foods may save time but they do nothing for your health. Set aside time on the weekend to make your own spaghetti sauce or salad dressing. If you find the snack foods hard to resist, make homemade popcorn. Popcorn has the bonus of counting as a whole grain (just watch the salt and butter), or eat fruit or vegetables for a snack. Other ways to cut back on packaged foods are to cook rolled oats for breakfast, make homemade muffins with stevia as the sweetener or make fruit smoothies with unsweetened plain yogurt and fruit. Your waistline and your wallet will thank you!
       Eat a Balanced Diet: A well-rounded diet with plenty of fresh vegetables ample lean protein, and complex carbohydrates will reduce sugar cravings and give you long lasting energy. Aim for 5 cups of vegetables per day and about 20 to 30 grams of protein at each meal. Use fruit for dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth. There is no need to mourn the loss of sweets when there are so many amazing foods to enjoy. Dont feel deprived, simply enjoy different foods. Roast butternut squash, toast nuts, cook a pumpkin!
       Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth in Moderation: If you view your added-sugar ban as a test of your ability to resist anything sweet, you may be setting yourself up for failure. When cravings hit, satisfy them with whole food-based alternatives. Craving chocolate? Tray snacking on some lightly thawed frozen red cherries or microwave some dried prunes for about 10 seconds – you might be amazed to discover some new more nutritious ways to sate your sweet tooth.
       Make Wise Choices When Eating Out: Sugar is hidden in many dishes at restaurants from the obvious sweet and sour sauce to the not so obvious salad dressing and rolls. Stick to salads with olive oil and vinegar, grilled meats and vegetable dishes without sauces. Choose water over sodas or mixed drinks. If you decide on dessert, opt for fresh fruit or share a portion of a sweet treat.
       Enlist a Friend: If you have someone who has the same goal as you, you can join forces to reduce your sugar intake. Finding a friend, spouse or co-worker makes it that much more enjoyable and doable.
       Exercise: Research has shown that forty-five minutes of moderate to vigorous morning exercise like a brisk walk or jog can reduce your daytime food cravings. Being active has the additional benefit of giving you more energy throughout the day and can help you with healthy weight loss.
The Long Haul
Reducing the amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates in your diet is doable, but requires a realistic and sustainable plan. Keep the long-term goals at the forefront of your mind. Set some mini-goals and decide which areas to focus on. Just a few days of less sugar will help you to re-adjust your taste buds, get you into the habit of checking nutrition labels and help you to discover ways to satisfy your sweet tooth with whole and minimally processed foods.