6 Expert Suggestions for Cutting Added Sugar from Your Diet

There is sugar everywhere around you. It’s in your kitchen cabinets. In your refrigerator. And, given the pint of Ben & Jerry’s, in your freezer as well.

However, consuming too much-added sugars is bad for your health, as a large body of research has revealed. In one study, adults who consumed 10 to 24 percent of their calories from added sugar (between 200 and 480 calories in a 2,000-calorie diet) had a 30% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than those who consumed less than 10% — and that risk tripled for those who consumed 25% or more of their daily calories.

Surprisingly, the suggested maximum of added sugars varies across organizations. “I focus on the AHA number because they’re the strictest,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, RDN, a registered dietitian in Green Brook Township, New Jersey. The AHA recommends that women restrict their consumption to six teaspoons per day (25 grams [g]) and males limit their consumption to nine teaspoons per day (36 g). According to the most recent US Dietary Guidelines, added sugars should account for no more than 6% of total calories for everyone aged 2 and above.

Remember that added sugar is sugar that has been added to meals to make them taste better. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, added sugar foods include cookies, most dry morning cereals, and granola bars, as well as condiments like ketchup and barbecue sauce, yogurt, and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Natural sugars, on the other hand, can be found in whole milk, fruits, and vegetables. These foods include a range of nutrients that your body requires for good health, such as calcium, vitamin D, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which is why researchers urge that you continue to eat them.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a dessert fan, you may find it difficult to keep to this limit. “I don’t have a sweet tooth,” writes ABC News chief medical correspondent Jennifer Ashton, MD, in her book The Self-Care Solution. “I rarely eat sugar, mostly because I avoid nearly all of the processed carbs that contain it,” she explains.

Dr. Ashton rated herself a B+ for her sugar intake before she truly analyzed how much she was eating. But she wanted an A+, so she resolved to limit her added sugar intake as much as possible over the course of a month, and she was surprised at how tough this endeavor proved to be. Ashton discovered that depriving herself of sweets intensified her need for them, and she ate many cookies over the month. (In other words, if you’re trying to cut less on sugar, she knows your difficulty.)

You may learn from Ashton and other specialists to ultimately conquer your inner sugar demons. Follow these methods to permanently eliminate — or at least reduce — your sugar intake:

1. Adopt a ‘Add,’ rather than a ‘Subtract,’ mentality.
“I’m always a fan of adding versus taking away,” Harris-Pincus explains. When you approach a task with an abundant attitude or “can have,” it seems less severe than when you claim you can’t have x, y, or z. In the context of sugar reduction, this involves including nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and lean protein.

“The more nutrient-rich food you eat, the less hungry you are for things like sugary foods because you don’t have enough room for them,” she explains. For lunch, instead of a sandwich with chips (and later a cookie), offer the sandwich with a side salad or sliced veggies dipped in hummus, as well as a big piece of fruit.

2. Clean the House to Get Rid of Tempting Sugary Foods
Examine the contents of your cupboard or freezer. Are there cookie trays, cartons of sweetened cereal, granola bars, and the like? According to Ashton, if sweet meals like these are available, you are more inclined to consume them. She suggests completing a sweep of your home to get rid of those objects. This month, tell your family they can enjoy sweets outside the house.

3. If all else fails, avoid sugary drinks.
Though sugar is added to many goods (even “savory” foods such as salad dressings), you may have the most significant, immediate effect, according to Lisa Moskovitz, RD, founder of the New York Nutrition Group in New York City, by eliminating a high-ticket item: sweetened drinks.

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She advises avoiding soda, sweetened teas, and caffeinated liquids. Not only is it a wonderful sugar category to trim, but reducing sugary drinks can also help you in certain ways. “When you drink sugar instead of eating it, it usually breaks down a lot faster, causing sky-high blood glucose levels and then quick crashes,” she notes, as a study has proven. According to Moskovitz, these glucose surges cause your energy levels to fluctuate dramatically, and you may develop cravings for even more sweets.

Eliminating this source of added sugar can have far-reaching consequences. Sweetened beverages, including soda and fruit drinks, are independently linked to an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, gout (a kind of arthritis), nonalcoholic liver disease, and dental problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ashton suggests increasing your water consumption instead of drinking sugary beverages. If you want something with carbonation, add a fresh piece of fruit to your water or choose an unsweetened sparkling beverage.

4. Proceed to the next heavy hitter: desserts.
Desserts are the next challenge, according to Moskovitz. (This does not rule out sweets at all! (See also below.) Reducing the number of foods high in sugar but low in nutrients is a smart next step. Candy, sweets, and snack foods are examples of this. “Because you’re not getting much nutritional value from them, your body won’t miss them,” she adds. Your head could — which is where a measured approach comes in helpful.

5. Check labels for added sugar.
It’s difficult to tell where sugar lurks if you’re not familiar with all the names sugar goes by. According to SugarScience from the University of California, San Francisco added sugar is in roughly three-quarters of packaged goods and goes by 61 different labels. This includes agave, honey, beet sugar, coconut sugar, fruit juice, syrup (any sort), sweet sorghum, and substances ending in “-ose.” High-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, and dextrose are examples of the latter.

However, there is some good news: labeling regulations now compel corporations to indicate the quantity of added sugar in products (before, natural and added sugars were all bundled together in the category of “sugar”). According to research published in Circulation, this clarity for consumers would help avoid more than 350,000 occurrences of heart disease and almost 600,000 cases of type 2 diabetes over a 20-year period.

6. Treat Yourself, but Only Treat Yourself: A Treat sugar

in your diet does not have to be all or nothing. However, make those occasions when you consume a sweet item well worth it. “I encourage patients, even those who want to lose weight, to indulge in the occasional treat when and if it presents itself — otherwise, you can feel deprived and set yourself up for failure,” Ashton adds. If the temptation to buy a full pint of Häagen-Dazs is too great, choose lower-sugar ice cream alternatives in moderation. Moskovitz recommends a 2-thirds-cup portion of vanilla bean Halo Top ice cream, which has 7 g total sugar but only 3 g added sugar.

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A 2/3-cup serving of Häagen-Dazs vanilla bean ice cream, on the other hand, has 32 g of total sugar and 24 g of added sugar! Whichever sweet you choose, eat it fully, with focus, and without guilt.


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