When consumed mindlessly, sugar is one of the worst things to put in your body. Surveys show that the average American consumes around 25 to 30 teaspoons of sugar per day. That’s about 360 to 500 calories from sugar alone, more than three times the recommended daily intake.
The bad news is that the impact of sugar goes beyond just increasing caloric intake.
Excess consumption affects organs throughout your body, especially your heart and liver. As a result, it can put you at risk for many chronic diseases. It can even affect the appearance of your skin and your thought processes.
Without further ado, here are some of the best science-based ways to help you cut your sugar intake without losing your mind.
Stop drinking your sugar
Sugary drinks are full of the worst kind of sugar. The American Journal of Public Health has found an undeniable link between soda consumption and increased risk of chronic diseases, such as obesity and heart disease.
Research has also reported that people who drink more than one sugary drink a day have about a 25% increased risk of developing type II diabetes compared to those who don’t consume sweets.
That’s not the whole story. We also drink too much.
The National Institute of Health reported that sugary drinks are the third source of calories in the average American diet. The Center for Science in Public Interest also reported that sugary drinks account for about half of the extra sugar in the average American diet.
For example, your typical 12-ounce soda contains about eight teaspoons of sugar. That’s 130 calories from sugar alone, which is a lot.
Also, the human body cannot process calories from beverages the same way it does from solid foods. Overall, liquid calories are absorbed quickly, causing your blood sugar levels to spike rapidly, which can lead to all kinds of cravings.
Instead of gulping calories, drink sparkling water with fruit essence for added flavor. You can also create your flavored water by adding fruit, cucumber or mint and leaving it overnight in the fridge.
Or just stay in plain water, it’s good for you.
Eat your non-starchy vegetables
It should come as no surprise, but vegetables are essential to a healthy diet, including for those trying to limit their sugar intake. But not all vegetables are created equal. Some contain more sugar than others, which is essential when trying to reduce body fat and improve your overall health.
Overall, starchy vegetables, as their name suggests, contain more starch than non-starchy vegetables. Starch is a type of carbohydrate that the human body breaks down into glucose. They also contain less fiber, so they may not leave you as satisfied as non-starchy vegetables.
Starchy vegetables include:
- white potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
- green peas
- acorn squash
- Butternut squash
Eat plenty of non-starchy varieties, including:
- dwarf corn
- bamboo shoots
- Brussels sprouts
- Green salad
- To crush
- Swiss chard
Note: Remember that itchy vegetables are better than processed foods.
Get rid of waste
Not keeping junk food at home can significantly reduce your sugar intake.
This way you make sure you don’t give in to temptation when you have a sugar craving.
Out of sight, out of mind.
Sure, you can’t control the world around you, but at the very least, you have a say in what to keep (and bring) into your home. Don’t ruin your hard work with a cupboard full of snacks and treats ready to open when you feel most vulnerable.
Don’t take my word for it. Research has found that people who keep junk food at home are more likely to have problems with weight gain.
Go through your kitchen and feed as much junk food as you can, including sodas, chocolate cookies, tars, candies, and other high-sugar snacks. Instead of junk food, stock up on healthier alternatives that you can eat easily and conveniently to help you meet your nutritional needs and fill you up.
Some of the best options include:
- Pre-cut vegetables
- Nuts without salt and without sugar
- low fat yogurt
- dried seaweed
Although natural sugar exists in some foods like fruits and milk, added sugars have been introduced into most foods during manufacturing.
There are different forms of sugar and up to 60 names. And that’s not the whole story. Added sugar is everywhere. Sweets can be incorporated into all types of product ingredients, making capturing sugar easier said than done.
One survey reported that out of 600,000 foods studied, about 80% contained added sugar in some form.
So what is the solution ?
Make it a rule to always check food label listings for sugar. The higher the sugar appears in the list, the more sugar the food contains. Look for the following words when checking for added sugar:
- Crystalline fructose
- Evaporated cane juice
- Malt, maize, fructose corn, dried cane, brown rice, high fructose corn syrup
Remember that it will take some time to learn how to read food labels. But once you do, you’ll be set for life. It may make your runs a little longer, but every minute is worth it.
The best way to make sure you’re not consuming “hidden sugar” is to completely avoid all types of pre-cooked, pre-packaged, and processed foods. It’s hard to achieve in the world we live in, but it’s good to keep it in mind. Do your best to eat whole foods and cook your own food instead.
Have more protein
Reducing sugar from your diet isn’t just about avoiding foods high in sugar. It’s also about adding the right kinds of foods to your daily menu. Protein is an essential macronutrient for reducing sugar intake. Additionally, research has shown that a high protein intake helps keep blood sugar levels stable, which can prevent food cravings.
For example, this research reported that participants who had protein for breakfast had less cravings for junk food later in the day. But how come protein can help?
Protein is thought to trigger the production of the satiety hormone PYY, which helps tame hunger and improve satiety. The macronutrient could also limit the release of ghrelin, the hunger hormone.
For these reasons, I encourage you to add protein to your meals and snacks.
Some of the healthiest sources include:
- Forage-fed beef
- Wild fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, etc.
- Legumes like beans, lentils, chickpeas.
- greek yogurt
- Whey protein, preferably from raw goat milk
Good sleep is essential for optimal health. “Bad” sleep has been linked to obesity, poor concentration, depression and reduced immune function.
That said, your sleep patterns can also impact the types of foods you eat, making you more likely to opt for foods high in sugar, salt, fat, and calories. This is why most people can experience intense hunger pangs after a terrible night’s sleep. The longer it lasts, the worse things can get.
For example, research has reported that people who are sleep deprived consume more calories from junk food and sodas and fewer vegetables and fruits than those who log enough sleep time.
Another study found that sleep deprived people are up to 55% more likely to become obese than those who get enough sleep. Additionally, British researchers reported that participants experienced fewer food cravings when they increased their sleep time. They also reduced their sugar intake by up to 10 grams after a good night’s sleep.
Another research from Haya Al Khatib Kings College University found that a month of good sleep hygiene helps subjects spend about an hour longer in bed and extends their sleep time by an average of 20 minutes.
How come sleep is so vital?
Research has reported that sleep deprivation has a negative impact on appetite-regulating hormones. Specifically, sleep debt increases the release of the hunger hormone ghrelin while limiting the release of the fullness hormone PYY. This, in turn, makes you crave the easy source of fuel that often comes from sugar.
So what do you need to do?
Make sleep a priority. The amount of adequate sleep varies from person to person, but most experts recommend aiming for at least seven hours a night.
Quality matters. Here are some tips for achieving better sleep hygiene.
- Sleep in a dark, comfortable room to improve the production of melatonin, which is the sleep hormone.
- Avoid bright lights and screens in the hour before bedtime. It can be difficult, but it’s worth it in the long run.
- Establish a routine of going to bed and waking up at around the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Relax before sleep by reading a fictional book, meditating or practicing breathing exercises.
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