As a smart dieter, you should never treat a specific substance or nutrient in an extreme way. After all, your body needs certain amounts of almost everything to not only survive, but thrive. And, while sugar is something your body doesn’t need a lot of, it’s important that you don’t consider all sugars “the enemy” when you’re trying to lose weight. Cutting back on sugar needs to be done as part of a balanced diet.
There are two basic types of sugars: refined sugars and naturally occurring sugars. Refined sugar is the sugar added to foods, often desserts. However, refined sugars are showing up more in unexpected places – bread, cereal, granola bars, spaghetti sauce, and frozen foods included.
This article discusses what sugar can do to your health, types of sugar to avoid, and 5 ways to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet.
How sugar affects your health
Many people blame sugar for weight gain and other problems. However, sugar is an important nutrient and shouldn’t be written off as something you shouldn’t have in your diet at all.
At a basic level, sugar is a carbohydrate. This explains why many people feel a rush of energy when they consume foods high in sugar. There are three classes of sugars, although two are more common than the others: monosaccharides and disaccharides. Monosaccharides include glucose, fructose, and galactose and disaccharides include sucrose, lactose, and maltose. You likely recognize some of these words and know that fructose is sugar found in fruits and lactose is sugar found in dairy products.
The wrong types of sugars, meaning added, refined sugars, can be bad for your health. Two of the most common health problems caused by excessive sugar consumption are:
- Cholesterol – too much sugar can harm blood lipids, causing problems with cholesterol. This can escalate into bigger issues such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
- Insulin resistance (prediabetes) – when you consume large amounts of sugar, your body becomes resistant to insulin, which tells fat cells to pick up fat from the bloodstream and hold on to fat already being carried. This process often causes obesity, and can cause type 2 diabetes as well.
As you can imagine, there are many more health problems caused by too much sugar. However, excessive sugar is often found in Western diets, leading to the common issues above.
What types of sugar should you avoid?
If you’re like most smart dieters, you’ve already tried cutting back on sugar. After all, it’s “empty calories” and, aside from a quick energy burst, doesn’t do much for your body. However, not all sugar is bad sugar. This makes it important to understand what you should cut out and what you can leave in.
A good rule of thumb is that if the sugar is naturally occurring, it’s safe to leave in your diet. This means you can continue to consume fruits and vegetables without worrying about the negative effects on your body. It’s the refined sugars added to many fruit juices, yogurts, snack foods, and other food sources that can cause the adverse effects above.
Added sugar is typically lurking in processed foods under different names. Here are some of the ingredients you should be on the lookout for when you’re trying to reduce sugar in your diet:
- cane juice/syrup
- corn sweeteners (especially high-fructose corn syrup)
- fruit juice concentrate
- malt syrup
These are just a few of the ways that sugar can sneak past even the smartest dieters. As you can see, you need to read labels carefully.
5 quick tips to reduce sugar in your diet
If you’re reading this and realize you may be eating more sugar than you’d like, there’s no need to worry. In fact, there are simple steps you can take daily to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet.
Here are the 5 most effective tips for cutting back on sugar:
- Drink more water – added sugar can be found in most teas, sports drinks, and sodas. If you want to save calories and reduce your risk of health problems, reaching for water when you’re thirsty is a simple way to do so.
- Read labels – sugar can be anywhere under many different names. Don’t assume that it isn’t in the foods you’re buying. Read every label to ensure sugar isn’t sneaking its way back into your diet.
- Buy unsweetened products when possible – nut butters, applesauce, oatmeal, and jams are just some of the products you can buy unsweetened if you choose. Even if you don’t like the taste quite as much, you can feel good about making a better decision for your health.
- Don’t force yourself to give up sugar – sugar consumption doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” decision. It’s important you leave some sugar in your diet to ensure you don’t feel deprived. The best way to do this is to use less sweetener in your coffee or to cut out the richest source of sugar in your diet but allow other sources to remain. This will help you make the transition successfully.
- Eat a balanced diet – a healthy balance of fats and protein is key to avoid the sugar cravings that will compromise your diet. Fats are especially satiating and will keep you feeling satisfied between meals. And, when you reach for healthy fats like avocados, nuts, and seeds, you can feel good knowing you aren’t eating something unhealthy just to avoid sugar.
Don’t make cutting back on sugar an impossible task
Many dieters set themselves up for failure by imposing almost impossible limits on sugar intake in an effort to lose weight. However, you can still consume sugar in fruits and other foods where it occurs naturally without having to worry about weight gain. You don’t need to take your diet to an extreme to be successful in your weight loss efforts.
As always, you may want to use a comprehensive weight loss supplement to curb your appetite as you make the adjustment and rebalance your nutrient intake. Doing so may offer the support you need to stay on track and focused as you kick your sugar addiction and transition to a healthier way of life.