Smart dieters know they need to eliminate certain foods – like sugar – from their diet to lose weight. Many of these same dieters stop eating sugar but don’t replace it with a healthier alternative. As you likely know, restrictive diets rarely work from a long-term perspective.
This article explores:
- why you should eliminate sugar from your diet,
- what sugars you can keep in your diet, and
- sugar alternatives you can use and still lose weight.
Why you should eliminate sugar from your diet
There is added sugar in most processed food products. In fact, there is added sugar in 74 percent of packaged foods. And you’ll find it in more foods than just dessert products or where you would expect sugar to be lurking. In fact, sugar is commonly found in bread, pasta sauce, condiments, snack bars, and cereals, among other foods.
Few people understand the crippling effects of this added sugar on health. Some of the most alarming problems it can cause include:
- Liver complications – the liver is responsible for storing glycogen. If you eat large amounts of sugar on a regular basis, your liver will get full of glycogen. If you continue to consume large amounts of sugar after your liver is already full, it will turn excess sugar into fat. This can also lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, which happens when some of the stored fat becomes lodged in the liver.
- Insulin resistance – insulin signals to cells to burn glucose instead of fat. If you eat a high-sugar diet, cells grow resistant to insulin and it stops working as it should. Insulin resistance can cause many diseases, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type II diabetes.
- Cancer – sugar consumption doesn’t cause cancer, but it can predict its development. Insulin regulates the growth and multiplication of cells. As such, those with metabolic issues stemming from problems with insulin regulation may be at a higher risk of cancer as well.
As you can imagine, there are numerous other health risks. However, even just looking at the most prominent issues makes it clear that you should eliminate sugar from your diet when possible. But should you eliminate all sugar?
Not all sugar is “bad” sugar
The misconception that all sugar is bad is the reason many dieters eliminate fruit, dairy products, and other substances from their diets. However, naturally occurring sugars aren’t the problem. In fact, natural sugars are different from added sugars in several important ways.
The most important difference is that fruits, unlike foods with added sugar, contain other nutrients, like fiber. This helps the body break down the fructose – the naturally occurring sugar in fruit – at a much slower pace, diminishing the negative effects on the body. Moreover, fruits are filled with vitamins and minerals and have other health benefits, whereas added sugar is nothing but empty calories.
Therefore, it’s healthy to keep fruits in your diet. When it comes to the other foods you should eliminate, you have the choice to sweeten your food in other ways.
10 simple ways to sweeten your favorite foods without sugar or sugar substitutes
Though sugar substitutes are sugar-free, they come with other potential problems. Most troubling is the fact that artificial sweeteners can serve the same role as sugar: making artificially flavored foods – many of which lack nutrition – a more attractive option.
By using natural foods to sweeten your favorite meals, you can boost nutrition and support your weight loss goals. Some of the best options to sweeten your meals while adding flavor include:
- Raw honey – honey is naturally sweet and has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Honey is the perfect flavor complement to many healthy dishes, meaning you won’t even miss the sugar.
- Salt – while too much salt can also be bad for your health, a small pinch will enhance sweetness, counterintuitive as that might seem. Salt is particularly complementary on fresh fruit or in fruit smoothies.
- Organic milk or cream – milk and cream contain lactose, another naturally occurring sugar. This is perfect in coffee, stews, and many other recipes.
- Carrots – carrots are naturally sweet and add a healthy dose of vitamin A and beta carotene to your diet.
- Beets – beets are one of the sweetest plants available. You can add them to smoothies, desserts, or even soups to sweeten while adding an earthy flavor.
- Orange juice – eliminate hidden sugar in condiments by making your own salad dressing using orange juice instead of sugar. A simple, nutritious salad dressing combines olive oil, lemon juice, and orange juice for a sweet citrus twist!
- Caramelized onions – onions are high in sugar. When you cook them, you bring out their natural sweetness. This makes them a simple way to sweeten most of your cooked foods or add a sweet hint to your burgers or sandwiches. No condiments required!
- Maple syrup – most people associate maple syrup with pancakes, but you can use it for much more than that! Maple syrup is a natural way to sweeten baked goods or even sauces for stir frys and other dishes.
- Apples and applesauce (unsweetened) – apples and applesauce are a perfect way to sweeten dessert recipes. Whole apples contain fiber and other nutrients that make them a great substitute for sugar.
- Avocado – avocado is a perfect sweet addition to smoothies, salads, and other dishes. It also tastes great when combined with some vinegar and a hint of olive oil.
You can’t expect to maintain a sugar-free diet from a long-term perspective. As such, it’s important that you experiment with sugar alternatives so that you can determine which work best in all your favorite recipes.
Doing so is a simple way to keep your diet healthy without compromising on flavor. Most importantly, it’ll keep food interesting and tasty, making you less likely to cheat on your diet or go astray.
Which natural sweeteners do you find the most enticing? As a smart dieter, you can’t go wrong with any from the list above.