It’s time to call sugar out for what it is: A heartbreaker, a big-tummy maker, and a health-food faker. I’m not talking about the sugar that’s called fructose and found in fruit, I’m talking about the refined fake sugar found in millions of products. Refined sugars such as high-fructose corn syrup sneak into everything from ketchup to yogurts.
As a society nowadays we are pretty dependant on sugar. It’s one of the biggest concerns contributing to an obesity problem in Britain. It’s one reason the government have been talking about a sugar tax and some countries have already imposed one. Some countries even charge double for a can of coke to try and reduce the national sugar intake.
Refined sugar can be found in so many day to day staples that you probably don’t even know you eating it. So even if you think you’re being healthy – you can be tricked into consuming too much sugar.
If you give added sugar up though, what happens?
It depends on how much sugar you are currently consuming. If you decided to go cold turkey from sugar you could experience withdrawal symptoms similar to caffeine. No, seriously. These include anxiety, restlessness and even depression. However, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.
Remember, there are healthy sugars in fruit etc. I do want to make it clear that being healthy and being suitable for weight loss is two different things. I recently posted an article explaining why healthy doesn’t always equal weight loss. So if your goal is weight loss, it’s best to keep away from fruits for the most part.
But what happens when you ditch added sugar?
Added sugar chronically raises insulin levels, which activates the sympathetic nervous system, increasing blood pressure and heart rate. Within a few weeks’ time, you might expect to see a 10% decrease in LDL cholesterol and a 20 to 30% decrease in triglycerides.
James J. DiNcolantonio
To help you quit the white stuff, I’ve rounded up 19 tips to give you an action plan and hopefully make things easier.
1. Avoid double agents, says Tasneem Bhatia, MD, former FDA commissioner and author of What Doctors Eat.
If you think your morning cereal is healthy, think again, a typical pack of quaker oats can contain 3 teaspoons of oats. You have to be careful of added sugar in many of the supermarket products you buy as sugar is added regularly to improve the taste. Take a look at the back of the pack and aim for less than 6g of sugar per serving.
Yogurts are very hit and miss, many of the typical store brought yogurts contain 50+ grams of sugar. “The sugar-filled stuff is candy in disguise,” she says. Although dairy has naturally occurring sugars in the form of lactose it’s topped up in yogurts with extra fruit containing fructose; If the pack states no added sugar it doesn’t mean it’s sugar free. If it doesn’t mention no added sugar it likely contains highly concentrated forms of sugar additives.
2. Love your liver, advises Frances Murchison, HHC, AADP, author of Heal Your Whole Body.
The liver does a lot more than just filter the blood and detox your body of toxic chemicals. It also helps deal with sugar.. “A healthy liver plays a key role in regulating blood sugar levels,” says Murchison. “High blood sugar levels can leave you hungry, unable to concentrate, confused, emotionally volatile—and absolutely craving sugar.”
3. Feed your good gut bacteria, suggests Elizabeth Lipski, PhD, CCN, CHN, author of Digestion Connection.
the bacteria that’s found in your gut plays a crucial role in managing your sugar cravings. “Honey is a good prebiotic food,” says Lipski. “Other foods with probiotics include asparagus, bananas, eggplant, garlic, kefir, sugar maple, and yogurt.” Our advice is to use natural & organic versions of these bacteria boosting foods.
4. Eat more chocolate as a way to stay satisfied, says Will Clower, PhD, author of Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight.
A little bit of chocolate can go a long way. “Teach your tastes to like the healthier options—like dark chocolate,” says Clower. “In neuroscience, this is called ‘gustatory habituation.’” It’s similar to switching to black coffee, initially it seems like the coffee tastes overly bitter but after a while your taste buds adjust and you learn to love it. I know i do!
Chocolate is an easy way to retrain your taste buds as the cocoa content is written on the pack. Start with 65% dark chocolate and work your way up to the 90% stuff. “As your preference moves toward darker chocolate, your tastes will be sculpted so that you won’t even want your former faves.” The cross over is amazing, you will no longer crave other sweet tasting foods.
5. Eat fat, says JJ Virgin, CNS, CHFS, author of JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet to help break the sugar cycle.
It’s a vicious cycle if you keep indulging in sugary treats. We have explained the highs and lows of sugar spikes in previous articles but the nature of a sugar addiction causes you to become more addicted. The more you have the more your body craves sugar.
Instead, satisfy your cravings with healthy fats. “Fat doesn’t raise your insulin levels,” says Virgin. “Insulin doesn’t acknowledge fat, and that’s just the way you want it.” We recommend having a portion of healthy fats with every meal to help manage your cravings. If you have no idea what constitutes as a fat or the correct portion then download our Ultimate Nutritional Cheat Sheet here!
6. Labels 101: Know the difference between marketing and nutrition, Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, professor at New York University and author of Eat Drink Vote advises.
“The food industry spends billions of dollars a year to encourage people to buy their products, but foods marketed as ‘healthy’ particularly encourage sales and, therefore, greater calorie intake,” says Nestle. It’s well known that people will consume much more of the food if it’s perceived as being healthier. This is called guilt free indulgence. Many people eat sugary treats in green packaging because clever marketing convinces those people that it’s healthier. (Nature Valley bars are a great example of this)
Over eating healthy foods can cause excess weight gain which I talked about in this article : Why Just “Eating Healthy” Isn’t The Solution To Fat Loss.
7. Labels 201: Do a quick scan of ingredient labels when making food purchases, says Pam Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, author of The Hunger Fix.
If you have trouble understanding what’s in the ingredients the chances are it’s been made over complicated for a reason, usually to mislead you in to thinking it’s healthy.. “If you find high-fructose corn syrup, then that container should be gone,” says Dr. Peeke. “Anything with sugar, rice syrup, corn syrup, or an -ose (fructose, sucrose) as one of the first three ingredients. Gone.”
8. Labels 301: Get more in-depth on ingredient labels, suggests Robert Lustig, MD, professor at the University of California-San Fransisco and host of the PBS special Sweet Revenge: Turning the Tables on Processed Food.
“There are two reasons that people don’t know how to read a label,” says Dr. Lustig. “First, there are 56 names for sugar, and the food industry uses all of them.
What they’ll often do is use different kinds of sugar specifically to lower the amount of any given one so that it goes further down the ingredient list.” It’s a sneaky trick that manufacturers use so that “sugar” isn’t the first thing people see. “You can have different sugars for ingredient number five, six, seven, eight and nine; but if you add them up, it’s number one.”
“The second problem is that they list total sugars, not added sugar.” Dr. Lustig explains this using yogurt: A plain yogurt will have about 7 grams of naturally occurring lactose. “It’s the fructose that matters, and that’s what’s in the added sugar,” he says. A fruit-flavored yogurt will have 19 grams of sugar, meaning it has 12 grams of added sugar. “It’s like eating a bowl of plain yogurt plus a bowl of ice cream.”
9. Figure out why you’re eating it, says Anne Alexander, author of The Sugar Smart Diet and creator of the Get Sugar Smart online course.
“You’re supposed to enjoy a chocolate chip cookie,” explains Alexander. “But if an out-of-control sweet tooth threatens your health, it’s likely that you overeat sweet foods for reasons other than pleasure. Two of the most common are stress relief and emotional comfort.” It’s important to understand what triggers your connection with sugar. If you can understand why you reach for sugar regularly you can begin to intervene.
We love this ted talk on how to break a habit.
10. Love yourself more than sugar is what Talia Fuhrman, author of Love Your Body, stresses.
It’s OK to forgive yourself for sugar slip-ups. “Self-oriented compassion is a key part of loving ourselves, inside and out,” says Fuhrman. “You may fight yourself on the urge to dive into an entire cheesecake and then feel guilty or shameful because you didn’t have the discipline to stop yourself from eating the whole thing—but the truth is, you can love yourself more than you love that quick hit of sugar.”
Low self-esteem can lead to full on junk food binges, so practice feeling positive about yourself and your efforts to avoid this pitfall.
11. Change your mindset, notes Michele Promaulayko, editor-in-chief of Yahoo! Health and author of 20 Pounds Younger.
If going cold turkey in to a diet hasn’t worked for you in the past then why would it be any different this time? Try allowing yourself a treat once in a while to prevent an all out failure. “Just because it’s called devil’s food cake doesn’t mean it’s evil,” says Promaulayko. “Labeling foods as “sometimes” for indulgences and “always” for the good stuff will keep you on task better than quitting cold turkey.”
12. Recognize if it’s sugar addiction, Kathleen DesMaisons, PhD, author of The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program and founder of Radiant Recovery, advises.
“Craving is always withdrawal,” says DesMaisons. When you blood sugar levels drop it causes cravings, this is a physiological response, not a mental weakness. Will power alone will not over come this “It’s not willpower. Most people think, ‘Oh it’s just that I’m weak willed,” but your bodies bio-chemistry will always win! “It’s actually the same brain chemistry as going off of heroin,” she says. By treating it as an addiction you can then build a plan to deal with it.
13. Reward yourself with exercise, David A. Kessler, MD, author of The End of Overeating suggests.
Exercise is self rewarding, try one of our Boot Camps and you will agree. “A substantial body of science tells us that exercise engages the same neural regions as other mood-enhancing rewards and produces similar chemical responses, says Dr. Kessler.
14. Stop drinking liquid sugar, notes Ellen Gustafson, cofounder of FEED and Food Tank and author of We the Eaters.
“For both adults and children, the largest source of added sugar in our diets is sweetened beverages, especially soda,” says Gustafson. “In fact, almost half of the added sugar we now consume comes from sweetened soda and energy, sports, and fruit drinks.” She points out that while the American Heart Association recommends people have no more than 6 to 9 teaspoons of sugar per day, a 330ml can ok coke has 10 teaspoons.
15. Ditch fruit juice is the recommendation of Harley Pasternak, MSc, author of 5 Pounds.
You get told fruit is healthy all the time, but what you don’t get told is that it’s full of sugar. “Containing neither protein, fat, nor fibre, fruit juice is calorically dense, provides no satiety, and receives 100 percent of its calories from sugar,” says Pasternak. Why not try switching your fruit juice for a green tea that also has tones of fat burning properties too.
Fruit doesn’t have to be a complete NO though. “Just compare a cup of unsweetened apple juice with a medium-sized apple,” says Pasternak. “The former contains 114 calories and zero fiber; the latter has only about 72 calories but boasts 3.5 grams of fiber.”
16. Don’t get too hungry, warns Jorge Cruise, author of Inches Off! Your Tummy.
“Most people make poor eating decisions when they are missing meals,” says Cruise. The best advice is to eat little and often to avoid going hungry. “Keep your cravings at bay with a healthy snack between regular full meals.” Having some nuts or seeds on hand helps tremendously when it comes to hunger cravings. We recommend our client have one of our diet protein shakes on hand in between meals. Protein helps keep hunger at bay and the diet shake also has green tea in to speed up weight loss (hint hint).
If you are looking for more help with nutrition, there is a great selection of free resources that our personal trainers have created and are available to download below.