Ten smart ways to cut down on sugar

Our taste buds have great adaptability.

We can start restricting the ingestion of food dense in sugar—if we cannot eliminate them.

Food swapping is a great option. One can limit the intake by gradually substituting artificial sugar with natural sugar presents in fruits and veggies. These small steps can play a tremendous role in alleviating sugar addiction.                                      

Diabetic and obese individuals are known to limit sugar consumption. In general, healthy individuals should also pay attention to their sugar intake.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), we are recommended to consume 25 grams of sugar per day.

We tend to pay attention to sugar content present in candies, ice cream and chocolates, but what about less obvious and commonly used foods. Have a quick glance at them.

FoodsSugar content (gm)
Low-Fat yoghurt (245gm)45
Barbecue (BBQ) sauce-One tablespoon4.5
Ketchup-One tablespoon4
Sports drinks(591 ml)37.9
Chocolate milk (230 ml)11.4
Granola (100 gm)20-35
Protein bar20
Vitamin water30
Breakfast cereals (34 gm)12

However, the average American consumes 22 teaspoons (110 gm) of added sugar per day, worrisome. Even if you burn calories in the gym or yoga, you still need to be mindful of what you are eating.

The good thing is if we cannot eliminate sugar altogether, we can avoid it for sure. Here are ten different simple ways we can adapt in our daily life to limit sugar intake in the diet, and you will not miss a thing, but feel better!

1. Infuse diet with adequate fiber

Nuts, Seeds, Whole grains are the most essential ways to blend fiber into our diet

Nuts

Almonds, pistachios, cashews, and peanuts are excellent sources of incorporating omega-3 fatty acid in our diet and good fiber. These crunchy dry fruits are a bundle of good fat, healthy micronutrients, fiber and protein. For instance, almond butter is full of fat and protein, which will keep one full for hours. 

Seeds

Chia, Pumpkin, Hemp flax seeds are naturally high in soluble fiber. They are also loaded with healthy fats, protein, and fiber, diminishing inflammation commonly observed with a high sugar diet. Moreover, they stabilize blood sugar level—keeps us satiated.

Coarse/whole grains

Having Buckwheat, oats, Millets (Pear, Finger), Corn, and Sorghum in our diet is a great way to incorporate insoluble fibers and good plant-based proteins. These fiber-dense grains stabilize blood sugar levels. Whole grains are actually complex carbs (full of fiber or low glycemic index), which means they will have slower digestion than simple carbs (no fiber or high glycemic index) which are digested very quickly. This eventually leads to a sudden rise in insulin and sugar or hunger craving within 2 hours after a meal. So, it’s a win situation with coarse grains beside avoiding insulin spike in the bloodstream. They are packed in tons of nutrients that further take care of your health, including weight loss. Consumption of coarse grains makes you feel more satiated. You tend to drink more water, which suppresses these phony (sugar) cravings.

It is worth considering a list of some of these foods based on their glycemic index (rating foods the way they influence blood sugar)

Low GI foods (20-49)Protein (gm)Fiber (gm)
Flax seeds (10 gm)1.92.8
Chia seeds (30 gm)411
Avocado (136 gm)2.59
Almonds (28 gm)64
Blackberries (140 gm)1.957
Pistachios (28 gm)63
Millet (174 gm)62.2
Wheat bran (29 gm)4.512.5
Broccoli (91 gm)2.52.4
Purple cabbage (89 gm)12
High GI foods(70-100)Protein (gm)Fiber (gm)
Corn flakes (42 gm)31
Cheerios (27 gm)1.51.7
Rice Krispies (30 gm)1.80.3
Soft drinks (368 gm)00
Baguette (1/4 loaf)60
Doughnuts (medium size)2.10.8
Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars (37 gm)1.72.6
Cookies (28.4 gm)1.70.5
Pretzels (28.4 gm)2.90.9
Potato chip (28.4 gm)21.4

2. Better sleep

In today’s world, getting a night of good sleep has become bliss.

However, we are over flooded with extensive intimidating information that our mind horses are always on the run in present times. In this madness, we need to take a pause, reassess and reevaluate ourselves.

Good sleep not only refreshes you but also saves you from loading yourself with cups of coffee, with which goes extra sugar. Besides, if you are relaxed and fresh, you will be more thoughtful and mindful of eating. Good restful sleep relaxes neurons and gives us clarity about food choices. Disturbed sleep will leave you more agitated, bewildered-not good at making choices, and one looks for escapism. Therefore, the sugar reward program comes into life, and you go into binge eating.

3. Mindfulness while eating

It’s a critical practice to be with oneself while eating food.

Think about it, we chase dreams, have a promising career—not only just to put food on our table. We need a good quality of life.

If we honor the process of how food has come to our table, then we will be more mindful and grateful for the same. Most of the time, we eat our food in front of a screen, hooked up to mobile or listening to music, or have lunch over a meeting, which is a really annoying habit.

By the time discussion is over, we do not know how much food we have consumed.

Studies have shown it takes 20 minutes for the brain to realize that we are full. Here comes the powerful role of practising a “Zen state “while eating. Be mindful of your eating gives you firm control over your fast-eating habit, unnecessary triggers or indulgences.

Did you even realize how many times we end up overeating after a stressful meeting or watching breaking chaotic news (as if the world is ending today)?

Mindful eating gives you space between thoughts. Then, eating becomes a volunteer act, not an automatic one. It does not take very long to eat food, only 10-15 minutes.

Chew your food correctly and rest the hands when food is in the mouth. Peaceful and intentional eating can do wonders to diminish sugar cravings. Still, this small change will help you lose oodles of weight.

4. Beware of tempting punchlines- read the small print!

Recently, we see at most of the utility stores “refuel yourself”.

Before buying these food items, just beware that they are loaded with tons of sugar. Before binging on these dry refuelling items, check what the ingredients are.

Read the small print; you will be surprised to see how much sugar they have in the form of high -fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, maltose, dextrose, caramel, etc. Intake of these food items makes you sugar addictive.

5. Spice things up!

Humans begin to love to fool ourselves, which is why we come up with diet soda-zero calories—the artificial sweetener in these soda screws up our neurons. Sugar receptors are overstimulated with the constant use of artificial sweetener.

One gradually develops an unhealthy attitude toward foods, eating more sugar (under the illusion of fewer calories) and finding palatable food unpalatable. It’s better to consume proper sugar than an artificial one.

However, most of the sugar intake is through sipping coffee or tea. We can try adding cinnamon to them. Researchers have shown cinnamon is effective in reducing insulin spikes and sugar cravings. Dash of cinnamon adds tons of flavor.

Likewise, swapping salt with black pepper reduces excessive salt intake, which is another culprit in producing sugar craving. Consider adding these spices to your diet for outstanding results.

Tomato ketchup, barbeque sauces are laced with sugar. One tablespoon of ketchup has 4 grams of sugar (one teaspoon). Instead, consider preparing your own condiments, including salad dressing. Try sugar-free options like –Indian chutney (mint, coriander), avocado, pesto, mustard sauce, hummus, and salsa.

All these serve as a great spread with multigrain bread. Companies tend to sneak sugar in salad dressing, which can be as simple as olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, black pepper, garlic, and lemon if prepared at home.

6. Eat more plant-based foods

In general, people consume less protein than required daily. Recommended dietary allowance for men and women are 48 and 56 grams.

Protein will build muscles and do wonders when it comes to weight loss and reducing sugar intake. Think about a plant-based diet. They are not only a deficit in calories and sugar but also enriched protein and fiber.

A plant-based diet comes with the added advantage of reducing obesity, hypertension. They are high in antioxidants and magnesium, which improves insulin sensitivity. 

By consuming more plant-based proteins, you will feel more satiated. Protein laced lentil soup is full of fiber and protein. A high protein diet keeps you fuller for an extended period and reduces hunger or sugar cravings.

7. Prepare your own meal

Try using your kitchen more often. Store your kitchen pantry with the right spices, pulses, coarse grains.

Moreover, try some simple recipes. It takes a maximum of 20 minutes to prepare a meal if you start from scratch. You will realize that sugar intake drops drastically once you start cooking your own meal.

Even if you are buying dinner or lunch from a high-end restaurant, which claims to be very transparent in its ingredients. Still, they tend to use some sauces that are laced with sugar (Chinese stir-fry).

Preparing your own meal is not therapeutic and gives you a fuller, happier and healthier life. Cooking your own meal does not only save you money, but it saves you from having those extra calories that come with added sugar. We know precisely what is in the food.

8. Fruits as a sugar substitute

We understand it’s not easy to give up sugar all of a sudden. If one has a habit of adding sugar to oatmeal or smoothies.

Banana is an excellent option for the same. It contains potassium, which is good for the kidney and has 10 grams of natural sugar with fiber and more than 100 calories. Try eating a banana, and you will find sugar craving just disappeared.

We can think about other healthy options like try honey and agave nectar as sugar substitutes. Agave nectar has recently become a trendy table sugar substitute. It is prepared with plant juice-filtered, heated and concentrated. It is one and half time sweeter than sugar (same sweetness in less amount). It goes very well with porridge, coffee, and baking. 

9. Monitor your supplements (micronutrients and vitamins)

Have you wondered sometimes, even after drinking plenty of water, loading your stomach with enough proteins-you still feels hungry, maybe you need extra help from outside in the form of supplements? These wonderful tiny molecules can help your brain function correctly, allowing us to differentiate clearly whether we are actually hungry or craving something sugary.

One should carefully try to fortifying their diets with them or taking as supplements (multiple brands are available over the counter) to control sugar cravings. Magnesium, zinc, L-glutamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid, D-phenylalanine and chromium picolinate helps in quenching sugar cravings.

They regulate insulin and sugar metabolism and their levels. Their deficiency can make you eat more sugar, with a magnesium deficiency can induce chocolate craving.

Similarly, the vitamin B complex helps in sugar metabolism, i.e. it helps us realize that we do not need to eat more than required. Fish oil and lipoic acid help stabilize blood sugar; the latter one is part of antioxidant supplements. It may be worth mentioning micronutrients like iron play a very important role in weight loss. Sadly, our food, especially fast food, lacks these micro-nutrients. Here is a great trick, start eating greens in every meal.

It can do wonders—one can consider Egg with spinach—for breakfast, Lettuce and kale salad—for Lunch, and lentil soup with spinach—for dinner.

Start using the iron skillet for cooking. It is another good option for having iron in our diet. Spinach is loaded with tons of micronutrients and vitamins. However, one should be careful with excessive iron consumption. Its overload leads to insulin resistance and diabetes [1].

10. Acknowledge your craving and be at peace

Sometimes your body really needs sugar. If it is not going even after trying all tricks and hacks. It’s ok to eat that slice of cake or cookie and done with it. Sometimes our body needs that, and please do not feel guilty about it. Remember, sugar does not kill you if you are insightful and mindful.

Nearly two-thirds of the American population is overweight. This journey to reduce weight and improve health remains incomplete without lowering sugar intake. Internet is flooded with a lot of information, and it can be very overwhelming. One-step at a time will help us conquer the weight loss milestone. Just watch what you eat and then think about what makes you happy in the long term.

No, it’s not sugar.

In the long run, fruits, veggies, and lots of fiber make us and our gut happy and healthy.

In turn, these small alterations in food habits metamorphosize you into the best version of yourself!.

Read more: Why is sugar addictive?

Written by Isha Sharma

Edited by Pankaj Kapahi, PhD

Reference:

  1. Swaminathan S et al 2007. The Role of Iron in Diabetes and Its Complications. Diabetes Care.30: 926-1933.

7 replies on “Ten smart ways to cut down on sugar”

  • As I read through your post, I started feeling more and more guiltily. Though I meal prep and try to prioritize healthy eating, your post showed me many places I can improve my sugar intake such as sleeping better.

  • As I get older, I increasingly recognize the importance of a healthy gut. I used to sprinkle chia seeds on foods before I ate them. Somehow, I forgot and haven’t purchased any for a while. It’s time to get back into that habit. Thank you for reminding me of the benefits! 😀

  • I especially like the advice on mindful eating and also not beating yourself up for craving sugar sometimes. I just quit alcohol six weeks ago and have been allowing myself to indulge in some sugar cravings as I get through that first. Next step now is to start looking at my diet, so this post was very timely for me.

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