Want To Stop Eating Sugar? Here’s How To Realistically Cut Back.

by Joseph K. Clark

I was on my second slice of king cake (of the day) when I realized that I might have a bit of a sugar problem. It wasn’t so much that I was worried about gaining weight, but all the sugar coursing through my veins left me feeling slumped over. With Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras, I was on a bit of a sugar bender with the holidays. Dunking the last bite into coffee, I thought to myself, “Man, I need to break up with sugar.” But do I really?

Not if you ask registered dietitian, cookbook author, and TV personality Ellie Krieger. “I think most of us would really benefit from reducing the amount of sugar in our diet. But that said, we really don’t have to cut it out completely,” Krieger said. “There’s no reason to go cold turkey on this situation.” (Of course, if you have a medical condition that requires you to closely monitor your sugar intake, you should continue to do so with the guidance of your doctor.)

Stop Eating Sugar

Sugar is maligned in our culture for claims that it causes hyperactivity or diabetes, but both assertions have been debunked on some level. (For example, sugar isn’t the only thing that causes diabetes. Too much sugar could put you at risk, but there are other factors at play, too.) Still, there is such a thing as too much sugar.

“When we consume carbohydrates, refined foods (like white pasta, white rice, and white bread) and chocolate or candy, that’s just sugar in there without protein, fiber or fat,” registered dietitian Lainey Younkin told HuffPost. Ingesting these foods causes a spike in blood sugar, which signals insulin released from your pancreas. Insulin carries sugar from your blood to cells for energy, but leftover sugar gets stored as fat. The carbohydrates in white bread can spike your blood sugar the same way a cookie can.

Let’s say you’re like me and focused on body positivity, but you still may feel sluggish when you eat too many sweets. So, whether your concern is weight loss or generally wanting to feel better, here are some ways to strike a better balance with sugar, according to the experts.

Understand the difference between natural and added sugar

The goal, Younkin said, is to stay under 25 grams of added sugar per day for women (36 grams for men), per the American Heart Association’s recommendation. The keyword is added.

Foods like fruit and yogurt have naturally occurring sugars, but our bodies process them differently because of their packaged nutrients. For example, an orange has fiber that our bodies break down, allowing the sugar to hit the body more slowly. The fiber also keeps us whole, so we’re likely to eat less. But when you drink orange juice, even if it’s made with fresh-squeezed oranges, the sugar is going to quickly hit the bloodstream. And without other nutrients present (besides vitamins), it’ll cause a spike followed by a crash. It also won’t sate your hunger. There are 21 grams of sugar in just 8 ounces of orange juice.

Added sugar is found in nearly every processed food, from ketchup to tomato sauce to your favorite potato chips. Shortcuts in the kitchen are totally valid in our energy-draining world, but it helps to be aware of where the sugar in your diet is hiding, so you can make more conscientious decisions when you choose to enjoy it.

Incorporate more whole foods into your diet

One of the best ways to cull added sugar is to focus on eating whole foods. No one is saying you have to resign yourself to a life of salads and cut fruit (unless that’s what you want!). Instead, take a look at your go-to recipes and see how you might be able to reduce the added sugar or swap out a sweetener with fresh fruit. Krieger does this with her mango barbecue sauce, which relies on pureed mango for sweetness and a little bit of molasses to deepen the flavor.

Andrea Mathis, the registered dietitian behind the blog Beautiful Eats and Things, feels similarly. “I love to add fruit to my pancake or muffin recipes. A lot of times, I will omit the sugar and just add in the fruit because the fruit is naturally sweet,” Mathis said.

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