Ever wonder why everyone’s all heart-eyed about sugar? The reason is simple: It tastes good. “It’s a comfort flavor for human beings,” Karmeen Kulkarni, director of global scientific affairs in diabetes care for Abbott, told Fox News. But beyond making your taste buds go wild, it doesn’t do much for your mood or energy — at least not in the long term. “It’s utilized by the body very quickly, so it gives you a quick burst of energy but then that goes away quickly too, so it doesn’t sustain the body very long,” Kulkarni said.
Add the fact that a sugar-rich diet increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, and it’s easy to see why the white stuff is currently enemy No. 1 in the health world. Ready to kick your habit? Arm yourself with these tips to boost your chances of success.
Ease into it
If you attempt to quit sugar cold turkey, you’ll be sidelined by withdrawal symptoms, like headaches and a lousy mood, so intense that you’ll be tempted to give up, Ashvini Mashru, MA, RD, LDN, told Fox News. Instead, Mashru recommended gradually cutting down your sugar intake. So if you normally drink three cans of soda a day, try weaning yourself off by having two and then one, she said. Expect it to take six to eight weeks for your body to adjust, Georgia Bellas, the food and recipes manager and nutritionist with I Quit Sugar, told Fox News.
Practice healthy habits
Make the detox process easier by planning properly, starting with clocking seven to eight hours of sleep a night. “When people don’t sleep, they get those [sugar] cravings,” Mashru said. Eat a healthy breakfast, ideally something that mixes good carbohydrates and protein, and always have a healthy snack on hand (think: an apple and nut butter) for those moments when hunger strikes, Mashru suggested.
Watch out for hidden sugars
The American Heart Association recommends men consume no more than 9 teaspoons of sugar a day and women have a maximum of 6 teaspoons. Just one candy bar puts you scarily close to that limit — no surprise there — but even seemingly healthy foods can be sneakily packed with sugar. Mashru said to watch out for salad dressings, granola, frozen meals, fruit juices and canned fruit. Be suspicious of low-fat dairy too. “What [people] don’t realize is that the fat removed is replaced with sugar to create the same flavor profile and texture,” Bellas said.
Find better replacements
The easiest way to avoid those added sugars is to make your own version of your favorite foods at home. For example, Mashru recommended whipping up your own salad dressing with vinegar, pepper and lime juice. Granola is also easy to DIY, but pay attention to what you’re putting into the recipe because even natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup can add unnecessary amounts of sugar. As for the fruit juices, canned fruit, and frozen meals? Avoid them altogether if you can. And don’t be afraid to reach for full-fat dairy, Bellas said.
Revel in the results of your sugar-free lifestyle
“In the short term, you can expect to have more energy and clearer skin, as well as weight loss,” said Bellas, adding that you’ll probably start seeing pounds drop off after just a few weeks. Reducing your sugar intake may also lessen the effects of serious health issues such as diabetes and high cholesterol.