For those of you who are regular readers, it might surprise you to find out I only recently began to consciously cut out sugar from my diet. To be fair, I was already about 75% there but I decided to take it to the next level, eliminating sugar from approximately 95% of my diet.
It was interesting to realize how many foods and drinks sneakily hide sugars that I hadn’t thought of before. Below you’ll find my own journey to almost completely eliminate sugars from my life, as well as the practical health benefits of doing so.
My Experience Eliminating Sugars
As mentioned, I was already accustomed to eliminating the obvious foods with large quantities of sugar in them. I refrained from most carbohydrates, except for small servings of root vegetables, and was aware of healthy substitutions. I began to identify extra sugars and fructose hiding by reading every single label when grocery shopping.
My next step was to focus on increasing my protein (and fat) intake at every meal.
A Typical Day Eating Sugar-Free
Soon I was able to find delicious foods that were gluten-free, sugar-free (or drastically reduced), and for the most part, dairy-free, with servings of protein and fat to keep me full.
A common meal plan for one day might look like this:
- Wake Up: Protein shake with flaxseed oil, collagen and leaky gut support powder
- Post-Workout/Breakfast: Turkey or chicken sausage or bacon with avocado, and (sometimes) gluten-free (GF) toast and butter. Or, I would eat GF waffles with frozen berries and butter. (Note: Sometimes turkey bacon has added sugars, too, which is why reading the label is so important. Also, I avoid maple syrup because those sugars add up fast, too.)
- Lunch: This often looks similar to something I would eat for dinner but in a smaller serving size. A protein plus serving of vegetables or soup is my go-to.
- Dinner: Again, this is commonly a protein (wild salmon, free-range chicken, or turkey) and roasted or steamed vegetables (sweet potato, squash and/or cauliflower or broccoli).
- Dessert/ Post-Dinner Snack: Personally, I love desserts so this took a lot of discipline for me. It’s especially important to avoid unnecessary sugars late at night, so if I found that I was hungry again, I would try to have a small serving of protein again. I also have made GF and sugar-free biscuits before to have on hand. Another idea is to make a mock cobbler with sugar-free, GF granola and frozen organic berries.
If you’ve tried the Keto diet before then this probably sounds very familiar. I don’t necessarily aim to be in ketosis, however, this low carb, high protein lifestyle is very similar – especially when I add in higher fat foods such as avocados, butter, and olive oil.
What I began to notice is that my waistline responded to the fluctuation to sugar and I was able to maintain the size I wanted without eating sugars. I also had more energy and focus throughout the day.
Eating a mostly sugar-free diet works for me. Here’s why it may work for you too…
Who Should Cut Out Sugar From Their Diet
It’s no secret that everyone would ultimately benefit from removing most of the refined sugar from processed foods, drinks, and high-carbohydrate packaged foods. That said, there are certain people at a higher risk for health complications that would benefit greatly.
- For those with diabetes or pre-diabetes (if your A1C is rising above a 5.7, you can get it below that by reducing sugar intake.)
- Those who notice increased weight gain, specifically in the midsection and for those between the ages of 50-70. (I’ve found that patients between 50-70 begin to have issues with the connection of their carbohydrates and metabolism, leading to weight gain, high cholesterol and/ or fatty liver.)
- Women who want to balance hormones, regulate their menstrual cycle, and improve fertility.
- Those with digestive issues such as bloating, gas, SIBO, or an imbalance of gut bacteria and/or yeast. As we’ve seen before, yeast loves sugar and both yeast and bacteria can be overfed by excess sugar causing bloating, IBS and discomfort.
- Those with sleep issues as we’ve seen that an imbalance of carbs and blood sugar levels affect how someone falls asleep – and how well they continue to sleep throughout the night.
- Anyone who has a high level of stress. Stress can lead to increased cortisol levels, which increases blood sugar levels more. Our bodies are trying to help us out with the stress by keeping sugar in our blood stream, which is great short term. With long term stress, it becomes a health issue.
Sugar even affects those with anxiety and mood fluctuations, skin rashes and joint pain. Plus, studies have shown us that blood sugar balance is essential for preventing heart disease, strokes, and even various forms of dementia.
Did you hear that? Reducing sugar can protect your brain!
The Addictive Cost of Sugar
Additionally, science proves that there is an addictive quality of sugar. This is due to the fact that when we eat sugar, opioids and dopamine are released. Dopamine – which is connected to the “reward circuit” in our brains – is essentially what makes experiencing a “high” seem worthwhile. And why people – regardless of the substance that initiates it – continue to seek it out.
In time, our bodies begin to crave sugar in excessive amounts, resulting in the binge-eating of sweets, treats, and high-sugar foods.
Unexpected Places Sugar Hides In Our Foods
Pastries, energy drinks, and candies are all obvious foods to avoid when when we want to cut out sugar from our diets. In fact, most people understand that if it’s sweet in taste, it likely has added sugars to it that are harmful to the body.
But what about the foods and drinks we don’t expect?
Sugar hides in:
- Most condiments and salad dressings
- Juices and premade drinks
- Many yogurts (which are commonly eaten because they are “healthy”)
- Dried fruits (which is why I eat frozen berries!)
- Premade spice mixes such as taco mix
- Soups and even some broths
- Pasta AND pasta sauces
- Canned fruits
- Alcohol and mixed drinks
Different Names for Sugars
As I noted before in my Sugar Challenge post, sugar comes in many disguises so be sure to look on the label not just for plain old “sugar” but also for:
- Beet sugar
- Brown sugar
- Brown rice syrup
- Cane sugar or juice
- Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
- Evaporated cane juice
- Maple syrup
How to Cut Out Sugar for Good
It isn’t easy to reduce or even cut out sugar – especially at first. In fact, it takes discipline, dedication, and time to figure out replacements and read the labels before purchasing. That said, once you get into the habit of this, it becomes easier to make smarter choices or plans to avoid temptation in the first place.
A sugar-free strategy includes:
- Making it known that you are avoiding sugar so you can have support from those around you.
- Bring items that you know you can eat (and enjoy) to events, parties, and potlucks.
- Consider all of your options before giving in or not eating entirely.
- Find substitutes for flavors you crave. For example, at parties people often have dishes of finger foods to nibble on: Olives are fantastic, while you should avoid candied nuts. You can also find foods you love without the sugars. There are many chocolate companies that are working hard to give chocolate-lovers the treats they crave, without the added sugars. Lily’s Sweets uses Stevia (a plant that is naturally sweet but NOT a form of sugar!) and HU Kitchen uses zero sugars (as well as being vegan, paleo, gluten-free, non-GMO, and kosher).
- Choose real, naturally sweet foods such as apples, carrots, and oranges – and pair them with proteins to help your body stay fuller longer.
- And most importantly, READ READ READ the labels when shopping. I urge you to turn to the label for EVERYTHING you pick up in the grocery store. You may be surprised to see how much sugar is lurking inside. The more frequently you do this, the easier it will be to find a grocery list that doesn’t contain sugar.
Benefits of Eliminating Sugar
It’s astonishing how quickly our body begins to react to the elimination of sugar. Not only will you begin to physically notice the difference in yourself, but you’ll also become more sensitive to added sugars (and probably not enjoy them!).
As mentioned above, people with diabetes, fertility concerns, stubborn weight gain, etc. will all see benefits. Additional benefits of a sugar-free diet include:
- Obesity prevention
- Balanced moods throughout the day
- Eliminating energy swings
- Clear skin
- Reduced inflammation
- Reduced GI issues
- Fewer migraines
- Clarity in thought and focus
- Less actual belly fat
And again, it protects our brain! How cool is that?
Work with Dr. Doni
What are your thoughts now? Does sugar still seem worth it or are you up for the challenge of reducing it? Or can you commit to cut out sugar from your diet entirely?
To get started you can follow the tips in this article. If you feel like you need more help, you may want to follow my Stress Remedy 21-day Program which includes daily reminders for integrating the tips we’ve covered here.
- 2:00 pm ET
- 6:30 pm ET
And if you’d like my help, one on one, to review your levels, and potentially check your cortisol levels, and other factors that may be influencing your blood sugar (gut bacteria, food sensitivities, and others), then you may apply for a consultation with me (and my team) here. Together we’ll come up with a plan to cut out sugar and its harmful effects!
You can do this – I know you can! I’ll be rooting for you the whole time!
Wellness wishes to you!
20th November 2019