8 Essential Tips to Eat Sugar-free + 3 Recipes and Schedule
Sugar-rich food products increase the risk of tooth decay, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and weight gain. Sugar-free food is good for health in that respect.
But even if you eat completely healthy, you still get sugars inside. In this article, I give you several tips to drastically reduce your daily sugar intake.
What you learn in this article is:
- What I really mean with sugar-free food and drinks
- Why sugar addiction is bad for your health
- How you can avoid being fooled inside the supermarket with 2 tips
- How many hiding names food manufacturers use for sugar (the number is higher than you think
- 3 Delicious sugar-free meal recipes
Why you want to eat sugar-free as much as possible
If you’ve ever tried to cut down on sugar, you know how incredibly difficult it can be. On some days it even seems impossible to eat sugar-free. Why is it that your brain has such problems with reducing sugar?
Sugar causes opiate-like effects and affects dopamine activity in the brain’s reward center. Sugar is admittedly not as addictive as drugs, but there is some resemblance (source).
Added sugar in food products is the worst ingredient in the modern Western diet. Sugar is preferably added in half of all foods in the supermarket. Added sugars have harmful effects on our metabolism and provide a greater risk of various diseases of the diseases (source).
Many inhabitants of Western countries consume enormous amounts of refined sugars, in some countries about 67 kg per year. That is on average more than 500 calories a day alone of sugar.
In the timeline below (source) you see that the consumption of sugar and the increase of obesity in the Western world are interrelated:
The exact amounts of sugar vary from research to research, but it is clear in any case that we eat more sugar than is good for us (source).
Several studies show that consuming large amounts of sugar can lead to serious metabolic disorders, including insulin resistance, bad cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and a disturbed blood sugar level (source, source).
In the video below the dangers of added sugars: “How sugar affects the brain – Nicole Avena”.
What I really mean with sugar-free food and drinks
Of course, total sugar-free life is nonsense, the main point is that you try to avoid fast sugars as much as possible and that is very different from being 100% sugar-free through life.
Something that is also virtually impossible.
The added, quick sugars in refined food are covered by simple carbohydrates and you want to reduce them. It would be absurd to demonize all foods with carbohydrates.
Multiple carbohydrates are full of nutrients and fiber and contribute to the supply of energy for the body and the brain. They also have a low glycemic index value which means that they are slowly broken down, causing the blood sugar level to rise and fall slowly.
Eating too many multiple carbohydrates is not wise if you want to lose weight. In that case, the low-carbohydrate diet can provide a solution. This diet is effective for weight loss and has countless health benefits (source, source).
Fast sugars, or simple carbohydrates, are found in sweet drinks, fruit juices, pastries, white bread, white pasta, white rice, etc. The daily eating of large amounts of simple carbohydrates can lead to overweight and type 2 diabetes (source, source).
But fast sugars also cause large peaks and deep valleys in blood sugar levels. We also call this the blood sugar roller coaster. These fluctuations can result in you quickly getting hungry and eating again (source).
Refined products are almost always deprived of vitamins, fibers and minerals. The simple carbohydrates only deliver calories. In other words, they are empty calories and that is one of the reasons why they are so unhealthy (source).
Tip # 1: read the nutritional value table carefully
Many food labels of products in the supermarket are advertised as healthy, while they are actually rare.
Think of attractive and healthy eye packs that are often full of vitamin claims.
Often, in refined foods, consciously small amounts of ingredients are processed that are considered to be healthy. Think of vitamins, minerals and omega 3 fatty acids. This is done purely for marketing reasons (clean-labeling) so that they can advertise on the packaging.
In most cases, the amounts of these healthy nutrients are negligible and do not compensate for the harmful substances and sugar-rich amounts in this type of products.
In this way, smart marketers can deceive parents who think they are making healthy choices for themselves and their children.
You realize how much sugar is added to foods when you view the food value list on the back of the packs. Unfortunately, most people do not even read the ingredient list of a food product before they make a purchase. But even for those who do, the food manufacturers still have ways to cover up the true content of their products.
Even products such as tomato sauce, crackers, herbs and salad dressing can be full of added sugars. Fortunately, manufacturers cannot ignore the requirements of food safety, and they are obliged to mention the ingredient with the largest amount first on the packaging.
- So if you see sugar somewhere in the front row, you know that the food product is full of sugar.
Keep in mind the different sugar names on the labels (see tip # 2). Manufacturers can divide the sugars into different sugar names. This gives a flattering picture when it comes to the total amount of sugars. You think that there is little sugar in it, while when you add the amounts of all sugar names together, you end up with a fair amount of sugar.
Tip # 2: remember the sugar hiding names
If you really want to reduce with added sugars in products, you will have to pay more attention when shopping. Manufacturers (especially of sugar-rich products) do everything within their power to fool the ignorant consumer.
When you read food labels, looking up the word sugar is no longer enough to eat sugar-free. Food products often stop different types of sugar in their products.
For example, a food product may contain sugar, sucrose and glucose-fructose syrup. They are all different names for what we actually still call sugar.
In this way, a healthy sounding ingredient that is most commonly used can be at the forefront. But if you added the amounts of these three different types of sugar together, sugar would be at the top.
I give you some examples of hidden names of sugar:
- Melt syrup
- Beetroot syrup
- Agave syrup
Did you know them all? Probably not.
- Read this article if you want to find out all, Hidden names of sugar.
Using so many different hidden names of sugar is a cunning way to mask the true amount of refined sugar in processed food. So always check whether a product contains more than one type of sugar.
If there are several types of sugar on the label, then that is an indication that the product is less healthy than you think.
Tip # 3: avoid sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners
The moment you want to drastically reduce your sugar intake, you are quickly inclined to switch to artificial sweeteners.
Replacing sugar for sweeteners is now happening to the big soft drink manufacturers.
Artificial sweeteners barely contain calories and give a sweet taste. You would think that it is the ideal solution to eat sugar-free.
Unfortunately, sugar substitutes and low-calorie sweeteners in light products are not a healthy solution. Because they are sweet, but do not have the calories, they confuse your body.
If you eat something that tastes sweet, your body expects to be able to get calories (energy) out of it. But artificial sugars contain barely calories, let alone essential nutrients that your body needs to function.
This can make you still suffer from feelings of hunger, while you have indeed eaten some food and drink (source). You think you are fooling your body, but actually, it is the other way around!
Some disconcerting research results for artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes:
- Research shows that drinking light soft drinks every day provides 67% more risk of type 2 diabetes (source).
- Women who consume light sodas drink larger amounts of soda than women who consume sugary sodas. According to the researchers, this is because artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes have an addictive effect (source).
According to the Nutrition Center, artificial sweeteners (such as Aspartame E951) are safe. They base their conclusion on scientific studies carried out by the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). The published studies of this non-profit organization have a questionable basis because they are funded by companies from the food industry.
The World Health Organization (WHO) had already strongly criticized the lobbying of ILSI and deleted the organization in 2006 from its list to participate in WHO activities.
As you can see, there is still a lot of uncertainty about what sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners do with your health. But are they also an obstacle to weight loss? Science says for the time being – not.
However, several randomized controlled trials (say the gold standard in terms of careful scientific research) conclude that artificial sweeteners can indeed help reduce body weight, fat mass and waist size (source, source).
Artificial sweet drinks can be an alternative for people who drink liters of regular soda every day and want to reduce their sugar intake. Choosing light soda will not, however, lead to automatic weight loss if you compensate for this by eating larger portions.
- If you notice that light soda increases your appetite considerably, it is better to keep drinking water (source).
Tip # 4: eat mainly proteins and healthy fats
In the last fifty years, the consumption of refined, or processed, carbohydrates has increased dramatically.
The natural sources of carbohydrates (such as vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds) are less and less reflected in the current dietary pattern of Western society.
This is a bad development because refined carbohydrates, in particular, cause your body to switch directly to sugar combustion instead of fat burning (source). These unhealthy carbohydrates are full of simple sugars and ensure that the blood sugar level rises quickly (and again falls rapidly so that you are hungry again).
The higher the blood sugar level peaks, the more insulin is produced. Insulin again ensures that you store more fat.
To stimulate fat burning and eat sugar-free it is important that you follow a protein-rich and low carbohydrate diet. With this diet, you get more protein and healthy fats and the carbohydrate intake is drastically limited.
Protein has been scientifically proven to be your friend in the fight against obesity.
Protein-rich food gives you a fuller feeling and makes you think less of food (source). The right fats are also important for a healthy diet. In particular, the omega 3 fatty acids contain many health benefits and suppress the feeling of hunger (source, source).
Tip # 5: watch what you drink
Avoiding sodas is a good idea to start with if you want to drink less added sugars, but that is not the only drink with lots of sugar.
Even drinks that are considered healthy (think of vitamin water or fruit juice) can contain many more sugars than the maximum daily amount of 25 grams of sugar that the World Health Organization recommends.
To give you an idea of how many sugar cubes are in certain drinks:
- Soft drink (cola, orange) – 10 sugar cubes
- Half Fat chocolate milk – 10 sugar cubes
- Orange juice 10 – sugar cubes
- Vitamin water – 8 sugar cubes
- Aquarius sports drink – 6.5 sugar cubes
- Soy drink nature – 2.5 sugar cubes
A sugar cube amounts to 4 grams of sugar. As you can see, many of these so-called ‘healthy drinks’ are full of sugars.
Tip # 6: choose food with a low glycemic load (GL)
One way of seeing what carbohydrate-rich foods do to your body is by looking at the absorption rate of carbohydrates in the blood.
Both the number of carbohydrates and the type of carbohydrates (simple or complex) affect the effect on blood glucose.
The glycemic index (GI) and the glycemic load (GL) can be a tool to know what foods do with your blood sugar level.
Foods with a low GI are absorbed more slowly in the blood and lead to a gradually rising blood sugar level, instead of large peaks.
The GI of, for example, sugar is 100.
As a criterion you can use the following:
Glycemic Index (GI)
Healthy: lower than 50
Average: between 51 and 69
Unhealthy: everything above 70 (fast sugars)
For example, the glycemic index of quinoa pieces is lower than brown rice and sweet potato is lower than potatoes, etc. Also in terms of nutrients quinoa wins from unpolished rice and sweet potatoes from normal potatoes.
Diet schedules consisting mainly of foods with a low GI appear to be particularly healthy for people with diabetes type 2 (source).
However, the glycemic index has a great disadvantage; no account is taken of the number of carbohydrates in a food product.
Obviously, some foods contain more carbohydrates than others.
Let’s say you choose foods based on the GI value. According to this reasoning, you should prefer a Twix chocolate bar (GI value of 44) above a watermelon (GI value of 75). That, of course, does not make sense. After all, per portion, the watermelon is much lower in calories and higher in essential nutrients than a Twix chocolate bar.
How is this possible? The answer is quite simple: the glycemic index does not compare realistic portions with each other. The GI value of foods is determined by giving subjects a quantity of food containing 50 grams of digestible carbohydrates, including starch and sugar.
This is the number of carbohydrates that is in about three-quarters of a Twix. However, you should eat 5 servings of watermelon to match that amount of carbohydrates.
So although eating lots of watermelons can make the blood sugar level peak, a single portion of watermelon has considerably less sugar than a chocolate bar.
Because the glycemic index does not take into account the portion size of food, the glycemic load has been created. The glycemic index says how high your blood sugar level can peak, the glycemic charge indicates how much it is. In this respect, the glycemic load is a better indicator than the glycemic index.
The GL is a measure of both the GI value and the number of carbohydrates in a portion.
The formula of the glycemic load is as follows:
Glycemic index x carbohydrates per 100 serving
Let’s take an apple of average size as an example: GI value = 38; carbohydrates per serving = 15 grams.
GL = 38 x 15 100
The glycemic load of a normal apple is 6
- A GL score of less than 10 is considered low, 11-19 is average and more than 20 is high.
The glycemic index of, for example, oats is relatively low, but the glycemic load is high, so you have a stable blood sugar as a result. In contrast to energy drinks that let your blood sugar levels go back and forth.
Tip # 7: gradually reduce your sugar intake
So you want to reduce sugar? Very well! But do not proceed too rigorously. This is unrealistic for most people with sugar addiction. Sugar is in fact everywhere and sugar works quite addictive. By stopping cold turkey with sugar, the temptation only gets bigger to give in to a sweet bite.
It is much better to slowly remove sugar from your diet. First map out how many grams of sugar you consume on average in a week and start with simple changes.
For example, if you add two sugar cubes to your cup of coffee, start with a sugar cube and the week after you switch to a sweet. With two cups of coffee per day, this saves 28 sugar cubes at the end of the week.
Tip # 8: ensure a good night’s sleep
Sleep deprivation can lead to poor appetite control and eating of sugary foods.
When we are tired, we are more inclined to grab sugar-rich products.
Think of a can of Red Bull energy drink to keep yourself awake. Your appetite is largely influenced by hormones that fluctuate throughout the day.
Various scientific studies show that people with sleep problems are 55% more likely to become obese, compared with people who get enough sleep (source).
For this reason, it is important that you take enough rest and take at least 7 hours of sleep per night. This is sufficient for most people to function properly.
Of course, the sleep requirement can vary per person. It depends mainly on your age. Babies, children and adolescents need more sleep on average than adults.
Do you have any good tips that help to reduce sugar? Let us know in a comment below!
3 delicious sugar-free diet recipes
Breakfast recipe # 1: boiled egg with avocado and buckwheat
What do you need:
- 1 egg
- A handful of sprout vegetables
- 1 tbsp fresh basil
- 60 gr buckwheat
- Black sesame seed
- Prepare the buckwheat according to the instructions on the package.
- Boil the egg.
- Cut half an avocado into slices.
- Grab a bowl and fill the bottom with buckwheat.
- Place the egg, avocado, basil and sprouts in the bowl.
- Garnish the whole with black sesame seeds.
Lunch recipe # 2: mozzarella with fried mushrooms and spinach
What do you need:
- 3 eggs
- 50 grams of mushrooms
- 25 grams of low-fat mozzarella
- 200 grams of finely chopped fresh spinach
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp flat parsley
- Beat the eggs in a bowl.
- Add the mushrooms, spinach and cheese.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the egg mixture.
- Continue stirring for 2 minutes.
- Garnish with parsley if necessary.
Dinner recipe # 3: turkey and quinoa in Thai style
What do you need:
- 300 grams of turkey
- 400 grams of sliced zucchini
- 1 medium onion
- can (200 ml) coconut milk
- 2-3 tablespoons Thai curry powder
- Sliced fresh chili
- 1 clove garlic grinded
- 80 grams of quinoa (uncooked)
- 30 grams of flaked almonds
- Heat an oiled pan and add turkey, onion and garlic.
- Stir and cook for 3-5 minutes until the turkey is brown.
- Add the zucchini and coconut milk, followed by the curry powder and chili. Adjust the amount to your own taste.
- Stir the ingredients together
- Add the dry quinoa and finally the sliced almonds.
- Stir again and simmer for 15 minutes or until the quinoa is boiled.
- Add water if necessary if the mixture becomes too dry.
The Bottom Line
The average American consumes more than twice the recommended maximum amount of added sugar per day.
Excess sugar in the diet can be incredibly harmful and has been linked to many chronic diseases, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
It is important to avoid obvious sources of sugar in your diet, such as desserts and sodas, but also to be aware of the hidden sugar in some common processed foods, including sauces, low-fat foods and so-called “healthy” snacks.
Choose a diet based on whole foods, rather than highly processed alternatives, to be fully in control of your sugar intake and not consume an excess amount of it.
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