Categories: Healthy Eating

The huge health benefits of cutting out sugar – a sugar free diet

Why should you stop eating Sugar?

Obesity in the Western world is becoming a major health issue and one of the biggest culprits is sugar consumption. Over consumption of sugar means it’s essential we all start to look into ways of cutting out sugar using a healthy sugar-free diet plan.

“Free sugars” are the sugars being over consumed. Free Sugars are the additional sugars added to our foods and drinks and even found naturally in honey, unsweetened fruit drinks and syrups.

This over consumption and a more sedentary lifestyle is seen as one of the biggest contributors to current obesity issues, making is essential that we all look for the healthy food option.

Studies into sugar

Many studies have been carried out to conclusively clarify if a diet high in sugar, especially refined sugar, is responsible for the causes of obesity, tooth decay, dementia, a causal factor in the occurrence of diabetes, dementia, sugar addiction and cardiovascular disease.

The average consumption per year in the western world is 33.1kg but these studies have remained fairly inconclusive due to the difficulty of finding a population that does not consume or is largely free from any sugar consumption.

Studies are mainly inconclusive and can even be deceptive depending largely on who carried them out. Be it independent sponsors or even funded by the sugar industry.

Sugar intake – recommendations

The World Health Organisation has a recommendation that free sugar consumption should be reduced to 10% of the total daily energy intake.

They also state that a reduction to less than 5% of energy intake brings additional health benefits especially in dental health.

The daily average energy consumption by an adult, due to sugars is 260 calories that equates to a large chunk of the recommended daily allowance of calories for an average healthy, physically active adult, which is 2000 for women and 2500 for men.

The UK government recommends that no more than 5% of the daily energy (calories) intake of an adult should be made up of free or added sugars, this is 30g of added sugar or seven sugar cubes.

For children aged 4 – 6 the figure is 19g and 24g for children aged 7 – 10.

The various labels for sugar

Sugar is the name given to the sweet, short chain, soluble carbohydrate that is found in the tissue of most plants but is extracted from the sugar beet and sugar cane plant as these have sufficient concentrations for extraction.

But in the food industry sugar is shown on labels under many different names such as :-

  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Sucrose
  • Glucose
  • Invert sugar
  • Corn sugar
  • Molasses
  • Agave syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Honey
  • Isoglucose
  • Levulose
  • Maltose

So when buying ready-made items be aware of what is on the label! The higher up the list of ingredients that sugar sits, the more that exists in the product.

Ingredients contained in the product are listed in order of weight, so the main ingredient will be listed first, so the lower down the list the sugar contents are the better.

A guide to how much sugar

As a guide, high sugar content is more that 22.5 grams of sugar per 100 grams of food and low is 1.5 grams per 100 grams of food.

So a good way of knowing what percentage of the product you are buying is sugar is to use the 100g section of the nutritional information. If the product states that it has 7g of sugar, then that product is 7% sugar.

Unfortunately as sugar is a food preserver most shop bought products will contain some sugar of sorts.

Be aware that not all healthy food products are as healthy as they say they are. Foods labelled low-fat or low in sugar can often contain lots of artificial sugars.

And products you may think are good for you like fruit juices and smoothies can actually contain more sugar per 100ml that some of the fizzy drinks brands on the market!

So make sure you control your portions, the smaller the better.

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Cutting out sugar – is a no sugar diet possible?

So what happens if we cut sugar from our diet altogether?

Firstly we would like to stress – always take medical advise before embarking on a dramatic change to a diet. If you need medical advise you MUST seek that from your doctor.

Cutting out sugar altogether from our daily diet can have dramatic effects on our bodies based on the number of years we have eaten sugar and the amount consumed.

Gaining a sugar-free diet is not easy to achieve but any steps you can take to get a little closer to that will benefit your health in the long run.

Withdrawal symptoms from a sugar-free diet

The possible withdrawal symptoms that can be experienced and which can vary in intensity and severity in the individual are:

Appetite: An increase in cravings for carbohydrates. Changes to the amount of food required could be more or could be less but this should balance out.

Anger: Irritability and anger could be experienced if you go “cold turkey” and withdraw sugar with no cutting down the amount consumed slowly. Dopamine the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure in the brain may be influenced by the cutting out of sugar, as the stimulation is not the same.

Sleep: Sleep can be affected in the withdrawal period due to the changes in energy levels and mood. Insomnia can result from a change to the sleep pattern. So consider relaxation exercise’s.

Shaking: The “cold turkey method of cutting sugar consumption can cause some people to experience “the shakes”. This symptom should subside as the body adjusts. It is experienced in the person who had a high sugar consumption before cutting sugar altogether.

Weight: A loss of weight is generally attributed to the removal of unhealthy foods and sugar rich drinks from the diet.

Headaches: The cause of headaches experienced when sugar is removed from the diet is the detox of the sugar from your body, as refined sugar is a toxin.

Mood: Mood can change when sugar is removed from your diet, minor depression, negativity and anxiety can be experienced as the body adjusts to the removal of sugar, but after a short time the brain will adjust.

Dizziness: Most people will not feel dizzy when sugar is removed from the diet, but in extreme case of withdrawal dizziness can be experienced.

Fatigue: As sugar can provide short-term bursts of energy when it is removed altogether a feeling of lethargy and general fatigue can be experienced in the first weeks of withdrawal. Once the first couple of weeks have passed energy levels should become normal.

Flu like symptoms: A low grade flu-like symptom is one of the more severe reactions to cutting out sugar from the diet, but everyone is different. If this is experienced it should subside after several days.

Cravings: One of the more obvious effects of removing sugar from the diet is the craving of it. These cravings can become intense and difficult to ignore. But by removing the sugar substances from sight and remaining strong and focused eventually the cravings will subside.

Withdrawal from sugar

There is no exact time for sugar withdrawal, it is dependent on the sensitivity of the person and the drop in dopamine levels and adjusting to doing without and craving sugar.

The length of the withdrawal period is variable for some they just feel better in a few days whilst others take up to a month to feel completely detoxified.

To help in this withdrawal period it is recommended to consume lean protein, fruits like blueberries and apples and for extra nutrients eat nuts.

If you have been a drinker of sugary soda/ energy drinks caffeine withdrawal could be fairly large.

Beginning to remove sugar from your diet

Removing sugar from a daily diet has been tried by a number of people and their experiences are on-line for you to read but here are a few of their findings…

After the initial detox, the majority of people found their cravings for the sweet stuff disappeared after 4 weeks. They also found…

  • They had clearer skin
  • Their mood stabilized
  • Sleep improved
  • Craving for sweet foods diminished
  • Loss of body fat
  • Levels of energy improved
  • All round improvement in well–being and happiness
  • General weight loss
  • Improvement in asthma condition
  • Eating patterns adjusted and the urge to continuously eat disappeared

There are lots of sites to be found on the internet and books on sugar free diets that provide helpful advice and recipes for cutting out sugar from your diet.

But one thing is for sure, the cutting down and eventual removal of free sugar from the diet can only be a good thing.

By removing one serving a day of a carbonated beverage a weight loss of 1.1lb in six months can be achieved. That might not sound like much but most people have more than one sugary drink a day.

Head towards a sugar-free diet (Free sugars)

The complete removal of sugar from the diet is dramatic and if you feel that this is not for you try a more subtle approach by following a simple and slow sugar-free diet plan like the one below:

  • Stop using shop bought jars of sauces and dressings and cook fresh sauces where you are in control of the ingredients
  • Go for water or lower fat milks or no added sugar drinks. Limit the unsweetened fruit juice (150ml a day) as this still contains high amounts of sugar
  • If your preference is a fizzy drink add sparkling water to fruit juice
  • Reduce the amount of sugar that you take in your tea or coffee
  • Same goes for your breakfast cereal, reduce the amount of sugar you add until you can cut it out altogether
  • Instead of honey or jam on your toast, slice a banana or use a low-fat cream cheese
  • In your recipes, half the amount of sugar, it works for most recipes
  • Buy and eat unsweetened yogurt
  • Check those labels, pick the ones with less added sugar
  • Pick whole grain cereals not the ones coated in sugar or honey
  • Choose the tinned fruit that is in juice and not the syrup ones
  • Reduce intake of high glycemic fruits such as bananas, grapes, cherries and mango

Sugar occurs naturally in fresh milk and fruit and these sugars do not need to be removed from our diets.

It is the free sugars (not to be confused with “total sugars” that you will see on food labels) that are added to cakes, biscuits, chocolate and some juice and fizzy drinks.

One can of cola contains up to nine cubes of added sugar.

Sugar is a carbohydrate found naturally in most foods, the main value of these foods is to provide energy but sugar (free sugar) is added to lots of foods and these contain lots of calories and very few nutrients so have little benefit to the diet, so choose wisely what you eat.

A quick roundup

For a quick & easy roundup, we’ve put together an infographic of this article, please feel free to share…

(click on image to see full size pdf)

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Share you experiences of quitting sugar

Have you tried cutting out sugar?  if so what was your experience? Have you got close to a sugar-free diet?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below…

Calm Happy Healthy

We exist to do all we can to help make life a richer, more inspiring and enjoyable experience, for you our reader. By aiming to help you realise that you have the power and ability to change what needs to be changed to improve your health, state of mind, diet, energy levels, reduce stress and do your bit to help look after the environment. Live a Calmer, Happier and Healthier life.

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