Reducing sweeteners is a huge step towards healthier eating but it is just that, A huge step. It’s not easy to navigate because sugar and artificial sweeteners are in literally everything. Plus you know they taste good and make us happy. Trying to cut back feels like it should be easy but so often it isn’t, at least not for longer than a few days or a couple of weeks.
The average person in America consumes 76g of ADDED sugar per day which is 19 teaspoons and 306 extra calories. Again this is per day. This does not include the sugar that is found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and grains. There is a BIG difference between sugars naturally found in food and added sugar and artificial sweeteners. The added stuff is where the trouble is really found. Most people want to minimize added sugars to lose weight. While this is an easy target, it’s usually a short-lived goal and harder than it seems to follow long-term without additional strategies.
I think the first question that comes up is, beyond weight loss, why would someone want to reduce their added sugar and sweetener intake in the first place?
First, let’s talk about real sugar.
- 70g of real sugar suppresses the immune system. Remember the average person in America (kids usually MORE than this) consumes 76g of added sugar per day. So by eating the Standard American Diet of convenience food and sugar drinks instead of water, you’re suppressing your immune system making you much more like to get sick and stay sick longer.
- Contributes to inflammation in the body (acne, pain increase, etc). Even WebMD confirms this. Let’s talk about inflammation a bit. It will cause your arteries to stiffen. Joints to stiff and become painful. Increases your risk for autoimmune disease, heart disease, and stroke.
- Contributes to or even triggers depression. Excessive sugar intake contributes to depression via elevated systemic inflammation, and this inflammation also happens in the brain.
- Ages your skin faster. Excess sugar breaks down collagen in the skin. This is what keeps your skin elastic. By breaking down collagen you’re going to look older than you are pretty quickly. I have been told I have great skin and people often assume in my mid-20s when I’m in my late 30s. I honestly believe a lot of this is due to the fact that I eat well and exercise consistently.
- Contribute to developing dementia later in life. Dementia/Alzheimers is now being called type 3 diabetes. This is when your blood sugar is elevated but you’re not quite type 2 yet. Excessive sugar intake leads to excessive insulin. Insulin makes the cells absorb more sugar. This can cause damage to the cells in the brain leading to dementia as the years go on. Typically damage starts occurring 20 years before symptoms appear. So prevention goes a long long way.
- Depletes essential minerals like magnesium. Excess sugar intake leads to elevated insulin levels and this combo decreases magnesium absorption as well as causes the kidneys to excrete magnesium faster. Well, magnesium is a key to stabilizing blood sugar so then a vicious cycle has begun. Reducing sugar helps ensure your magnesium doesn’t get any more depleted and you’re able to absorb it from your food and supplements.
- This isn’t even the full list of the negative effects sugar has on the body. Just some of the ones I feel is important to know.
Zero-calorie sweeteners are not an alternative to consider, unfortunately. Here’s why
Reason number 1 is they actually make you eat more. Your body expects calories when it tastes something sweet. When you consume foods and drinks with artificial sweeteners your body actually gets more hungry and you’ll eat more calories than if you had consumed something with sugar. They also stimulate fat storage and weight gain. So that’s counterproductive.
Reason number 2 is they also destroy the microbiome balance in our gut. Artificial sweeteners were actually designed to be pesticides and some accidentally got in a scientist’s mouth. He said it tasted sweet. Others tasted it and agreed and now they are added to everything. WTF? Well the bugs that pesticides are designed to kill also happen to be in teh same type that live in our microbiome. So it kills off the helpful bacteria while allowing the harmful bacteria and fungus to grow wildly and thrive.
If you think it can’t get any worse, it can. They have been linked to a host of health problems including:
- decreasing red blood cells
- increases infertility in men and miscarriages in women
- bloating, cramping, other stomach issues
- migraines, seizures, vertigo, dizziness
- blurred vision
- rashes on the skin
- breathing problems
- muscle spasms
- swelling on your face
- sinus issues (feels like allergies or sinus infection)
- slurred speech
- hearing loss
- loss of taste
- red, itchy, swollen, watery eyes
- joint pain
- heart palpitations
- anxiety, depression, memory loss, and that “spaced-out” feeling
So yeah, artificial and zero-calorie sweeteners aren’t an alternative.
Next, we need to talk about where are sweeteners used:
So we know they are added to candy, pastries, soda, those yummy drinks from Starbucks, and such right? They are also added to foods including most drinks in a bottle, bread, rolls, buns, crackers, pretzels, low-fat milk, yogurt, salad dressings, and even salsa.
It’s in so many things. Learning where they all hide and minimizing them takes time.
I don’t necessarily recommend going into the pantry and throwing everything away. If you do this, you’ll feel like you have nothing to eat, starve for a while, and then likely binge on all of the things. This is a normal thing and everyone does it. Let’s go ahead and break this cycle
5 Strategies to Reduce Your Sugar Intake Without Feeling Deprived
I have 5 strategies to help you reduce your sugar intake without feeling deprived. Not feeling deprived is essential for it sticking and breaking the vicious cycle.
Make sure you’re getting at least 100g of protein per day.
Most adults do not consume 100g of protein per day and this is the bare minimum an adult should be consuming. I know what all the vegan propaganda says, you only need 44g of protein per day. That’s literally only to prevent death. It is NOT enough to thrive.
So first step is to make sure you’re getting 100g of protein per day. This will practically instantly reduce your sugar cravings. I’m a big fan of fast results, I’m sure many of you are too.
Start your day with fat, fiber, and protein.
So here’s why this works. Your blood sugar is highest in the morning. This is why they check your blood sugar in the morning before you eat. So if you break your overnight fast with sugar, you’re going to elevate that blood sugar even more. Then your body pumps out a bunch of insulin because sugar is so damaging to the body, then you get low blood sugar and eat sugar to bring it back up and the rollercoaster continues all day long.
By focusing on fat, fiber, and protein, you’re getting calories and nutrition while stabilizing your blood sugar all day long. You don’t get that rollercoaster we just talked about. A huge blood sugar bonus is if your breakfast has between 30-40g of protein. You’ll feel satiated and it helps keep your blood sugar from huge spikes and drops all day long.
This is another almost instant reduction in sugar cravings which is super fun.
Don’t go more than 4.5 hours between meals
Many of the doctors I partner with have started using Continuous Glucose Monitors. I freaking love these things. It actually makes my job easier because my clients see the results of eating the way I recommend immediately. It’s instant feedback and you know how food impacts your blood sugar. Love them.
Here’s what I’ve learned in the past couple of years since they became a popular tool, if you go more than 4.5 hours between eating, at least with 100% of my clients using CGM, your blood sugar starts to go wonky, cravings for sugar skyrocket, then the blood sugar rollercoaster begins for the rest of the day.
For me this is easy. I very rarely go longer than that between eating. However, I realize I’m the exception versus the norm. Many people can go like all day before eating but then will binge eat all night long. So by being intentional about eating every 4.5 hours, you’ll find your sugar cravings diminish naturally.
Stop drinking it
You will be amazed at how much sugar and artificial sweeteners you drink all day long, every single day. Tracking the amount of sweetener in your coffee, in soda, in bottled tea, in flavored water drinks, vitamin water, energy drinks…what else do people drink….well you know what I mean. When you start paying attention you’ll be amazed. So one way to reduce the amount of sweeteners, real or artificial, you consume in a day is to stop drinking them. Or at least be extremely selective.
Here are a few ideas:
Invest in coffee beans that taste good without anything in it. I went to a coffee expo a few years ago and did a coffee tasting. My mind was blown. There are coffee beans out there that make coffee that tastes absolutely amazing without anything added to it. Even almost sickeningly sweet…without anything other than coffee beans and water. I now buy coffee that tastes great without anything in it. I will share a link to the one I like and I’m not affiliated in any way, I just like their coffee and make zero commission.
Drink filtered water and add a pinch of salt.
People tell me regularly that they don’t like the taste of water. Well, tap water is pretty gross. So invest in a filter of some kind, there are different ones out there, but then what makes water taste good is the minerals in it. So add a pinch of real sea salt to your water. It really does improve the taste. The other thing you can do is flavor it with things like cucumber or lemon, or muddled strawberries and mint, things like that.
Make your own herbal tea and experiment with different flavors until you find some you like that require zero-added sweetener.
Enjoy treats that are as nourishing as possible and after dinner
One way I’ve adjusted the way I eat sweets is to give in when I have a craving. I enjoy what I’m craving. That being said, I try to make the most nutrient-dense version possible. So if I’m craving chocolate I’ll make my homemade no-cook fudge or chocolate avocado pudding. If I’m craving ice cream I’ll make my blender “nice” cream. But if I really want cookie dough or gummies, then I eat them. I just have them after dinner to help reduce the sugar spike.
Now, this is not a daily occurrence or even multiple times per week. If you’re having sugar cravings daily, that will require a bit of digging to get to the root of them. Once that is addressed the intense and daily sugar cravings diminish.
These 5 tried and true tips have been used by hundreds of clients with success. I know they’ll be successful for you as well.