It’s certainly far from breaking news that sugar is not healthy. It’s also not groundbreaking to hear that most Americans, and adults in many other countries where the diet consists of a lot of processed foods, consume much more added sugar than is recommended.
Sugar can be prevalent in the Western diet, as it is added to all sorts of food products, from designated sweets like candy, ice cream, cakes, cookies, muffins, and donuts, to other common daily foods like sweetened breakfast cereals, sauces, and marinades, applesauce, fruit snacks, and condiments.
So, given the pervasiveness of sugar in food products lining the grocery shelves, is it possible to follow a no sugar diet? What does a sugar-free diet look like?
In this article, we will discuss how to cut sugar out of your diet and follow a no sugar diet.
We will cover:
- What Is a No Sugar Diet?
- What Can You Eat On a No Sugar Diet?
- 5 Benefits Of a No Sugar Diet
- How to Do a No-Sugar Diet
Let’s dive in!
What Is a No Sugar Diet?
So, what exactly is a no sugar diet?
There isn’t a precise definition of a “no sugar diet” or “sugar free diet,” but most people who try to follow a no sugar diet are striving to eat no added sugars.
All fruits and nearly all vegetables contain some amounts of natural sugar, as do dairy products, legumes, and some other nutritious natural foods.
For people following a strict sugar free diet, even foods with natural sugar are typically minimized as much as possible.
That being said, plenty of people eating a sugar free diet do eat these types of foods at liberty and just focus on eliminating all sources of added sugars.
The primary motivation behind adopting a no sugar diet is to promote optimal health and reduce the risk of adverse health conditions that have been associated with a high sugar intake, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and dysfunction, tooth decay, and fatty liver disease.
What Can You Eat On a No Sugar Diet?
As mentioned, in most cases, a no sugar diet, particularly if it is a no sugar diet challenge, requires eliminating all sources of added sugar.
Added sugars also include any type of sweetener, even natural (honey, agave, molasses, brown rice syrup, date syrup), if it is an added ingredient to the food.
Natural sweeteners are also completely eliminated from the diet. For example, you cannot add honey to tea or maple syrup to sugar-free pancakes.
Instead, the focus should be on eating whole, natural foods like vegetables, lean proteins, eggs, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, low-fat dairy, and fruits.
Natural sugars will be found in many of these foods, so depending on how strict you want to be with your sugar free diet, you may also minimize certain foods high in naturally-occurring sugars, in particular fruits and sweet vegetables like peas, corn, sweet potato, winter squash, and dairy products such as milk and yogurt.
Because there are no specific rules to following a no sugar diet aside from the fact that you cannot consume added sugar, the actual foods that you eat on a sugar free diet can vary from individual to individual based on your preferences and how strict you want to be.
5 Benefits Of a No Sugar Diet
Because a high intake of added sugar has been associated with numerous adverse health effects, there are numerous benefits to trying a sugar free diet, or reducing your sugar intake in general, including the following:
#1: A No Sugar Diet Can Improve Blood Sugar Regulation
Diets high in simple sugars, such as the high-fructose corn syrup used in soda, baked goods, some fruit juices, and baked goods, have been associated with high blood sugar and insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance can increase the risk of pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and even cardiovascular disease, as it means that your cells have become less receptive and responsive to insulin in the bloodstream, which not only increases insulin production but also leads to elevated blood sugar levels.
Therefore, a no sugar diet has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity.
#2: A No Sugar Diet Can Retrain Your Taste Buds
Although some people are disciplined and dedicated enough to follow a sugar free diet for life, other people like to take on a no sugar diet challenge and cut out all sources of added sugar for 30 days or some other designated amount of time.
These no sugar diet challenges can be a great way to not only support weight loss and health but also reset the palate.
Essentially, the taste buds and brain get accustomed to a certain level of sweetness in the foods that we habitually eat.
If you are often eating fruit snacks, for example, a regular apple might not taste particularly sweet. If you usually eat sweetened breakfast cereal like Frosted Flakes or Honey Nut Cheerios, unsweetened grain cereals like regular Corn Flakes and plain Cheerios will taste unduly bland.
However, if you cut out all added sugar with a no sugar diet, you can retrain your taste buds and brain to detect sweetness at a lower level of actual sugar, essentially lowering the barometer by which your brain registers a sweet taste.
Even if you only take part in a 30-day sugar free diet challenge, this palate-resetting effect can help you move forward more easily with a lower-sugar diet because your taste buds no longer require such an extreme level of sugar to satisfy a hankering for sweetness.
#3: A No Sugar Diet Can Help You Stay Well Under the Sugar Intake Guidelines
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 recommends limiting the intake of added sugars to less than 10% of your total daily calories, yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average adult, teenager, and child in the United States consumes 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day.
Because there are 16 calories in a teaspoon of sugar (and about 4.2 grams), this average sugar intake works out to 272 calories.
A 2,000-calorie diet would entail eating a maximum of 200 calories from added sugars, which is about 12 teaspoons, and smaller individuals who consume fewer calories should cap their sugar intake at a lower level equivalent to no more than 10% of their daily caloric intake.
Naturally, a no sugar diet will completely eliminate your intake of added sugar, and the new eating habits you develop if you take on a 30-day no sugar challenge can translate to better eating even once the diet is over.
#4: A No Sugar Diet Can Support Weight Loss
Diets high in sugar are linked to weight gain, an increased risk of obesity, and metabolic dysfunction.
#5: A No Sugar Diet Can Improve Overall Health
Adopting a sugar-free diet can improve your overall health and reduce the risk of adverse health conditions associated with a high-sugar intake, such as dental cavities and periodontal disease, fatty liver disease, obesity, cardiovascular disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, metabolic syndrome and dysfunction.
How to Do a No-Sugar Diet
Following a no-sugar diet involves removing all sources of added sugar from your diet. You will need to look at the ingredient labels on the food products you eat with an eye for any type of sweetener.
Most food labels won’t have “sugar” as an ingredient, so you have to be a bit of a detective to determine if sugar is added.
Examples of sweeteners include brown rice syrup, date syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, honey, maltitol, maltodextrin, coconut sugar, fruit juice, malt syrup, and barley malt.
Any word that ends in -ose (sucrose, fructose, glucose, etc.) is likely a sugar, and a word that ends in -ol is a sugar alcohol (sorbitol, maltitol, erythritol, etc.).
You can also look at the nutrition facts panel and look at the sugar content. Many food labels now have “Added Sugars” as well. That number should be 0 grams.
It is usually best to eliminate artificial sweeteners as well.
Research surrounding the long-term safety and health implications of artificial sweeteners is still inconclusive, but evidence suggests that they can be deleterious to health, potentially causing weight gain, metabolic changes, and increasing the risk of certain cancers.
It can be difficult to suddenly jump from your typical way of eating to a no sugar diet, particularly if you tend to eat foods packed with added sugars and have a penchant for sweets.
However, taking on a 30-day no sugar diet challenge can be a motivating way to make the leap to a healthier way of eating even once the challenge is over.
You may also find that you do better transitioning slowly to a sugar free diet with a progressive sugar detox.