Welcome to our guide to reducing sugar in your diet. Want more like this? Check out all of our guides.
Today we’re talking sugar – how to eat less, why artificial sweeteners are wack, and how to satisfy your sweet tooth with whole foods. To clarify, we’re talking about sugar in the context of sweets, not in the context of all carbohydrates. You already know we think carbs are rad.
Let’s get another thing straight: nobody in this house is entirely quitting sugar anytime soon! The new Ben & Jerry’s almond milk ice cream holds a special place in our hearts, and Uncle Eddie’s cookies are what our dreams are made of. But with the average American eating (and drinking) 160 POUNDS of sugar per year, we can all benefit from cutting back a bit…
Is sugar addictive?
Yes! If you feel like you’re addicted to sweets, you probably are. Sugar triggers the same “feel good” part of the brain as drugs like heroin and cocaine. Continued exposure begins to desensitize this reaction, meaning we need a larger dose to get the same “high”. And so the addictive cycle begins… Also like drugs, when we try to eliminate sugar, we experience withdrawal symptoms and discomfort.
How to kick sugar
Do you know what we think is super annoying? When people suggest things like drinking of glass of water or going for a walk as solutions for beating a craving. Who wants to drink water when all you can think about is the leftover chocolate cake in the fridge?!
Forcing your brain to switch gears when you have a sugar craving certainly does work for some people, but it really comes down to retraining your taste buds – which comes down to changing your habits.
Out of sight, out of mind (work on changing habits)
If we have sweets in the house, we easily slip into a routine of dessert every single night. If we keep them out of the house, then that habit can’t form. We’d be lying if we told you that our post-dinner sugar cravings completely vanish. But if there’s no dessert to eat, it’s easier to settle for a cup of hibiscus tea or a bowl of frozen mango and move on.
Sweeten with whole foods (work on retraining your taste buds)
The added sugar in most sweets is processed and void of nutrients. The sugar found in whole foods like fruit comes beautifully packaged with all sorts of good stuff. If you’re working on retraining your taste buds it can take some time to re-sensitize your taste buds, but eventually whole foods will taste satisfyingly sweet (and other desserts will likely taste sickeningly sweet!). Our three favorite whole food sweeteners: dates, bananas, and molasses. They deliver sweetness AND nutrition. Check out some of our favorite whole food-sweetened desserts below.
What about “natural” sweeteners?
Although sweeteners like maple syrup, agave, and honey are more “natural” than table sugar, they’re still sugar – and they’re void of most nutrients. We use maple syrup occasionally, but do so knowing it’s an exception to our healthy diet.
What about sugar substitutes?
We recommend you stay far away from sweeteners like Splenda, Equal, and Sweet N’ Low. Even stevia, a sweetener that we used to use quite often, is coming into question in the research. These sugar substitutes are linked to diabetes, obesity, increased appetite, and increased cravings. They are “zero-calorie” because they pass through our stomach without being absorbed. This sounds like good news for keeping calories in check, but it’s very BAD news for our poor gut bacteria.