What is a No-Sugar Diet?
The no-sugar diet, also known as a sugar-free diet, involves reducing or completely excluding simple carbohydrates and added sugar from your diet. First of all, the elimination of added sugar is a very healthy and life-transforming decision. Research shows that reducing sugar intake by even 20% could save many Americans from early death, disease, or disability, and save more than $10 billion in medical costs (6).
The no-sugar diet has become extremely popular in the past few years. For this reason, more and more people are looking for an effective way to get back on track, slim down and stay health-conscious. Most people are aware of the sweet danger of sugar, therefore they try to decrease their daily sugar intake, although many give up in the process.
Why cut out sugar?
The USDA now recommends less than 10% of total calories from added sugar according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. (7). A review in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that added sugar can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (1). Moreover, it can lead to such health conditions as:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- type 2 diabetes
- metabolic syndrome
- chronic inflammation
- dental plaque and cavity
Reducing sugar intake can promote weight loss and significantly decrease the possibility of contracting the abovementioned diseases. It’s highly recommended to replace foods that contain sugar with healthy options to get all the essential vitamins and minerals without going overboard on calories.
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Are no–sugar diets healthy?
Studies show that reducing sugar intake while following a healthy nutrition plan has plenty of health benefits. For instance, it can help people:
- lose weight and prevent obesity (3)
- have clearer skin and reduce the risk of skin cancer (2)
- prevent mood swings (9)
- reduce inflammation (4)
- reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (5)
What does a no–sugar diet do to your body?
Apart from the indicated health benefits, a low sugar diet can help:
- reduce hunger pangs and cravings
- boost energy levels
- enhance mental clarity
- improve appearance
- improve dental health
- increase longevity
- improve sleep
- reduce anxiety
How to start a no–sugar diet?
It’s quite hard to change your lifestyle in one day. That’s why it’s much better to start a diet gradually to get used to a new eating pattern. One of the biggest challenges people face being on a no sugar diet is a constant craving for unhealthy foods and sugar. Here are a few tips on how to start a no sugar diet correctly:
- First of all, try to limit your sugar consumption for the first few weeks instead of completely eliminating it from your diet. It will help you adapt to a new low-sugar lifestyle and will reduce your sugar cravings.
- Your diet can include natural sugars, like fruits, to get essential nutrients and fiber.
- Provided that you can’t resist the temptation and want to eat something sweet, do it when you are in a good mood.
- Make sure not to eat sugar when you are worn out, depressed or stressed out in order to avoid creating an emotional bond to sweets.
- Try to make more changes to your diet so as to reduce your sugar intake after the adaptation period.
Foods to avoid on no sugar diet:
- breakfast pastries (muffins, coffee cake)
- baked goods (cookies, cakes)
- ice cream and sorbet
- baked beans
- boxed rice
- frozen entrees
- grains (bread, rice, and pasta)
- processed foods
- anything with added sugar on the nutrition facts label or sugar listed in the ingredients list
Drinks to avoid:
- fruit juices
- flavored coffee, milk, tea
- hot chocolate
- tonic water
- any other sugar-sweetened beverage
Here are some tips on how to survive no sugar diet:
- Firstly, add fresh fruits or dried fruit to your cereal or oatmeal instead of adding sugar.
- Secondly, use extracts like almond, vanilla, orange or lemon instead of adding sugar.
- And finally, add spices like ginger or cinnamon to your foods instead of sugar.
Keep in mind:
- Read the food labels carefully, compare them and choose products with the lowest content of added sugars.
- Sugar is often measured in grams on labels, 4 g is equal to 1 teaspoon.
- Fruits come without the food label on the market, so look up the nutritional info online.
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Code names for sugar
Although it may seem to be really simple to eliminate all added sugar from your diet, manufacturers use secret code words for added sugar and it can be in foods you don’t expect it to be. It’s important to learn the code names for sugar to remove it from your diet. There are plenty of secret words for sugar, here are some of the most common ones:
- sugar cane
- corn sugar
- fruit concentrate
- juice of white grapes
- cane juice
- ethyl maltol
- syrups: maple, rice, corn, malt, golden, buttered syrups
- sugar: beet, brown, can, castor, coconut, date, grape, yellow, raw, palm, maple, powdered, invert sugar
What to eat on a no-sugar diet?
The USDA recommends eating a well-balanced diet including fruits, grains, legumes, whole grains, vegetables, protein, and dairy products. In addition, it’s advised to limit added sugar to no more than 10 % of daily calories (8).
It’s important to include whole foods into your ration to get all essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Many vegetables and foods like meats, fish, eggs, cheeses, avocados are sugar-free. Therefore, they are always a safe option when you are hungry.
Low-sugar diet food list (no added sugar)
Here is a short list of sugar-free foods that can be included in your diet:
- avocado, coconut, olive oils
- beef, chicken, pork
- green beans
- kelp noodles
- zucchini noodles
- bell pepper
- whole milk
No–sugar diet meal plan
- Breakfast: 3 eggs+Spinach
- Snack: Blueberries and raw almonds
- Lunch: Arugula+tuna + oil and vinegar
- Dinner: Veggies Stir Fry Steak
- Breakfast: Veggies + egg scramble
- Snack: Cucumber slices with guacamole dip
- Lunch: Roasted veggies over salad greens with hummus
- Dinner: Baked sweet potato topped with cheese & veggies
- Breakfast: Green smoothie
- Snack: Macadamia nuts
- Lunch: Avocado+shredded chicken
- Dinner: Salmon+greens
- Breakfast: Veggie Omelet
- Snack: Bulletproof Coffee
- Lunch: Hummus and cucumbers
- Dinner: Chicken +lettuce+wraps
- Breakfast: Hard-Boiled eggs
- Snack: apple+almond butter
- Lunch: Big veggie salad
- Dinner: Steak + ½ baked sweet potato
- Breakfast: green smoothie
- Snack: nuts
- Lunch: Tuna+cucumbers
- Dinner: Spinach+quinoa cooked in chicken broth
- Breakfast: Scrambled egg with bacon
- Snack: vegetables
- Lunch: Avocado, Quinoa, Tomatoes
- Dinner: Steak Lettuce wraps
- Drinks: Pure water, tea or coffee without added sugar
- Extra Snacks: raw veggies, larabars, nuts/seeds, or fruits
No sugar diet snacks
There is no need to starve yourself to lose weight, you can snack during the day to get the feeling of satiety. Choose snacks that are high in protein and/or fiber to help you feel full and satisfied. Here is a list of safe and healthy snacks:
- plain Greek yogurt
- peanut butter
- cereal with milk
- tuna fish
The symptoms of sugar withdrawal
Making drastic dietary changes can cause unpleasant symptoms. Sugar detox is not an exception. The symptoms may vary from person to person as it depends on how much sugar you used to consume.
Sugar withdrawal symptoms can last up to two weeks. However, an important point often overlooked is that the longer your body goes without sugar, the easier the adaptation period will be. Make sure to consult with your doctor before starting a diet. Especially in case of any underlying health conditions. Here is the list of possible sugar detox symptoms:
- sleep problems
- concentration problems
- sugar and junk food cravings
How to reduce the side effects?
Here are some insights on how to manage the sugar detox side effects and make the process easier:
- Eat more protein like fish, poultry, lean meat, high protein vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
- Increase your dietary fiber to reduce hunger pangs (vegetables, beans, and legumes).
- Drink plenty of pure water.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners as they encourage sugar cravings.
- Avoid stressful situations as the increase in sugar cravings.
- Do regular workouts it will help you to reduce stress and boost your energy level.
- Get enough sleep.
Does no–sugar diet include fruits?
Before starting a sugar-free diet, it’s important to decide whether you want to eliminate natural sugars that can occur in fruits and dairy products. Beware, complete elimination of fruits is not a healthy choice as they are rich in essential nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants that help our body ward off illness.
Does no–sugar diet help lose weight?
No-sugar diet promotes weight loss. Although this may be true, this diet is not a complete solution for weight loss. To achieve the weight loss goal, it’s important to lead a healthy lifestyle that includes a well-balanced nutrition plan and regular exercise. Along with the elimination of added sugar from your diet, it’s important to carefully track your daily calorie intake.
What’s the difference between natural and refined sugars?
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that is used by our body for energy. Natural sugars can be found in fruits and dairy products. Foods with natural sugar are important for our overall health as they provide essential nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins.
Usually, refined sugar can be hidden in packaged condiments, dips, salad dressings, deli meat, crackers, flavored yogurt, tomato sauce, and salad dressing. It comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, which are processed to extract the sugar. It’s important to limit your consumption of refined sugars as they can lead to severe health problems like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Not to mention, refined sugar leads to storage store of excess belly fat and weight gain.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults (2014, jamanetwork.com)
- Diet and Dermatology.The Role of Dietary Intervention in Skin Disease (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Dietary management of obesity: cornerstones of healthy eating patterns (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effect of Dietary Sugar Intake on Biomarkers of Subclinical Inflammation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Intervention Studies (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Factors Affecting Weight & Health (2018, niddk.nih.gov)
- Health and economic benefits of reducing sugar intake in the USA, including effects via non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a microsimulation model (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- How Sugars and Sweeteners Affect Your Health (2014, newsinhealth.nih.gov)
- Key Elements of Healthy Eating Patterns (2015, health.gov)
- Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)