How to cut back on refined sugar

-Jan 17, Hannah Hargrave, Nutrition -

For many people sugar is a part of daily life. Whether it comes heaped in your tea, in your habitual piece of mid morning cake or hidden in foods you thought were healthy, the fact of the matter is sugar turns up everywhere. But the sweet stuff can be seriously detrimental to your diet and your health. So cutting down on refined sugar will have a huge impact on your overall wellbeing and the good news is it doesn’t have to be difficult. 

If you have a sweet tooth the thought of reducing your sugar intake can be a scary one, but you can do it without feeling deprived. While there’s no denying kicking the sugar habit isn’t always the easiest thing to do, it really doesn’t have to be completely life changing – but the results of it can be!

So if you want to lose weight, lessen your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, improve your skin and your health in general here are some tips to cutting back on refined sugar and looking to a healthier future. 

What is refined sugar?

Refined sugars are different to natural sugars, which are found in the likes of fruit and milk. Refined sugars have been processed and are commonly known as sucrose. They come from the sugar cane or sugar beet, where the sugar is extracted. You’re likely to find these sugars in the likes of cakes, cereals and white carbohydrates such as white pasta and bread. 

Why is too much sugar bad for you?

Since refined sugar is found in a lot of processed food, it’s not surprising that it negatively impacts our bodies. Here are just a few reasons eating too much sugar can be bad for your health. 

  • weight gain
  • increased risk of heart disease
  • increased risk of type 2 diabetes
  • premature ageing of the skin
  • decreased energy
  • increased risk of a fatty liver

Related: Glycation: How sugar causes wrinkles

How much sugar is too much?

It’s all very well saying you should cut down on sugar, but how do you know if you’re consuming too much?

More often than not it’s obvious that if you’re loading up with processed foods, biscuits, sweets and desserts you may be overdoing it on the sugar front. 

But if you’re unsure, then a guide is that if something has 22.5g or more of total sugar per 100g then it’s classed as high in sugar and if it’s 5g or less per 100g then it’s low in sugar. 

The UK government recommends adults consume no more than 30g (approximately seven sugar cubes) of free sugars – the sugars added to food and drink and that are found in the likes of honey, syrups and smoothies – per day.

Ways to cut back on refined sugar

Learn the names of other sugars

Sugar isn’t just called sugar. it hides behind a whole host of other names, from lactose, to glucose, fructose, dextrose, corn syrup, honey, fruit juice and so many more. 

Learn the other names for sugar and you’ll be more equipped to avoid it. 

Check food labels

Sugar hides in places you least expect it. You may think you’re reaching for a healthy jar of marinara sauce only to peek on the back of the jar and discover it’s loaded with sugar. Get into the habit of checking the labels of the foods you eat. You know you don’t need to worry about fresh fruit and vegetables, but you may be surprised at the amount of sugar in some of the packaged foods you consume. 

Do it gradually

Nobody said you have to go cold turkey on refined sugars. In fact you’re more likely to fail if you decide you are cutting them out completely. Start cutting down gradually instead. Reduce the sugar in your tea, limit your biscuits to one and make small changes to work your way towards your goal. 

Cut down on sugary drinks

All too often people look at what they’re eating and forget that many of the drinks they consume can be loaded with sugar. 

Even that fruit smoothie you whip up every morning may not be the best for you! 

Related: Are smoothies really healthy? An expert weights in

Try to replace soda’s, fruit juices and sweetened teas with healthier options like fruit infused water or flavoured teas. 

Also remember alcohol contains a lot of sugar – and empty calories too – so reduce your consumption and try swapping beer, wine or sugary cocktails for a vodka soda with a squeeze of lime.

Check your breakfast

Start your day the right way, and that means taking a little look at the foods you’re eating first thing. Many cereals and baked breakfast goods are high in sugar. So consider switching up your sweetened granola for porridge with a bit of natural honey to sweeten it. Or opt for some wholewheat cereal biscuits or bread (without a sugary spread on top) instead. You wouldn’t believe how much sugar you can cut from your diet per week just by switching up your breakfast choices. 

Related: An expert’s guide to the ultimate healthy breakfast

Cook from scratch

Unfortunately many ready-made sauces, marinades and even soups can be laden with sugar, but the good news is these sauces can be so easy to make from scratch when you know how. 

This would greatly reduce the amount of sugar in your diet and you may even find you love cooking. 

It doesn’t have to be time consuming to whip up a fresh meal and there’s plenty of guidance out there to creating quick, healthy and delicious foods which don’t have a ton of sugar. 

Make dessert a treat

If dessert is an every day occurrence it will be tough to stop all together – and you shouldn’t have to. But instead of making an after dinner treat a habit, make it a treat. Pick two days a week to have dessert and look forward to it. You’ll end up savouring it more and will likely notice you don’t miss having something sweet every single day. . 

Reduce sugar in cooking

Contrary to popular belief you can cut down on sugars you use in most cooking and baking and it won’t be detrimental to it’s taste. Plenty of recipes still work – in fact you may not even notice the difference – when you reduce the amount of sugar you’re cooking with. 

If you think you’re too far gone to do a U-turn on your sugar consumption, think again. Carolyn Hartz was a self-confessed sugar addict who, at 73 has never looked better, thanks to going sugar-free. She shared her secrets with Lumity.

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