9 Tips to Help You Kick the Sugar Habit

cupcakes by Brooke Lark
by Brooke Lark

How much added sugar should we eat each day? The American Heart Association recommends that women eat only 30 grams (6 teaspoons) and men consume 45 grams (9 teaspoons) of added sugars per day for good health. However, here in the US, the average person eats over 108 grams—or 22 teaspoons—of added sugars per day.

If you think it might be time for you to detox from sugar, here are our top nine tips for kicking the habit:

  1. Avoid soda: When New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg moved to ban giant 32- and 64 ounce sodas in 2012, he sparked a firestorm of debate around personal choice versus the government’s role in protecting the common good. But scientists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) say the good mayor is onto something.

    “Carbonated soft drinks are the single biggest source of refined sugars in the American diet,” writes Dr. Michael Jacobson in the CSPI’s 2005 report, Liquid Candy: How Soft Drinks are Harming America’s Health. Because of sugar’s role in exacerbating US diabetes, obesity, and heart disease rates, the CSPI is urging the US Food and Drug Administration “to determine a safe level of added sugars for beverages as part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce Americans’ dangerously high sugar consumption.”
  2. Avoid juice: The fiber in fruit helps keep the fructose in check, allowing it to pass through your system without causing blood sugar levels to spike. Take out the fiber, and you’re left with fruit juice, which is mainly unhealthy fructose. Worse, many commercial brands add sugar, which is often genetically modified (GM).
  3. Eat whole, unprocessed foods: It’s the easiest way to avoid hidden sugars. Also,try reducing sugar in your recipes by one-third, suggests Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist and author of the book Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease (Hudson Street Press, 2013).
  4. Look at labels: Sugar can hide under various names on conventional processed food labels: fructose, maltodextrin, molasses, evaporated cane juice, sucrose, various syrups, and anything ending in “-ose.” To avoid GM sugars, make sure your food is labeled organic or Non-GMO Project Verified.
  5. Limit artificial sweeteners: Studies show that many, including the ubiquitous aspartame, may stimulate your appetite and cause you to crave sweets. If you use sweeteners, try one of the better options listed here.
  6. Eat breakfast: Dr. Lustig says that the surest way to reduce ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger, in your body is to eat a breakfast that includes protein and contains little or no carbohydrates and sweets.
  7. Exercise: Reducing stress through exercise can help keep you from stress-induced eating, which often takes the form of sugary or salty “comfort foods.”
  8. Drink green tea: While researchers are still debating whether green tea helps control blood sugar levels and aid in weight loss, Eastern medicine practitioners often swear by green tea’s ability to do just that. Green tea is packed with antioxidants, so it can’t hurt to drink more, and it might help.
  9. Power through: Most experts agree that it takes anywhere from five to seven days of healthy, clean eating to detox from sugar. So brace yourself to deal with the fallout from going sugar-lite or sugar-free for at least a week; after that, your sugar cravings should subside, and you can sit back and enjoy the healthy food you’re putting into your body instead.
From Green American Magazine Issue