The term “low-sugar lifestyle” seems to be on everyone’s tongues. But what does it really mean? It's a way of living that emphasizes reducing your consumption of added sugar and focusing on whole, nutrient-dense foods. But, instead of viewing this change as restrictive, think of it as an opportunity to add more flavor and joy to your meals. By embracing a low-sugar lifestyle, you can discover a wider range of tastes and flavors that you might have missed before.
Understand the Different Types of Sugars
There are two main types of sugars: refined sugar and natural sugars. Refined sugar is a processed form of sugar that's often added to processed foods to enhance their flavor. Natural sugars, on the other hand, are found in whole foods like fruits and dairy. Your body needs both types of sugars, but in different quantities. While refined sugar should be limited, natural sugars provide your body with essential nutrients and can be enjoyed in moderation.
Read Nutrition Labels
One of the keys to a low-sugar lifestyle is learning how to read nutrition labels. Added sugars are often listed under different names, such as corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and dextrose. To help you identify added sugars, look for words that end in "-ose" and "-itol." The recommended daily intake of added sugars is no more than 25 grams for women and 36 grams for men, according to the American Heart Association.
Avoid assuming that foods that aren't “sweet” do not contain sugar. You’d be surprised where added sugars are hiding. It's important to be mindful when choosing condiments and sauces, as many of them are packed with sugar, even in ketchup, salsa, marinara, and mustard. There are also surprising sugar sources in meals like sushi rice and polenta. In fact, about 74% of packaged foods have added sugar. Sugar is frequently used in breakfast bars, which claim to have real fruit and whole grains, with some containing 15 or more grams of added sugar. Checking the ingredient labels of the foods you eat is key in realizing how much sugar is hidden in various products, conditioning people of all ages to crave sugar without realizing it.
Reset Your Taste Buds
Have you ever noticed that the more sugar you eat, the more you crave it? That's because your taste buds can become accustomed to sweet tastes and require more and more sweetness to feel satisfied. Food scientists use this phenomenon to discover new ways to make food more pleasurable - it’s called the Bliss Point. But, with a little bit of patience and determination, you can reset your taste buds and discover a wider range of flavors beyond just sweet. It takes about 10 days to retrain your taste buds, and during that time, you might find that some foods that were once too sour or bitter become more enjoyable and nuanced.
Drink more water
This is a trick to help fight sugar cravings, and it's actually pretty simple: drink more water. People often confuse thirst with hunger, so drinking more water can make you feel fuller and help you avoid snacking on sugary foods. A 2016 study by An & McCaffrey found that people who drank more water also consumed less sugar. Sweetened drinks, like soda and sports drinks, are actually the biggest sources of added sugar in our diets, so try swapping them out for unsweetened drinks. If you're having trouble giving up sugary drinks altogether, start by reducing the amount you drink each week until you kick the habit.
Adopt an abundance mindset
Instead of feeling sad or deprived when giving up sugar, focus on all the delicious and nutritious foods and flavors you can add back into your diet. We tend to think of crave-able foods as sweet, salty, and fatty, which can limit the variety of foods we enjoy. But nutrient-dense whole foods paired with satisfying spices and oils can be just as flavorful and exciting, with countless recipe possibilities. By paying attention to the taste of your food and being mindful of your eating habits, you can train your body to crave healthy and balanced foods. Over time, your cravings for sugary foods will decrease, and you'll discover a wider range of flavors to enjoy.
A low-sugar lifestyle can bring more flavor, joy, and satisfaction to your life. Ready to learn more about adopting a low-sugar lifestyle? You may enjoy these articles: “Say Goodbye to Sugar Cravings: Just 10 Days for Your Taste Buds to Reset”, and “Our Favorite Low-Sugar Ingredients,”