Frequently Asked Questions about Giving Up Sugar
In case you missed it, eating too much sugar is seriously harming your body and your mind. Aside from the visible effects of too much sugar, such as weight gain, acne, wrinkles and hair loss, there are some seriously bad things happening inside your body when you’re stuck on the sugar rollercoaster.
Yes, eating too much sugar can cause you to gain weight, and make it especially difficult to lose the extra bulge around your midsection. But have you considered the other dangerous effects sugar can have on your health?
Studies have found that excess sugar consumption may cause:
- High blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease
- Insulin resistance
- Compromised immune system
- Thyroid disorders
- Tooth decay
- Increased risk of cancer
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- Liver failure
- Increased levels of LDL (bad cholesterol), and decreased levels of HDL (good cholesterol)
Note that this isn’t a definitive list. There are more and more studies being carried out about the damaging effects of sugar, so watch this space.
Every body is unique and will respond differently to a sugar-free diet, but the most common benefits of giving up sugar include:
- Increased and more stable energy levels. That’s right, no more sugar highs and crashes, just higher energy levels consistently throughout the day.
- Losing weight without restrictive diets and low-fat foods. Swapping sugar for nourishing whole foods and including plenty of good fat in your diet won’t leave you feeling miserable and constantly hungry like most fad diets will, and is a much more realistic, long-term way to shift the weight for good.
- Clearing up your skin, without you spending a fortune on fancy skincare products.
- Decreasing your risk of developing potentially fatal health issues, such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and heart disease.
- Better, more stable moods.
- Better sleep.
Have you given up sugar and experienced benefits other than the ones listed above? We’d love to hear about it. Drop us a line on the Contact Us page.
Going cold turkey on the sweet stuff, by yourself, is one way to do it… But it’s definitely not the easiest way!
Our free 7 Day Sugar-Free Challenge is a great way to get started with your new sugar-free lifestyle. We’ll guide you through your first 7 days without sugar, provide you with access to our support forum where you can chat with others on the same journey and give you handy tips and tricks that will make giving up sugar a lot easier.
The World Health Organisation recommends that energy intake from free sugars be kept at or below 5% of your total energy intake, which is around 25g (or around 6 level teaspoons) if you are consuming 2000 calories per day.
For someone consuming around 1500 to 1700 calories per day, this equates to around 5 teaspoons, or 20g, of free sugars.
Free sugars are the sugars added to foods by the “manufacturer, cook or consumer, and can also be found in sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates“.
Basically, if you are adding a form of sugar, fruit juice or sweetener to your meal, or there is added sugar in your meal (always check the label!) then it counts towards your daily intake of sugar.
We covered this in a blog post a little while back, but the essence of it is that, once you have kicked your sugar addiction and broken free of your cravings, you can add unrefined sugars back into your diet, as long as you are mindful not to exceed the recommended daily intake of sugar on a regular basis.
Aside from clearing out your fridge and pantry to make sure there is nothing there to tempt you (as they say – out of sight, out of mind), there are several other ways to prevent and stop sugar cravings dead in their tracks:
- Call a friend (ideally one who is also sugar-free and understands your struggle). By the time you’ve finished your phone call, you’ll probably have forgotten what you were craving in the first place.
- Drink a cup of matcha, herbal tea, make a coconut milk turmeric latte (with unsweetened coconut milk!) or an unsweetened hot chocolate.
- You’ve probably heard this one before, but drink more water! At least 2-3L a day.
- If you love a cup of coffee, try adding some coconut oil to it. It has a mildly sweet taste but it’s sugar-free! The fat will also help fill you up. You could also try a spoonful of natural almond butter – but make sure it’s made of 100% almonds.
- Take a quick walk around the block to get some fresh air and sunshine.
- Make sure each day you’re filling up on real, low-GI food.
Sugar withdrawal symptoms vary significantly from person to person – your friend might not have any symptoms at all, whereas you might feel absolutely terrible. Some of the symptoms you might get include:
- Brain fog
- Muscle aches
Rest assured that these symptoms are only temporary and will pass in a few days!
We have a great selection of sugar-free recipes on our blog.
Additionally, our free 7 Day Sugar-Free Challenge includes some recipes, and all our challenge participants receive access to a support forum where they can share recipes with each other.
If you have a favourite cookbook or cooking magazine, think about substitutes you could make in the recipe to cut out refined sugar. For example, you could swap caster sugar for rice malt syrup, or tomato-based pasta sauce for tinned tomatoes.
Stay away from sugary cereals and fruity low-fat yoghurts, and instead choose a breakfast that has protein and good fats in it, to set you up for a good day ahead.
Some good breakfast examples are:
- A smoothie, made with 1/4 of an avocado, 1/2 a banana, some frozen berries, a clean protein powder and milk/mylk of your choice.
- Bacon and eggs (just don’t add tomato or BBQ sauce!)
- Avocado on toast
- Margherita pizza breakfast muffins
- Brain boosting matcha breakfast muffins
- Matcha pancakes with raspberry chocolate sauce
- Fried eggs and greens with tomato haloumi salsa
Make your own dark chocolate! We have a simple recipe for homemade sugar-free chocolate on our blog.
Or, if you can’t get your hands on some cacao butter, opt for a high (>85%) cacao chocolate block. You may find the taste bitter at first, especially if you are used to milk or white chocolate, but your tastebuds will adapt over time.
The short answer is, yes, milk does have sugar in it. However, the type of sugar found in milk is lactose, which is a type of sugar that you don’t have to cut out when giving up sugar.
Milk and yoghurt typically contain around 4.7g of lactose per 100g, which will appear under “sugars” on the nutritional panel. You don’t need to count lactose as part of your daily sugar intake, however you should be mindful that any sugar over about 5g per 100g, particularly in low-fat or flavoured dairy products, is likely to be added sugar, so check the ingredients list!
Giving up sugar doesn’t mean you have to give up fruit too. Although fruit contains sugar, in the form of fructose, it also contains fibre and other beneficial nutrients.
This isn’t a licence to go and eat all the fruit you want though… A few pieces a day is sufficient, as you can still get the your beneficial nutrients by eating vegetables and other unprocessed foods.
You should note that certain types of fruit are higher in fructose. Some high fructose fruits include:
- Dried fruit
Whether or not you choose to consumer artificial sweeteners when giving up sugar is entirely up to you. However, you should be warned that some artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose, aspartame and acesulfame potassium, are considered unsafe.
The use of artificial sweeteners can also mess with your tastebuds and leave you craving the sweet stuff, so we do suggest weaning yourself off them if possible!
Fresh fruit and vegetables are always a great, nutritious snack option. Where possible, you should try to choose whole food snacks, rather than processed or pre-packaged snacks that contain funny ingredients.
Some great snacks you can make at home are:
The key is making them excited about eating healthy food! You could try teaching them about new ingredients, such as herbs or spices, that they’ve never tried before, you could cut their food into cool shapes or you could get them in the kitchen to help you cook.
These are some of our sugar-free recipes that kids will love:
Refined sugar is highly processed and contains no nutritional value, and may also contain harmful chemicals, whereas unrefined sugar is closer to its natural state and still possesses some nutrients.
You should note that added unrefined sugars (i.e. those not naturally occurring in the food you are eating) should still be counted towards your daily intake of sugar.
Refined sugar can appear on the ingredients label under many guises – some of which seem deceptively innocent!
These are some common names that refined sugar appears under:
- High fructose corn syrup
- Brown sugar
- Cane sugar
- Caster sugar
- Evaporated cane juice
- Golden syrup
- Invert sugar
- Raw sugar
This isn’t a complete list, so it pays to do your research if you see any unfamiliar ingredients on the label.
Some commonly used unrefined sugars include the following:
- Coconut sugar
- Pure maple syrup (NOT maple flavoured syrup)
- Rice malt syrup
- Coconut nectar
- Dried fruit
Note that, while technically an unrefined sugar, agave nectar is dangerously high in fructose, so you will not find it in any recipes or products recommended by us.