Reviewed by: Casey Sieden MS, RD, CDN, DCES
Cutting out sugar is usually the first piece of advice you’ll see when it comes to improving your diet and getting healthy— on some level, we all seem to know that sugar is something worth avoiding, even though it seems to be in everything! The truth is that it can be extremely difficult to cut out certain types of sugar, but the benefits can often outweigh the challenge. Here’s what to know about sugar and some easy steps you can take for your long-term health.
What is sugar? Why is sugar “bad?”
It’s important to avoid thinking that any food, including sugar, is “bad”. Rather, there are foods that might provide less nutrition than others, but that doesn’t mean that it needs to be removed from one’s diet forever— in fact, that’s likely not even possible! The concern with sugar really comes down to “added sugars”, which refers to the sugars that are not naturally occurring in a product, such as yogurt or milk. It has been researched and proven that high amounts of added sugars can lead to metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases. Products that contain added sugars are often easy to consume and can contribute not only more sugar, but added fats, sodium, and calories to your overall diet, so it’s good to limit consumption of added sugars. It’s recommended to limit added sugars to no more than 8 teaspoons for adult men and 6 teaspoons for adult women per day.
Is there “good” sugar?
Sugar is not inherently bad— in fact, your body needs sugar to work properly. Sugars are the building blocks of carbohydrates, which include foods such as grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Sugar in its more simple forms— for example, sucrose or fructose, or as honey, maple syrup, agave, high fructose corn syrup, and even brown rice syrup— are also found added to more processed foods such as bottled sauces or dressings, snack foods, or desserts and pastries.
What’s the best way to start cutting out sugar?
If you’re hoping to start reducing your added sugar intake, start by looking at the biggest sources in your regular diet. If you consume a few sugary beverages in your day, start by setting a goal to consume 1-2 fewer drinks per day, then slowly work your way down to zero sugary drinks and replace them with water or other non-sweetened drinks. If sweeter snack foods are your sugar of choice, identify other naturally sweet foods you can substitute them for. For example, instead of fruity, gummy candy, try having an apple with peanut butter or some berries with plain yogurt and cinnamon. The taste will likely be different at first, but remember that it takes repeated exposures to learn to like a new flavor and reminding yourself “why.” Motivation for reducing added sugars can be a powerful reminder and encouragement to continue making these positive behavior shifts.
Schedule an Appointment
The best way to begin cutting added sugar out of your diet and establish new healthy eating patterns is by meeting with our registered dietician. To schedule an appointment, we invite you to contact our New York City office by calling or filling out our online form.