You already know sugar is bad for you, right? Hardly anyone is gobbling up straight sugar anymore, and consumption of table sugar is at an all-time low.
That doesn't mean sugar still isn't a problem. Manufacturers have simply become craftier at disguising it, and you might be getting more in your diet than you realize. "Americans eat, on average, about 152 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of flour a year (almost a pound of sugar and flour per person per day!)" writes Dr. Mark Hyman. "These are actually pharmacologic doses of sugar and flour!"
If you're ready to get off the white-stuff bandwagon, there are some definite ways not to do it that can potentially stymie your efforts. I often see people make these seven mistakes when they give up sugar.
Switching to diet soda. Among their many problems, diet sodas can give you a supposed "free pass" to nose dive into high-sugar impact catastrophes. "Drinking diet soda may go hand in hand with indulging in extra helpings of sugar- and fat-laden foods like cookies or french fries, a new study suggests," writes Agata Blaszczak-Boxe. "Researchers found that on the days that the people in the study drank diet or sugar-free drinks, they consumed about 49 more calories from high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods -- such as ice cream, cookies, pastries and fries -- compared with the days the individuals did not drink diet beverages."
Going "sugar free." Don't think you're better off if you're eating the calorie-free stuff. Artiﬁcial sweeteners let you think you beat the system by eating something sweet without the calories, but your body isn't in on the trick. It sets its sugar metabolism machinery in motion and screams for glucose, which means you'll probably just end up eating more. Ditto for "no sugar added": processed foods with such claims often include artificial sweeteners, excessive amounts of sugar alcohol, and naturally occurring sugar. When in doubt, read those ingredients.
Eating low-glycemic. The glycemic index (GI) is a rating system designed to measure how much the food you eat affects your blood sugar levels. Pure glucose is ranked highest, at 100, and all other foods are measured accordingly. The higher its glycemic rating, the greater the effect a food will have on your blood sugar. The problem is that the GI makes fructose look like an angel. That's because fructose doesn't raise your blood sugar or insulin, so according to the GI it should be a great and healthy choice. But we know it's anything but. The glycemic load (GL) uses the glycemic index as its foundation but also accounts for serving size. It's better, but still oversimplifies a food's sugar impact. To really determine that, you want to look at fructose levels, nutrient density, ﬁber, and glycemic load. I've taken all these criteria into account and ranked foods as low-, medium-, or high-sugar impact in my Sugar Impact Diet.
Fearing fat. Despite its health halo, "fat free" often becomes code for high-sugar impact. "Most scientists still hold on to the dogma that fat makes you fat, that fat causes high cholesterol and that low fat is the way to go to live a long healthy life," writes Hyman. "Plenty of evidence proves otherwise. What if the fact that this conventional wisdom is completely wrong is what has actually caused our obesity epidemic?" If you don't believe us, tally up the sugar impact of "regular" cookies and other processed foods versus the fat-free varieties.
Overdoing fruit. Fruit is not an all-you-can-eat food, but small amounts of the right kind (berries and avocado are the best) can provide nutrients and fiber. Yet too much fruit can overload your liver with fructose, which becomes repackaged as triglycerides and finds a nice home around your midsection. "Many people who eat large amounts of fruit are not convinced that fruit can be dangerous," writes Dr. Joseph Mercola. "However many fruits have a large amount of fructose that can worsen insulin resistance if you consume too much of it."
Going cold turkey. Completely dumping sugar all at once becomes conventional wisdom in certain diet circles, but how's that worked for you so far? Exactly. There are a few things going cold turkey will do for you, and losing weight isn't one of them. Instead, you'll be shaky, irritable, lethargic, starving, and craving sugar -- not the outcome we're after. Instead, I want you to gradually taper off sugar, which you'll do in increments (three cycles, to be exact) on my Sugar Impact Diet.
Letting sneaky sugars sabotage you. You may be eating more sugar than you realize. Sneaky sources include balsamic vinaigrette dressings, marinara sauce, glazed meats, and fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt. Scrutinize ingredients closely, ask your server questions, and never assume any food is automatically low-sugar impact just because it doesn't taste sweet. My friend Jonathan Bailor lists 57 sneaky sugars to avoid here.
If you've gradually eliminated sugar from your diet, what strategy would you add to this list? What did you find most challenging about giving up high-sugar impact foods? Share your thoughts below.