So how do you stop eating sugar? Let’s dive in.
I was always a fan of sugar. When I was a little kid, my go-to snack at night was chocolate Breyer’s ice cream which I would dunk soft pretzels into. (The kind of soft pretzels that have those really big crystals of salt on top.) It was a staple in my house as a kid and I never thought twice about it until I was an adult. And I got a major toothache.
My Journey with Sugar
Long story short- my two front teeth are capped from an accident that involved dancing with my sister on a tile floor as a kid. We had fun but I smashed my two front teeth and needed dental work. As a teenager, I got the teeth capped, but I developed a toothache about 5 years in around one of my front teeth.
After going to the dentist and being told I needed a root canal, I thought my fate was sealed. Until I started researching root canals and decided that I would really like to avoid that from happening. So- I began to research holistic options. And that led me to SUGAR and evaluating my relationship with it.
Even after I went vegan 7 years ago, I still used a lot of sugar. I love baking and sugar was a go-to in some of my recipes. So deciding to quit cold turkey was not an easy feat. I CRAVED sugar. Every night, after I would get home from work and eat dinner- I needed a sweet fix. I was so in the habit of eating savory food and then wanting something sweet, that it was almost ingrained in me.
But the pain in my tooth was enough motivation to make the change and quit. And in the process of quitting- I learned A LOT. A lot about myself, a lot about my body, and a lot about the addictive power of sugar.
Because this was so many years ago, I can’t remember the intensity of quitting it cold turkey and whether I had sugar withdrawal symptoms. But from all the research I’ve done- it looks like it is 100% possible to go through gnarly withdrawals. But- just keep in mind that it is temporary and you can get through it.
Benefits of Quitting Refined Sugar
I used to have gnarly sugar cravings. Like stop what I’m doing, go to the kitchen, and search for something sweet-kinda cravings. But after detoxing from sugar, these cravings have stopped. I no longer am thinking about ice cream or cookies and get consumed with needing to eat something sweet. When I do make something sweet now with natural sugar, it doesn’t come from a need- it comes from a place that I want to make and enjoy some sort of plant food. And that feels so freaking good.
Tastebuds Have Reset
Fruit is now so sweet to me! And that is awesome because I can enjoy them in all their glory and really appreciate them. I remember at one point, fruit really wasn’t all that sweet to me. But now, my tastebuds have completely reset and changed since giving up sugar. Fruit tastes literally like nature’s candy.
No More Sugar Fixes
This is so empowering because I no longer am controlled by needing to get a sugar fix. That means that I decide when and if I want something sweet- and it’s not my addiction deciding for me.
Since I don’t rely on sugar for energy anymore- I’ve found that I have so much more of it now! My energy is fueled now by healthy habits and a whole foods plant-based diet. Gone are the crazy highs and lows of energy from refined sugar.
Skin Has Cleared Up
I used to have really bad cystic acne. I was so self-conscious about it. It mainly was on my lower jawline and cheekbones. And it drove me crazy. Since getting rid of sugar and most processed foods- my skin has totally cleared up. I no longer rely on using foundation every day to cover my skin and that feels awesome.
Bloat is Gone
I think this was a combination of sugar and salt from processed foods that really contributed to the bloating. I felt like I was constantly bloated. So much so that it was something I thought about, literally, almost every day. One beautiful thing about moving to a whole foods plant-based diet, rich in fiber and nutrients, is that the bloating has really near stopped. The rare days I have bloating are usually around the time when I travel and am not eating the way I regularly eat. But for the most part, the bloat is gone.
Future Health Benefits
Processed, refined sugar has been linked to so many modern-day health issues like obesity, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s Disease- all of which can drastically shorten the span of our life.
I lost my dad last two years ago to a heart attack. My dad always did exactly what he wanted to do and lived his life in his own way. I loved that about him, but I also know that his life was cut short because of some of the choices he made as far as his lifestyle.
When I was eating sugar, I felt like it was taking things away from my health- like I was making myself slower and wearing myself down. It feels like the opposite of that when I’m eating a whole foods plant-based diet. It has given me so many gifts- one of those being a feeling of overall health and wellbeing. I know I am giving myself a gift for the future by eating this way and that feels really freaking good.
I can’t reiterate this enough- I don’t feel like I gave anything up with sugar. Instead, I feel like I gained SO MUCH.
So, what is refined sugar?
Refined sugar is processed and the fiber and nutrients have been removed. It usually comes from sugar cane or beets, but then goes through an extraction and purification process leaving just the processed sugar.
Refined Sugar vs. Natural Sugar
Refined sugar is an empty-calorie food, which means it doesn’t have nutrients. With natural sugar foods- you are getting all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water.
Fiber helps to stabilize our blood glucose levels by slowing the rate of absorption of sugar into our bloodstream.
Ever notice how the more refined something is, usually the more you want of it? (Like those little freaking tubs of Ben & Jerry’s?) This is because our blood sugar spikes and then dips after eating the processed sugar. When it dips- we crave more sugar. This is why, if the sugar we are eating also has fiber, like, say from a banana, we don’t feel that crazy spike and dip. We don’t eat a banana and then crave 20 more bananas, right?
Sugars to Watch Out For
Sugar has a TON of different names that I’m sure you’ve noticed before. Cane sugar, invert sugar, cane juice, corn syrup- why so many different names for the white stuff? Well, it does come in different forms. But ultimately- companies are smart. They know that sugar has a bad rap so if they can change the name of it on a label, they have a better chance that someone who is trying to stay away from “sugar” will buy it.
- Agave Syrup
- Brown Sugar
- Cane Juice
- Cane Juice Crystal
- Cane Juice Solids
- Cane Sugar
- Carob Syrup
- Confectioner’s Sugar
- Corn Sugar
- Corn Syrup
- Corn Syrup Solids
- Crystallized Fructose
- Dehydrated Cane Juice
- Evaporated Cane Juice
- Evaporated Cane Syrup
- Evaporated Corn Syrup
- Fruit Juice Concentrate
- Glucose Fructose Syrup
- Glucose Syrup
- Grape Sugar
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Invert Sugar
- Malt Sugar
- Malt Syrup
- Organic Sugar
- Raw Sugar
- Rice Syrup
- Sorghum Syrup
- Sugar Beet Syrup
- White Sugar
- Yellow Sugar
Sugar Alcohols & Artificial Sweeteners:
I stay away from sugar alcohols. They look and taste like sugar and they have fewer calories. But the issue I have with them is that they are processed and I believe, can mess with our natural tastebuds.
Fruit is really sweet. But not compared to some chemically made sweeteners. When we start incorporating these into our life, our tastebuds can start to change and seek more and more sweetness. Some sugar alcohols to be aware of:
- Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
- Maltitol syrup
These I avoid altogether. There have been studies linking aspartame to cancer. And with many of them, the long-term effects are not known. Artificial Sugars include:
- Aspartame (Equal)
- Acesulfame potassium
- Aspartame-acesulfame salt
- Neotame (Newtame)
- Saccharin (Sweet’N Low)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
Sugars to Use Every Now and Then
I use these from time to time, maybe when I’m baking something and date paste isn’t really doing it. But I use them sparingly. I’ve found that they both kind of leave me craving more sweetness:
- Coconut Sugar – made from the coconut palm tree, this is granulated.
- Maple Syrup – has some awesome nutrients, so I’ll usually pick this over coconut sugar. I like date paste best though.
Sugars to Use and Enjoy
These are the sugars that I enjoy regularly and love.
- Fruit sugar – this comes in the form of fruit! So any kind of whole fruit is under this category. Also included: date paste, mashed bananas, and unsweetened applesauce. I love each of these for baking. I always have date syrup on hand too. It’s my favorite for baking. The thing I love most about fruit sugars is all the nutrients. It’s pure plant energy.
- Monkfruit – A natural sugar alternative- but be choosy with the kind you buy. You want monkfruit in it’s pure form rather than cut with other junk. It’s super sweet (like stevia), so a little goes a long way. Monkfruit is also known as a Buddha fruit. It’s made from the extract derived from the dried fruit from Asia.
- Stevia – I use this herb deritive from time to time. A word of caution though. Not all stevia is created equal! In fact, many manufacturer’s will cut stevia with other ingredients which completely cancels the reason for using stevia in the first place. You want pure, natural stevia. I’ll sometimes use this for sweetening drinks, but I try to go easy on it. I found that the more I use, the more I want, and I don’t really like that feeling of craving more sweet. I’ll use it and other times I don’t. If you find yourself craving more food or sweets after having stevia or monkfruit- I would skip using either of these to help reset your tastebuds.
How to Stop Eating Sugar:
So how do you stop eating sugar using a whole food plant-based lifestyle? You crowd it out with a diet rich in whole plant foods. You eat lots more fruits and vegetables and get rid of the processed stuff. You swap out using refined sugar with any of the healthier alternatives I mentioned above. And I promise you, it may be gnarly at first- but you’ll be so thankful you did it. Here’s my method for how to stop eating sugar:
- Decide – If this is something you really want to do, decide you’re going to quit, come up with an action plan, and don’t look back.
- Develop your action plan – Figure out where and when you consume refined sugar (use the guide below as a cheat sheet) and develop healthy more whole food plant-based swaps for yourself. Love chocolate chip cookies every night? Try this date-sweetened alternative. Have to have a piece of chocolate every night? Switch to a coconut sugar-sweetened chocolate. Realize that there’s refined sugar hanging out in your morning oatmeal? Make your own delicious overnight oats.
- Put the plan into place and don’t beat yourself up if you slip up. This can be a gnarly process, but you got it, warrior! Especially if this is something you really want for your long term health.
Your Go-To Guide for Spotting Refined Sugar:
Phew- that was a long one! So many sugar deets to cover. Below, I linked up some healthier sugar alternatives to have on hand.
See you later this week,
Find out How to Make Date Paste here
Watch the How I Gave Up Sugar Video here
Make the Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever here