Nutrition | How to quit sugar


via fashioned by love | Biba April 2006 (photography: Sabine Villiard, styling: Elisabetta Cavatorta)
Remember that wonderful Chanel's quote about removing one accessory before living the house? I thought of her advice as a conversation starter today - just like that accessory, sugar is the one element you definitely need to remove from your diet when you decide to venture into the world of healthy eating. 

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate, a saccharide. If you look into whole grains, vegetables, beans and legumes, you will find that the types of sugars they contain are mainly polysaccharides, whilst ripe fruit, honey, white sugar, refined grains and flours, soft drinks and alcohol are a source of mono- and disaccharides. 

Formed of only one or two molecules, the mono- and disaccharides are simple carbohydrates (glucose, fructose, galactose / lactose, sucrose, maltose and isomaltose) that give the food its sweet taste and can be rapidly absorbed into the blood stream to provide the body with energy. Except the fruit that also contains polysaccharides and raw honey known for its numerous health benefits, these foods don't don't carry any nutritional benefits, but easily raise the blood sugar and insulin levels causing problems.

On the other hand, fibre-rich whole foods formed of polysaccharides provide you with energy without all the drama of a sugar rush and also supply plenty of vitamins and minerals making them the nutrition super heroes. 

Ironically, our love of sugar is a natural reaction - sweetness is the very first taste sensation we experience when fed with lactose-rich breast milk and, as a result, find the sweet foods more appealing. However, the desire for specific foods, including unhealthy sugar-laden confectionary, develops between the birth and age of three whilst the taste buds are developing.

In other words, if the baby is fed with a whole-foods based diet and doesn't know the taste of processed foods and sweets, he or she will have no interest in those in the future or find it much easier to give up should they become a part of life at a later stage. On the other hand, kids regularly treated to a biscuit, chocolate or cereals (Coco Pops & Co.) are likely to develop a form of addiction to the stuff as adults.

Regardless of your childhood past don't ever give up the idea of living a sugar-free life. Your body is a very clever mechanism and can change - just be prepared to face the challenges. When ready, remember to treat the whole grains, beans and fruits as your allies and focus all your attention on the refined sources, processed foods and drinks - these are the "accessory you need to leave behind" for good. 


* Sugar may cause our brain to produce the same chemical as alcohol, heroin and cocaine. It is addictive - the more you eat, the more you want it. Why do you think they serve you bread and wine in a restaurant before the food? Or can't seem to produce a product without adding a dash of sugar? The answer is simple - the sugar will trigger cravings, increase your appetite and, as a result, the profit margins of both the restaurants and food companies.

* Sugar is the main reason for inflammation.

* Too much sugar in a diet can cause bacteria overgrowth in the gut resulting in poor digestion, constipation, bloating and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

* Any imbalance of sugar in the body can lead to cravings, mood swings, headaches, energy slumps, weight issues, dental problem, high triglyceride and cholesterol levels, diabetes, hormonal imbalances, aches, pains, premature ageing, liver disease, Alzheimer's and diabetes.

* According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition "sugar is the number one nutritional source of free radicals" - the harmful compounds that can create cell mutations and increase risk of cancer and heart disease.

* The average British woman adds about 4 tsp to her drinks and foods daily, whilst in the States the number is as high as 19.5 tsp per day. Whichever way you turn, it's not a pretty picture.

* Three quarters of the excess sugar come with processed foods including soups, sauces, ready meals, flavoured yoghurts, muesli bars and cereals sold as "healthy".

* Sugar has a multitude of names, so it is vital to check the food labels.

via fashioned by love | 80+ names for sugar and sugar substitutes | how to quit sugar
Note: raw honey, raw agave nectar, molasses, carob, raw coconut and rapadura sugars are perfectly fine in moderation (1-2 tsp per day in total). They haven't been stripped from minerals and vitamins and are known for their benefits for health. Simply remember to have them as a part of a meal, not on their own.

All whole fruit contains fructose, which may be listed on a food label, but not something you need to be concerned about. Lactose is found in dairy naturally - you need to look for added sugars instead. Although starch is a naturally-occuring polysaccharide, it is often added to a variety of foods manually and is processed - don't waste your time and money on those.


* Make a list of goals. Have an honest conversation with yourself. Ask why you want to live your life without sugar. Then picture what would happen if you fulfilled your dreams, how it would make you feel, what your life would be like. Write it all down and use as a visual reminder.

* Cook everything yourself - it is the easiest way to avoid added sugars and all kinds of other rubbish that can affect your health. If you are busy - plan ahead and prepare your meals in bulk.

* Find naturally sweet foods that you love and use them to curb your cravings (for example, you can have a piece of dark chocolate after a meal, or a few dates stuffed with walnuts, finish your dinner with a chocolate mousse or poached pear  - there's plenty of choice and fantastic recipes to try). Raw fruit&nut bars can be a lovely addition to your diet, too. Look out for Lärabar, Nakd, Pure, Raw Revolution or Beond ones.

* Have protein with every meal (your proteins are fish, poultry, meat, dairy, tofu, beans and nuts). Never eat carbohydrates on their own.

* Do not skip breakfast - skip the porridge or muesli and make it rich in protein instead. Go for eggs with a rye toast, a few veggies and sliced avocado, make an omelette or my favourite egg muffins, or have a natural goats yoghurt mixed with a baked apple and a handful of raw seeds and nuts.

* Schedule your meals at regular times every day and don't leave more than 5 hours between your breakfast, lunch and dinner - if you happen to run late, snack on a few raw almonds or walnuts.

* Reduce or avoid alcohol completely. If you have to have a glass of wine, have it with a meal.

* Say "No" to fizzy drinks and fruit juices - whole fruit is always better than its juiced fibre-free version.

* Do not sweeten any of your drinks - learn to enjoy the pure flavour of tea and coffee.

* And do not use artificial sweeteners to replace refined sugar. They may be calorie-free, but can cause serious health problems, from hyperactivity and depression to diabetes, excess weight and cancer.

* If you like sweet porridge, add a chopped Medjool date (yes, one is enough) at the beginning of the cooking proess and let it melt it for a delicious toffee-like flavour.

* If you bake or make desserts, choose raw honey, carob, raw agave nectar (never - syrup!), coconut or rapadura sugar and organic molasses. Some recipes can be made with mashed bananas, soaked dates, date syrup or apple puree. Although stevia can be a good option, the ones widely available are often a process kind, a derivative - sold as "natural stevia" it no longer has the benefits of the plant and has been linked to the genetic mutations.

* Switch to wholegrain sources of carbohydrates including brown rice, quinoa, oats, millet, rye and whole wheat.

* Limit your fruit intake to a maximum of 3 per day. You can replace one of those fresh fruits with a couple of dry ones (dates, plums, figs or apricots are perfect - just pick organic ones and check the label to make sure that don't contain sulphur dioxide or any added sugars).

* Essential fatty acids, Omega 3 and 6, play a very important role in blood sugar balance - find them in wild salmon and trout, avocados, walnuts, EV olive oil, hempseed oil and seeds.

* Also top up your chromium levels by eating some broccoli, oats, green beans, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, eggs and nuts regularly.

* Add 1/2 tsp cinnamon to your meals and drinks daily.

* Make green tea the hot beverage of your choice (do not use fruit-flavoured varieties and do not add any sugar/sweeteners to it).

* Reduce coffee to 1 cup per day and avoid any other source of caffeine (a little chocolate and green/black tea are fine).

* Stay active - any form of exercise including tidying up the house or walking makes your cells more sensitive to insulin meaning fewer sugar spikes.

* Do not compromise on sleep and avoid stress, both physical and emotional, to ensure that your cortisol levels remain balanced - high levels of cortisol over the long periods of time lead to increased blood sugar levels and insulin resistance.

* Stay strong for 30 days - this is roughly the time your taste buds and body need to get used to the new sugar-free life. After the initial period you will be able to enjoy an occasional dessert without causing problems - as long as you choose the best quality ones, ideally made by you, and have them once every 7-10 days. And be prepared for a surprise - you may not actually like the taste as much as you'd expect...

Photo source: Biba April 2006 (photography: Sabine Villiard, styling: Elisabetta Cavatorta)


  1. This is too ironic. Just yesterday, I was working on a paper (30 pages!) about nutrition, and I was focusing on mono-, di-, and polysaccharides! Yes, these rare definitely accessories I need to remove from my diet-- the mono and disaccharides, that is.

  2. This post is so timely! I'm working on cutting back on sugar, and it's surprising how much is added to food.

  3. I didn't know that about restaurants! Excellent post Natalia!