A Low Sugar Diet is a diet that focuses on fighting the one thing that is really getting you fat; sugar. However, there is a bit more to it than that. A low sugar diet focuses on lowering your intake of both added and natural sugar, even though the first is clearly much more dangerous than the latter.
A Low sugar diet is manageable even if it’s a bit difficult at the beginning – but the same can be said about any other diet. The low-sugar diet promises plenty of health benefits, including of course, weight loss, which makes it a very promising option for anyone looking to live a healthier life.
In the lines below, I’ll try to break this diet down for you, simplify it, and give you everything you need in order to start your diet as quickly and as easily as possible. I’ll keep things simple but also realistic so your expectations are not too far off the mark.
Stick with me to the end of this article and you will find yourself more than ready to start the diet.
A Guide into The Low Sugar Diet
Before we get into the low sugar diet, we need to first take a moment to reflect on sugar. Is sugar really that bad? aren’t fats the ones that get you fat?
I’m going to try to keep this simple and easy:
Sugar is necessary for you, but you are eating too much of it, and too much of a good thing is always a bad thing, and too much bad sugar, in particular, is a very bad thing indeed.
According to the American Heart Association, the maximum recommended amount of added sugars you can eat in a day are 150 calories per day for men and 100 calories for women per day. That equates to 37.5 grams of added sugar per day for men and 25 grams for women.
Do you know how much the average american consume of added sugars every day? The Average american consume 71.4 grams of added sugars per day on average.
If this number doesn’t worry you, then you didn’t really get a feel for it. Let me put it another way; the average american consumes around 57 pounds of added sugar every year. This is way more than the maximum recommended, and this is very worrying indeed.
Why is this bad? Good question;
9 Reasons why consuming too much sugar is bad
- Sugar Causes Weight Gain
- Research has consistently shown that increased sugar consumption leads to weight gain and increased consumption of sweet foods and sugary beverages have been heavily linked to an increase in weight and risk of obesity.
- Sugar increases Risk of Heart Disease
- High-sugar diets have been associated with an increased risk of many heart diseases which are still the number one cause of death worldwide.
- Increases Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Science has shown that prolonged consumption of sugar will indeed drive your body’s resistance to insulin which will lead to the rise in blood sugar levels – significantly increasing the risk for diabetes.
- Sugar is linked to Acne
- Sugary foods are high on the glycemic index and will quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels. This will cause increased androgen secretion, inflammation, and oil production – and all three of these play a role in acne development.
- Linked to increased risk of Cancer
- Consuming excessive amounts of sugar can increase your risk of developing certain cancers. Many studies have shown that there is a clear link between the consumption of added sugars and some types of cancer.
- May Increase Risk of Depression
- Consuming sugar results in spikes in blood sugar and energy levels, and these blood sugar swings are linked to increased risks of depression. A study  of 8,000 people concluded that people men who consumed 67 grams of sugar or more were 23% more likely to develop depression than men who consumed less sugar.
- Accelerates Your Skin’s Aging
- Scientists suspect that advanced glycation (referred to as AGEs) are compounds that form from the reactions between sugars and protein in your body. Scientists highly suspect them to play a key role in skin aging. What this means is that it’s likely that a diet high in carbs and sugar can lead to premature aging of your skin.
- Drains Your Energy
- Foods that are high in added sugars can temper with your insulin and blood sugar levels, leading to short-lived spikes in energy levels, which are quickly followed by a sharp drop in energy levels.
- These fluctuations will make you feel as if you’re drained of energy all of a sudden and will urge you to consume even more sugars to make up for it.
- Linked to Increased Risk of Fatty Liver
- Scientists have linked a high intake of fructose to increased risk of fatty livers in numerous studies. The reason is that your liver is the only body organ that can break down fructose and turn it into energy. However, it can only convert so much fructose before it has to turn it into fat. Large amounts of added sugars can quickly overload your liver and lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
I think this makes it clear how consuming added sugars is really very bad for your health. Unfortunately, this very bad thing is something that has become so common in our modern culture that so many people have just made their peace with it.
Now that you know the problem, let’s learn about the solution;
What is the Low Sugar Diet?
The low sugar diet is a diet that involves significantly lowering one’s intake of foods with added sugars and/or sweeteners and foods with natural sugars as well.
A Low-sugar diet is different from a no-sugar diet in that it still allows a minimum of foods with natural sugars like fruits and vegetables because these foods contain fibers, vitamins, antioxidants, and vital nutrients your body can’t go without.
A Low-sugar diet involves lowering your sugar intake to a healthy minimum through a manageable food plan. This diet, as often diets do, works best when combined with an overall healthy and active lifestyle. When done, it will help you lose weight, reduce the risk of heart disease and bring in many other health benefits.
Low-Sugar Diet Foods
There is a simple guideline to follow on this diet; avoid added sugars and foods that have high Carbohydrates content. Eat foods that are natural and low on the glycemic index – meaning they release their energy more slowly in the body.
Low-Sugar Foods Simplified List
You can eat the following foods on the low-sugar diet;
- Green leafy vegetables
- Whole Grains
- Beans & Legumes
- Nuts and Seeds
- Lean Proteins
- Sweet Potatoes
- Fatty Fish
- Herbs and Spices
Don’t worry, we’ll get into much deeper details later on.
Foods to avoid on the low-sugar diet
You should eliminate the following foods from your diet:
- Foods with added and/or refined sugars
- Sugary drinks and beverages
- Packaged snack foods – even the salty ones
- White bread (and other things made with white flour)
- Fruits high on glycemic index
- Alcohol – keep it to a minimum if you can’t eliminate it altogether.
These two lists are enough for you to get a general idea of how you should be eating on the low-sugar diet, but you still need to learn a little bit more about what you can eat before making a meal plan. So, let’s take a minute to dig a bit deeper.
If you’re interested in a low-carb diet, check out our low-carb diet guide here.
Foods you can eat
Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are your best friends and safest bets in this diet – as they are in most other diets. They are very rich in nutrients and vitamins while also having the smallest impact on your blood sugar levels.
Your best options are Spinach, Kale, Broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, and collard greens. It’s preferred that you get them fresh whenever possible.
Fresh vegetables should make for a significant percentage of your plates, some say one third, and others say half. I would say try to at least have something green on your plate in every meal. Consistency is the most important thing.
Fruits are nature candy, and they are perfectly allowed on the low-sugar diet as long as you keep it to a reasonable amount. Fruits contain naturally occurring sugars which are fine and necessary for your body, and they are not nearly as harmful as the added sugars you find in processed foods.
Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit are your best options as they are rich in vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C and Potassium. Next on the line are berries which contain a healthy amount of antioxidants and vitamins that are great for you.
What you want to avoid to keep to a minimum are fruits that are high in sugar contents such as mangoes, kiwis, grapes, and bananas.
10 Fruits High in sugar you should avoid or keep to a minimum:
- Passion Fruit (aka Granadilla)
7 Low Sugar fruits you can enjoy on the low-sugar diet:
- Lemons and Limes
- Honeydew Melons
Ideally, you want to consume the required amounts of fruit servings per day from the low-sugar fruits – which are still naturally sweet. You should eat whole fruits as much as possible and avoid drinking fruit juice if your goal is to lose weight and curb your sugar cravings.
It’s important to notice that there are no sugar free fruits and all fruits have naturally occurring sugars in them, however, their fiber and polyphenols can improve long-term blood sugar control and lower your risks of type 2 diabetes.
Whole grains are allowed on the low-sugar diet as they are high in fiber and nutrient levels and they are healthier than white grains.
Try to substitute things made of white grain – such as white bread – with things made from whole grains instead. This means you have to teach yourself to read labels on more food items.
Beans and Legumes
Beans and Legumes are an excellent way to add fiber and protein to a healthy diet while still curbing your intake of carbohydrates.
If this was a no-carb diet like the Ketogenic diet or the Paleo Diet, beans and legumes would have had no place on this list, but since it’s not, they do. However, you should know that the carbs in beans are different and healthier than – say the carbs in potatoes – as they are complex carbs and take longer for the body to digest, making them healthier.
Sweet Potatoes are allowed on the low-sugar diet and they make for an excellent alternative to white potatoes.
Sweet Potatoes have a much lower glycemic index than does white potatoes, and therefore they take longer for the body to digest and their energy is released more slowly into the blood.
They are also rich in vitamins A and C, fiber, and potassium.
Fish is another excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids which are important for the health of your heart and your brain. Your best options are fresh-caught fish, but you can still go for frozen if that’s all you can get.
Some of the best fish you have are Salmon, Mackerel, Sardines, Albacore, Halibut, Trout, Anchovies, and Tuna.
Lean Proteins are not only compliant with the low-sugar diet, but they are a great option. The key to the low-sugar diet if fighting and curbing your sugar cravings which makes you feel hungry and lead you to eat more.
Lean Proteins do the exact opposite. Foods rich in protein like Chicken can help you feel fuller for longer and can actually help you eat less.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts contain healthy fatty acids that are vital for a healthy heart and brain. Walnuts, in particular, are very high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Nuts also make for excellent snacks, but don’t go around eating a jar of nut mix because they are allowed on the diet. Nuts are still rich in fats and can actually make you gain weight if you don’t limit your intake of them.
It should also be mentioned that peanuts are not actually nuts.
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices are allowed on the low-sugar diet and will actually help you stick on the diet more.
You may know that they are great for giving your foods more flavor (which everyone knows how crucial it is when on a diet), but they can also lower blood sugar and sugar levels in individuals with diabetes. 
Foods you Should Avoid
These are the foods you should avoid while on the low-sugar diet. If you followed your common sense, you should be able to easily decide what foods you can eat and what you can’t. However, some foods can indeed be tricky as you are not really sure what is in them. This is what the list below is for.
Refined Sugars are nothing but empty calories without any real benefits – such as those provided by naturally occurring sugars. You can’t live without sugar, but you can definitely live without refined sugars. In fact, that’s the way humans have lived for thousands of years.
Refined sugars are absolutely not allowed on the low-sugar diet, and you will need to be vigilant to avoid them as they are everywhere; breakfast cereals, cookies, packaged snacks, and many other foods. In fact, refined sugars are so sneaky that you will often find them in items you don’t expect them to contain sugars at all such as Ketchup.
Eliminating refined sugars from your diet is an essential step you must make if you’re serious about weight loss.
This can be thought of as a continuation for the ban on refined sugars. Sugary drinks are not refreshing, they are shockingly high in calories and refined sugars and can do some serious damage to your body both on the short and long terms.
Sodas, Juices, coffee drinks, sweetened smoothies, and of course energy drinks must be eliminated from your diet completely.
For reference; A 360-ml can of cola has 140 calories and 39 grams of pure sugar. To consume the same amount in natural sugars, you will need to eat 400 grams of apples and to consume the same calories from apples you need to consume 300 grams of apples. For reference, an average apple weighs between 70-100 grams.
Just think about this the next time you desire a coke.
Packaged Snack Foods
Packaged snack foods are so often filled with added sugars and artificial sweeteners that you don’t even know. This is so commonplace that you will find added sugars in foods that shouldn’t even be sweet or sugar-y such as Ketchup.
Foods that are labelled as “low-fat” and “diet-foods” are often still found to be filled with sugar. Manufacturers take the easy route of adding sugars to their products because we have been conditioned to like foods that taste sweeter.
If you can avoid packaged snack foods altogether, that would be your best options, but this easier said than done. So, if you can’t avoid them you will need to make sure to read the labels and check for sugar levels and sugar types.
Alcohol can seriously interfere with your blood sugar levels, and it’s best to avoid it altogether. If you are serious about losing weight, you should eliminate or seriously limit your consumption of alcohol. Replacing alcohol with healthier drinks is actually easier than you think.
Foods made with white flour – such as white bread – should be avoided. These foods will have a very high glycemic index levels which is something you are trying to avoid completely while on this diet.
A safer alternative should be foods made with whole grains or even quinoa.
The Low Sugar Diet Pros and Cons
As with anything in the world, there are pros and cons to lowering your sugar intake considerably – especially if done suddenly not gradually.
Here is a quick breakdown of the low sugar diet pros and cons:
- Weight Loss
- Improved Mental Health
- Improved Heart Health
- Lower Risk of Diabetes
- Restore the taste senses
- Complicates your meal planning
- Requires some modifications for intense workouts
- Can be an inconvenience at social gatherings
Let’s discuss these in a bit more detail:
Pros of Low Sugar Diet
Studies have shown that lowering your sugar intake is an effective way to lose weight and improve your well-being overall. The stronger-than-necessary presence of sugar in the western diet has been heavily linked to the increased rates of obesity.
The main reason is that sugar has a very high calorific value and we very easily go over the required daily calorie intake with a snack or two. When our body gets this much calories and can’t burn it, it turns it into fats and store it for later. The problem is that this later never comes, and so, fat keeps building up in our bodies.
Improved Mental Health
The spikes and dips in energy caused by sugar consumption play a huge role in causing mood swings and disrupting your brain’s chemicals. On the long-run, this can cause serious mental health issues that can have some negative effects on your life.
When you cut sugar out of your diet, your energy levels will begin to be more stable, and so will your mood swings. People on low-sugar diets have also reported being less easily irritated and having an overall better mood than they were when they consumed a lot of sugar.
Improved Heart Health
A low sugar diet was shown to help a great deal with heart health as it lowers blood pressure.
Research has also shown that when 5% or less of the calories you consume come from added sugar your good Cholesterol (HDL) levels rise and your bad cholesterol levels are lowered. This is helpful in preventing strokes and heart attacks.
Lower Risk of Diabetes
Sugar is in no way the sole cause of diabetes, however, reducing your intake of sugar has been shown to be effective in lowering the risk for type 2 diabetes.
Restore Taste Senses
The reason your tongue loves sugar so much is that it overwhelms it easily. Unfortunately, with this constant overwhelming of your taste buds, you get used to a new level of “sweet” and things like fruit no longer taste the same to you.
Once you cut yourself off sugar, your taste buds will sort of restore their settings to normal. This may take a while, and it will not be even noticeable to you until a certain point when you will realize suddenly that fruit started tasting much sweeter than they used to.
That’s because your taste buds will being to regain their sensitivity to normal levels of sugar.
Bonus: More Freedom
Keeping your meals balanced on the low-sugar diet is easy thanks to the endless modifications and customizations you can make to your meals. This is particularly helpful if you suffer from a certain allergy or just can’t live without a certain food.
Unlike many other diets out there, the low-sugar diet is very flexible on what you can eat, and you can easily swap unhealthy foods for healthier alternatives.
You can find countless recipes online that will work for your specific needs no matter what they are, and you will be able to replace any certain ingredients with healthier one that will help you create and stick to a balanced and healthy meal plan.
Now that you know the benefits of low sugar diet, let’s look at some of the disadvantages and inconveniences that can come with it.
If you want a diet with almost no restrictions on what you eat, check out the intermittent fasting diet.
Cons of Low Sugar Diet
Complicates your meal planning
Looking out for sugar on food labels and being always aware that you need to check the ingredients for meals to make sure no sugar is added is a must, and a bit tedious as well.
The reason, as explained before, is that food manufacturers consider adding sugar to their products as the easiest shortcut to making their foods taste sweeter. Unfortunately, we have become so used to getting packaged foods that getting fresh, whole foods is harder (and more expensive) than it needs to be.
Still, you should go for fresh and whole foods and aim to cook your food yourself as much as possible. Meal prepping is a great way to save time on cooking food for the whole week and since you will be cooking your own food, you will know exactly what went into it, making it much easier to measure and control your consumption of sugar.
Modifications for Intense Workouts
If you are constantly doing intense workouts, this low-sugar diet will not be easy for you to follow.
The reason is that the low-sugar diet doesn’t only cut sugar out of your meals, but it also minimized your intake of carbs. However, carbs are important for high-intensity workouts as they act as the fuel that your body can burn quickly.
Sports and energy drinks also give a short spurt of energy that athletes can make use of thanks to their sugars, but this doesn’t mean you should take it as an excuse to drink energy drinks – unless you are in the Olympics or participating in a 10K Marathon or something like that.
Can be an inconvenience at social gatherings
Going to birthdays but not eating cake, to parties without drinking alcohol, and to dinners with friends without getting snacks can be a bit uncomfortable and may lead to some awkward looks and conversations.
However, going on a diet will always have an impact on your social life. The key to not making this awkward is to know what your alternatives are.
Whenever we are going out while I’m on a diet, I call the restaurant ahead of time and ask what their options are that will fit my diet.
This is much more convenient than waiting to go there and then waste everybody’s time by grilling the waiter about all the ingredients on their meals. I take notes of what I can order and just have it in mind when I go there.
Is the low sugar diet a fad diet?
No, the low sugar diet is not a fad diet in the general sense. It doesn’t have the same limitations and arbitrary rules that some fad diets have. It doesn’t impose certain foods you should eat or certain combinations, and it doesn’t require you to eat at certain times.
Is eating fruits okay for type 2 diabetes?
Yes, people with type 2 diabetes can enjoy fruits even while on the low sugar diet. That’s because fruits are not only rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, but they can actually improve long-term blood sugar control over time.
Are Dairy Products allowed on low-sugar diet?
Yes, dairy products are allowed on the low-sugar diet as long as it’s low-fat dairy. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are all allowed on the low-sugar diet as long as they are in reasonable amounts.
Is there sugar milk? yes, there is indeed sugar in milk, but it’s not the bad kind of sugar. The sweetness in a milk’s taste comes from lactose, which is a form of naturally-occurring sugar that is not nearly as bad for your body as artificial sugars.
I have to reiterate; fat is not the problem and is not the thing that is making you fat. Sugar is the thing that is making you gain weight. Healthy fats are necessary for your body.
How many calories to eat on the low-sugar diet?
The Low-sugar diet doesn’t enforce any kind of calorie counting. Instead, the diet focuses on eliminating the calories you consume from sugars and replacing unhealthy foods rich in sugar and carbs with healthier foods such as vegetables that are rich in nutrients but low on calories.
As long as you follow the simple rule of eating fewer calories than you burn in a day, you should be able to lose weight without problems.
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