Dates in No Sugar Diet

DIET DESCRIPTION:

A no sugar diet may cut all sugar or only added sugars.  Avoiding all types of sugar does not automatically make your diet healthy.  You could be missing out on nutrients.  For example, nutrients aside from sugars include carbohydrates, fiber, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals.  Plus, restrictive diets are not very sustainable and may have long-term effects. 

The 2020-2025 USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend an added sugar intake of up to 10% of total calories.   For women, the recommendation is 24 g of added sugar per day. For men, the recommendation is 38 g of added sugar. We encourage you to review your added sugar consumption to increase awareness of added sweeteners in your diet.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimate that adults in the U.S. consume about  15% of their calories from added sugars.  This number does not include natural sugars.

All sugars are carbohydrates.  There are two kinds of sugars in our diet: added sugars and natural ones. We want to limit added sugars. But what about natural sugars?

Natural sugars include glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, and lactose.  You can find them in fruit, milk, yogurt, raw honey, vegetables, and grains.

Added sugars are added to foods during food processing. They use them to increase sweetness, prolong shelf life or improve appearance.  

Some added sugars are hidden in even health-conscious products.  Consider checking the nutrition label to screen for added sugars. In this way, you can be mindful of excess sugars in your diet.  

Added sugar has many names on the label. You can find added sugars listed as other ingredients such as dextrose, maple syrup, molasses, brown rice syrup, honey, etc.

Natural sugars are not always healthier than added ones.  In fact, our bodies break down all sugars into glucose.  It is the simplest form of sugar.  They don’t know the difference between added and natural sugars.  Yet, we can find natural sugars in foods with higher nutrient content. 

Some foods and beverages contain both types of sugar in them.  For example, yogurt has lactose but may also contain added sugars.  

A healthy diet should include natural sugars and should limit added sugars. Limiting added sugar ensures that you won’t consume too many empty calories.

Following a low or no added sugar diet has many health benefits.    This diet may help you reduce triglycerides and lower cholesterol levels.  It also reduces inflammation in the body. Moreover, it lowers the risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, and high blood pressure.   

DIET PURPOSE:

There are many benefits related to a no sugar diet.  It may help lower the risk of different chronic diseases.  It also helps with weight loss, energy levels, and overall mood.  Some of the most significant disease management benefits include:

 

Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes

Regular intake of added sugar impairs the regulation of blood sugar.  It also elevates your risk of type 2 diabetes

Diets rich in added sugars lead to insulin resistance.  The latter is when your cells become less sensitive to insulin.  Insulin is a hormone that controls your blood sugar levels.

Limiting added sugar is a good way to lower blood sugar and insulin levels.

A recent study showed that a sugar reduction policy could prevent many cases of diabetes.

 

Reduced risk of heart disease and blood pressure

The high intake of added sugars leads to a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and blood pressure.

Shifting to a diet low in added sugars may reverse this risk.  Have complex carbohydrates instead of refined carbohydrates (like white bread and rice).

A study suggests that people who consume a lot of added sugar are more likely to die from heart diseases.

 

Reduced risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

Besides being overweight, eating a diet high in simple carbs leads to NAFLD.  It is the buildup of extra fat in the liver.  This happens not because of alcohol.

The key to reversing NAFLD is to consume less simple carbohydrates and added sugars.

 

Lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels

Sugar has a significant impact on blood lipids.  Diets high in sugar make your liver produce more “bad” LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.  It also lowers your “good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.  Excess sugar increases your triglycerides (a kind of blood fat).  Plus, it suppresses an enzyme that breaks down triglycerides.

One of the best things that you could do to control your cholesterol and triglyceride levels is to limit sugary foods and drinks.

 

Reduced inflammation

A diet rich in sugar could lead to chronic inflammation.  A study shows that individuals with higher sugar intake have more inflammatory blood markers.  

Some signs of chronic inflammation include body pain, fatigue, digestive issues, weight gain, and so on.

Another study shows that people who limited their intake of sugary drinks had lower inflammation factors.

 

Reduced risk of obesity

High sugar intake is related to weight gain and obesity

When you consume too much refined sugar, your insulin secretion increases, stopping your body from using fat as fuel.  Instead, your body transforms excess sugar into fat.  This could lead to weight gain.

One of the benefits of limiting added sugar is to keep your insulin at an optimal level. 

Moreover, eliminating sugar from your diet reduces your intake of processed foods.  Thus, you will eat more healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and so on.  These foods will keep you full longer without that quick sugar spike in your blood.  In this way, you will reduce the consumption of sugary foods.

Therefore, decreasing the amount of sugar in your diet is one of the simplest ways to prevent weight gain.

WHAT TO EAT:

When on a sugar-free diet, it’s important to focus on consuming sources of natural sugars.  These are some choices that you might want to include:

  •       Vegetables
  •       Fruits (including dates)
  •       100% fruit juices
  •       Dairy products (unsweetened)
  •       Grains

Meanwhile, you can always include the following:

Proteins 

Chicken, fish, beef, eggs

Healthy Fats 

Egg yolks, nuts, avocados, olive oil, seeds

Complex Carbohydrates

Beans, legumes, brown rice

Unsweetened Drinks 

Coffee, tea, sparkling water

If you are planning to follow a no sugar diet, here are some changes that you can make: 

Make gradual changes

Small and gradual changes help you to stick to the plan.  You can start reducing your added sugar intake instead of cutting it completely.  In this way, you will shift to a diet that is higher in healthy foods.  Plus, your sugar cravings will start to subside.  During this period, you can still consume sources of natural sugars. 

With time, you can reach a phase where you eliminate all sources of added sugars.  Do so whenever ready to keep up with the change.

Find substitutes

You cannot just cut all sources of sugars from your diet.  This will not keep you satisfied, nor will it be sustainable, especially if you are a big fan of sugar.  Try replacing the options with added sugars with choices containing natural sugars instead.  For example, you can get an unflavored yogurt instead of the flavored one and add some berries to it. 

Read food labels

Some sources of added sugars like cookies, cakes, muffins, and ice cream are apparent.  Others like frozen entrées, sauces, packaged cereals, and so on are hidden.  The only way to detect these sugars is by reading the food labels.  These labels list the ingredients and the total sugars, including the added sugars.  You can then make your decision of buying the product or not.   

Learn the different names of added sugars

You need to be familiar with all forms and names of sugars to start eliminating them and stick to your plan.

Add natural flavors

Use seasonings, spices, and other natural ingredients as a sweet flavor.

For example, you can add cinnamon to your cup of coffee.  You can also use pure vanilla.

Avoid sugar abstinence

It is never easy to eliminate all sources of added sugars completely.  While you can always enjoy natural sugars, it is also a good idea to have some added sugars from time to time.  You can set a specific day during your week for that.  In this way, you can stick to your bigger goals and still enjoy the foods you like. 

 

DATES IN A NO SUGAR DIET:

Dates are considered a great source of natural sugar and can be included in a no added sugar diet. 

Dates are unique because they have a low glycemic index (GI), unlike the added sugars. Plus, dates are rich in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.  

Dates can be included every day as one of your daily fruits.  

They are also high in antioxidants, reducing inflammation and the risk of diseases. 

You can enjoy this natural sugar source as a healthy, sweet snack.  You can also pair it with nuts or peanut butter to add a source of healthy fat and protein and increase feelings of fullness.

You can also add dates to your breakfast, yogurts, salads, smoothies, and homemade desserts.

 

WHAT TO AVOID:

You need to avoid food and drinks high in added sugars on a no-sugar diet.

These include:

Sweetened Dairy Products

Ice creams, flavored milk, yogurts

Desserts 

Cakes, cookies, muffins, donuts

Sugary Breakfast Options

Sweetened cereals, muesli, granola, bars

Sweets 

Candies, honey (with added sugars), chocolate

Condiments 

Ketchup, coffee creamers, BBQ sauce, some salad dressings

Sweet Beverages

Cocktails, liquor, soda, sweetened juices and coffee drinks, energy and sports drinks

Sweeteners 

Syrups, table sugar, coconut sugar, agave

Preserved Goods

Dried fruits

Drinks are the primary class source of added sugars (around 47% of all added sugars)

  •       Soft drinks – 25%
  •       Fruit drinks – 11%
  •       Energy and sports drinks – 3%
  •       Tea and coffee – 7%
  •       Snacks and sweets – 31%

Added sugar has many sneaky names.  Watch out for the following ones found on food labels:

Dextrose, sucrose, maltose, glucose, fructose, lactose, maltodextrin, inverted sugar

Golden syrup, maple syrup, rice syrup, agave syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup

Molasses

Coconut sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar, beet sugar

Fruit juice concentrate

Barley malt

When you avoid added sugar sources, make sure you don’t limit your carbohydrate intake.  Switch from simple carbs to complex carbohydrates because the latter has fiber, vitamins, and minerals and is less processed.

CONCLUSION:

In the USA, adults’ added sugar consumption is about 77 g per day, while kids’ intake is around 81 g of added sugars daily. The great news is that 77% of Americans are trying to consume less sugar in their diets, per research. T

Avoiding all types of sugar is not sustainable.  Therefore, if you want to avoid sugars, it’s best to eliminate sources of added sugars.  Natural sugars are usually found in foods with a higher nutrient content like vitamins, minerals, and fiber. 

Make gradual changes if you want to start a sugar-free diet and maintain it as part of a healthy lifestyle.  Find sugar substitutes free of added sugars and learn how to read food labels. 

Summary

A no or low sugar diet can be a healthy approach to removing added sugars. Dates contain natural sugar, and thus are able to be part of a healthy, low sugar diet. Added sugars are primarily the concern when it comes to a healthy diet. Focus on removing foods such as sugar sweetened beverages, desserts, and candy to remove added sugar in your diet. Focus on incorporating fruits, veggies, whole grains, and dairy for natural sources of sugar in your diet instead. 

Written by:
Sarine Chekian, LD
Clinical Dietitian and Nutritionist
Reviewed by:
Registered Dietitian, Diabetes Educator

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