What is a sugar-free diet?

Several years ago, Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez made headlines for following a sugar-free diet. Since then, posts about going on a sugar-free diet have popped up randomly on social media. And, given how tough this diet is, it’s understandable to be at least a little curious about the sugar-free diet and what it entails.

Although it seems obvious… what is a sugar-free diet, exactly? Can you really have Nope sugar in a sugar-free diet? Is fruit okay or should anything sweet be eliminated? Nutritionists break it all down.

What is a sugar-free diet?

It’s important to say this upfront: there is no set definition for a sugar-free diet. “There can be several variations depending on where you get your information,” says Scott Keatley, RD, co-owner of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy.

Keatley notes that some sugar-free diets “require the elimination of all added sugars, fruit sugar as well as milk sugars.” But, he points out, “the most common variation is to reduce your added sugar intake to zero.” (Added sugar, in case you don’t know, is sugar that’s added to foods over what they naturally contain.)

What are the benefits of a sugar-free diet?

So… why are people doing this again? There are a few different reasons. “We have so much research showing that sugar is a pro-inflammatory food and that inflammation is the root of many different health issues,” says Jessica Cording, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and health coach, and author of The little book of game changers. With this, some people cut sugar from their diet to try to be healthier.

“You could potentially reduce your risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and certain cancers,” says Keri Gans, MS, RD, author of The small change diet.

Other people have cut out sugar to try to lose weight. “It’s not uncommon for people to lose weight when they limit added sugar,” says Cording. “Many highly palatable processed and packaged foods tend to contain added sugar, and removing them will limit extra calories.”

What are the disadvantages of a sugar-free diet?

It depends on how you take it. If you cut out all forms of sugar (including naturally occurring sugars) and eliminate foods like fruit from your diet, “you’re missing out on important nutrients your body needs to function at its best,” says Gans.

In addition, a sugar-free diet is also difficult to follow. “It’s a huge challenge to get that added sugar count down to zero because, well, sugar tastes good and it can provide a dopamine boost,” Keatley says. “So by giving up the sugar-added cold turkey, you might feel down more often and also frustrated with all the reading you have to do about packaged foods or eating out.”

What can you eat on a sugar-free diet?

“You can eat any whole food,” Keatley says. It lists fruits, vegetables, starches, legumes, nuts, meats, and more as must-have foods on this diet.

“When you start tapping into foods that have been modified, that’s when you have to inspect the food label,” he says. Keatley recommends avoiding products containing any of the following:

  • brown sugar
  • corn sugar
  • corn syrup
  • fructose
  • glucose
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • raw sugar
  • sucrose
  • Sugar Syrup
  • turbinado sugar

    Need a start menu to get you started? Gans offers this as an example of a meal day on a no added sugar diet:


    A bowl of rolled oats made from cow’s milk or an unsweetened milk substitute, a tablespoon of natural peanut butter and a small banana


    A large mixed green salad topped with grilled chicken, avocado and chickpeas, tossed with olive oil and vinegar

    To taste

    Cup of plain Greek yogurt with sliced ​​strawberries

    Having dinner

    Grilled salmon with roasted Brussels sprouts and a small baked potato topped with a little butter or sour cream

    Is it safe to go on a sugar-free diet?

    Keatley says it can be safe, provided you focus on added sugars and not all sugar-containing foods. “Getting all forms of sugar from whole foods — not drinks — is one way to keep your energy levels up, soothe your taste buds, and help you reach your nutritional goals,” he says.

    Gans agrees. “If your diet currently consists of a lot of added sugar and you are now limiting those foods, it would be 100% safe to do so,” she says. “However, if you start to take this to extremes, it could definitely be unhealthy. Besides limiting the important nutrients your body needs, any restrictive diet can have an emotional impact on its user which can affect their day-to-day life.

    Overall, experts recommend simply aiming to reduce your added sugar intake instead of focusing on eliminating it all. “Eliminate the idea of ​​elimination,” Keatley says. “Don’t try to reduce your added sugar to zero, but try to balance the grams of added sugar with grams of dietary fiber. This will lead to a more sustainable diet that has benefits beyond just reducing consumption. sugar.

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