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No Added Sugar Diet

By August McLaughlin

A no-sugar-added diet involves restriction of sugars that do not occur naturally in food. According to the American Heart Association, many people consume more added sugars than they realize. Since added sugars contain calories but no vital nutrients, they add "empty calories" to foods. Excessive intake of added sugars may lead to weight gain and impaired wellness. For best results, seek approval from your doctor before making significant changes to your diet.

Definition

Naturally-occurring sugars are found in foods such as dairy products and fruits, according to the American Dietetic Association. A food contains added sugars if the ingredients list contains cane sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, fructose, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, lactose, honey, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose or syrup. Since added sugars are typically found in processed foods, a no-sugar-added diet is comprised of natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and poultry, fish, legumes, dairy products, nuts, seeds and oils. In some cases, sugar alternatives, such as artificial sweeteners, are incorporated.

Function

A no-added-sugar diet may serve numerous functions. You may opt to omit added sugars for health benefits or improved weight management, according to the American Heart Association. People with diabetes may choose a no-added-sugar diet for improved blood sugar management; or you may choose this diet to reduce or eliminate processed foods from your daily menu. Parents who feel added sugars negatively impact their children's moods or behaviors may also restrict added sugars.

Benefits

A no-added-sugar diet can provide numerous benefits, if addressed appropriately. The best way to obtain proper nutrients is through whole, natural foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. These foods provide a broad range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support a strong functioning immune system, and rich amounts of fiber, which supports positive digestive function, heart health and satiation between meals. By omitting added sugars and seeking healthy foods, more of your calories are likely to be nutrient-rich.

Challenges/Risks

If you omit all added sugars, you may feel deprived of some of your favorite treat foods, particularly prepared pastries, muffins, desserts, candy or soft drinks. Artificial sweeteners, if incorporated into your no-added-sugar diet, may pose additional risks. Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharine or mannitol, are considered generally safe to consume in appropriate amounts, but they may have adverse affects on blood sugar levels, according to a study in the September 2013 issue of "Diabetes Care." In this study, consumption of sucralose raised blood sugar levels of participants. Sugar alcohols, found in various sugar-free candies and other foods, can cause cramps, gas, bloating and other digestive symptoms if consumed in excess. Even though foods such as potato chips and fried foods may have no added sugar, consuming them will increase your risk of weight gain, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Suggestions

If restricting added sugars completely seems daunting, fear not. According to the American Heart Association, modest intake of added sugars, or roughly 100 calories worth for most women and 150 calories for adult men per day, is unlikely to hinder your wellness. Reducing foods rich in added sugars, such as soft drinks, candy, cookies, cake and ice cream, can improve your health, particularly if you swap them out for nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Learning to prepare your own baked goods, sweetened with lesser amounts of sugar, sugar substitutes and/or naturally sweet foods, such as applesauce, can add enjoyment and reduce deprivation associated with a no-added-sugar diet. For specified guidance, discuss your dietary and wellness goals with a qualified health care professional.

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