It would seem that we’re naturally drawn to sugars and that’s understandably so because foods do contain natural sugars. And we do need it for our body to work properly. The everlasting problem though is having too much sugar in our system. And if you want to manage or prevent diabetes, lower the risk of heart diseases, lose weight, or basically live healthier – then go for low sugar foods.
Sugar or sucrose is a simple carbohydrate that is found in all plants including vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Glucose along with fructose (fruit sugar) and galactose (occurs in milk) are the three building blocks that make up all forms of carbohydrates. And we do know that carbohydrates are our body’s preferred source of energy. So again, we do need sugar.
We need sugar but definitely not the ‘added’ sugar – they’re just extra calories with no extra nutrition whatsoever. They’re the empty calories that lead to weight gain and other health problems. These are sugars and syrups that food manufacturers add to products or sugar you add yourself to your food – let’s say sugar in your coffee.
According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a healthy dietary pattern should limit added sugar to less than 10 percent of calories per day. That is about 12 teaspoons or 200 calories for a 2,000-calorie diet. Guess how much-added sugars were getting on average – a whopping 270 calories or about 17 teaspoons of sugar!
Sources of these added sugars are mainly sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts, and sweet snacks, sweetened coffee and tea, and candies. Even breakfast cereals and bars, sandwiches, milk, and yogurt do contain added sugar in them! Yes, even it does say ‘healthy’ packaged snacks. Well, again, the importance of reading food labels. Check for added sugars in the ingredients list – the higher up added sugars are on the list means that the product contains more of that ingredient.
Added sugar comes in many forms and names. Watch out for terms like brown sugar, corn syrup, corn sweetener, dextrose, lactose, maltose, rice syrup, and crystalline fructose just to name a few. There are many other types of added sugar that you have to be aware of. Newer food labels show ‘added sugar’ under total sugar in the Nutrition Facts to differentiate it from the natural sugars, however, it mostly still simply says ‘total sugar.’
Too much sugar can lead to brain fog and decreased energy. Sure, you might feel a sudden boost of energy after eating sugary food but the accompanying ‘crash’ is inevitable as well. These sudden highs and lows make concentrating difficult resulting in brain fog. When your body crashes it also sends signals to your brain that you need more energy – now you’re like, I’m hungry. Well, of course, you are. The problem though is if you quench that hunger with sugary foods (that will provide ‘quick energy’), when that happens you fall into the cycle all over again.
Managing diabetes also calls for a diet plan that consists of low sugar foods or foods that will help lower blood sugar along with foods with a low glycemic index. In general, it’ll benefit your overall health if you cut back on sugar intake. Lowering sugar in your diet can help in reducing the risk of heart diseases and heart attack, boosting your mood, losing weight, alleviating skin issues, preventing tooth decay, and improving sleep.
If you’re ready to revise your meal plans and cut back on sugars, here are the 20 types of low sugar foods that you would want to include in your diet. Along with avoiding foods with added sugar in them, it’s important that you know which foods are low in sugar. At the end of the list are also some tips or guides to sugar detoxing to give you some ideas on how to go about it.
Low Sugar Foods (With Pictures!)
Tofu is a good source of protein, iron, and calcium. It contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Tofu can help in lowering LDL cholesterol and relieving certain symptoms of menopause. It may also benefit memory and brain health, weight loss, better skin, and stronger bones.
Kidney beans are one of the best sources of plant-based protein. They contain fibers along with molybdenum, folate, iron, copper, potassium, manganese, and vitamin K1. Kidney beans may help in weight loss, promote colon health, improve blood sugar control, and reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Watercress is a nutrient-dense food. It’s in fact ranked as number one on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list of powerhouse fruits and vegetables. It’s particularly high in vitamin K as well as antioxidants that help in preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Dubbed as a superfood, spinach contains lots of nutrients including vitamins A, C, and K, iron, folate, and potassium. Its antioxidant content known as alpha-lipoic acid helps lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and prevent oxidative stress in patients with diabetes.
Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It also contains high amounts of insoluble fiber. Asparagus is good for lowering blood pressure, improving digestion, losing weight, and boosting healthy pregnancy outcomes.
Bok choy is a cruciferous vegetable that is native to China. It contains fiber, vitamins, minerals, and is also full of antioxidants. It helps in fighting inflammation, lowering the risk of heart disease, and preventing cell damage from free radicals.
Couscous is a good source of plant-based protein for vegetarians and non-vegetarian alike. It’s easy to prepare and takes on the flavor of whatever ingredient you add to it. Its selenium content can boost the immune system and may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.
Bulgur is a good source of manganese, magnesium, and iron. This whole grain originated in the Mediterranean and has a consistency similar to couscous and quinoa when cooked. It may help in promoting heart health, supporting healthy blood sugar control, boosting digestion and gut health, and aiding weight loss.
Brown rice provides many vitamins and minerals. It contains more dietary fiber compared to white rice. Its antioxidant contents, particularly phenols and flavonoids, helps in reducing cell damage and premature aging. Brown rice can also aid in weight management, improving heart health, and managing diabetes.
Quinoa is not just high in protein and gluten-free, it’s also one of the few plant foods that has all nine essential amino acids in sufficient amounts. It also contains loads of fiber, B vitamins, iron, potassium, and other beneficial antioxidants. Furthermore, it has a low glycemic index of only 53.
Oats are a good source of fiber called beta-glucans which are good for lowering cholesterols and reducing blood sugar and insulin levels. It also contains manganese, phosphorus, copper, B vitamins, selenium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. Oats may also boost the immune system, improve well-being, relieve constipation, and promote regularity.
Raspberries are a good source of fiber and vitamin C. They also contain antioxidants that help reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases. Its fiber and tannin content affects blood sugar positively. Raspberries may also help in reducing arthritis, aiding weight loss, decreasing signs of aging, and may even contain cancer-fighting properties.
Limes aside from their high vitamin C content are also good sources of antioxidants that protect cells from free radicals. These include flavonoids, limonoids, kaempferol, quercetin, and ascorbic acid that aids in preventing chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.
Rhubarbs are excellent sources of vitamin K. It also contains essential vitamins and minerals along with antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins. It contains antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties that protect you from health issues like heart diseases, diabetes, and cancer.
Cranberries are mainly carbs and fiber, it also contains manganese, copper, and vitamins C, E, and K1. It’s also high in bioactive plant compounds like A-type proanthocyanidins that may help in preventing urinary tract infections. Cranberries may also help in reducing the risk of stomach cancer and improving cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Kumquats, or golden orange in Chinese, are particularly high in vitamin C and fiber. About five whole kumquats (on average they are aren’t much bigger than a grape), contain 73 percent of the RDI for vitamin C. They’re rich in antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cholesterol-lowering properties.
Cheeses, like mozzarella, parmesan, cheddar, or feta, are great sources of calcium, fat, and protein. They also contain high amounts of vitamins A and B12, zinc, riboflavin, and phosphorus. It’s good for preventing osteoporosis, thyroid disorder, and dental cavities. It also helps in building muscle, improving the immune system, and reducing the risk of many common diseases.
Full-fat dairy products like heavy whipping cream contain important fat-soluble vitamins which are better absorbed in the body when consumed with fat. It’s a good source of vitamins A, D, E, and K, along with calcium, phosphorus, and choline. It helps in promoting bone health, reducing the risk of fractures, maintaining bone mass, and protecting against sarcopenia or the loss of strength and muscle mass associated with aging.
Unlike other yogurts, Greek yogurt underwent a straining process that removes whey. This whey is the liquid that contains lactose. Greek yogurt is rich in calcium, protein, probiotics, iodine, and vitamin B12. It helps in improving bone health, boosting metabolism, improving gut health, reducing appetite, lowering blood pressure, building muscle mass, and encouraging good mental health.
Fish, beef, pork, and other proteins
Fish, beef, pork, veal, chicken, venison, or what have you are all in the clear. You can keep enjoying these proteins even if you’re on a low-sugar diet. Just be thoughtful about how you prepare them. Let’s say a green salad topped with grilled chicken sounds fairly low sugar, right? Well, that is until you doused it heavily with store-brought bottled dressings which are often rich in saturated fat, sodium, calories, and yes added sugars! It’s better if you simply make your own salad dressing.
Guide to Sugar Detoxing
Sugar detoxes are when you cut added sugar from your diet for a period of time – it could be 7, 21, or 30 days. This can help in breaking your sugar addiction. It can also be a start of a healthier diet after it kind of resets your system.
Knowing the types of low-sugar foods will immensely help you in sugar detoxing. Now you’re armed with ideas and options on how to redo your meal plans that have better control of sugar intake without the need for added sugar.
Here are more tips or guides to help you with sugar detoxing.
Start with the right breakfast
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that is especially true when you’re on a sugar detox. Go for food rich in protein that will give you lasting energy and will also reduce your cravings for sugary foods.
Keep yourself hydrated
Keep that water bottle handy at all times. You have to keep yourself hydrated. In addition to helping your body work properly, like maintaining body temperature and removing waste, proper hydration also helps in ridding your body of excess sugar.
Go for complex carbohydrates
Make sure that you’re getting the right carbs. Complex carbs are high in fiber and digest slowly which means that it’s more filling. It will keep you full for longer periods of time and can help in controlling sugar cravings. Complex carbs release energy slowly so they don’t cause blood sugar to spike.
Avoid or reduce stress
I know, easier said than done, but you have to give it a really good try. It is during stressful situations that you’re more likely to crave sugary foods. When you’re stressed, your insulin level drops as your stress hormone levels surge. Perhaps try meditating, exercising, practicing mindful behaviors, or setting a routine.
Make it a family habit
And why not, too much sugar is not good for anyone – and that includes kids and even elderlies. So, make it a family habit. That way, ridding your house of all sugary foods will be much easier. Prepping healthier food low in sugar, of course, will be a breeze as well – you don’t have to make separate dishes or meals. Very soon you’ll find out that a family that eats healthy together, stays healthy together.