Reducing Sugar Consumption & Cutting Out heavily Processed Sugars

Part of the Healthy Habits series

a variety of sugars on a white tray, reducing consumption

Let’s talk about reducing sugar consumption…

Reducing overall sugar consumption and replacing it in smaller amounts with more natural sugars is beneficial to our health, but it can be extremely difficult. I have found that sugar is addictive for me – the more I eat, the more I want.

My Story

A few years ago, I noticed that I had gradually added about 10 pounds to my normal weight. I started looking at ways my diet and lifestyle could be tweaked to help tip the scale back down and more importantly prevent metabolic diseases. Most of the healthy eating habits I practice today were already in place at that time, but when I looked at my diet more closely, I realized reducing sugar consumption was one major factor that needed to be addressed.  I loved “ a little something sweet.” And while I had cut out most heavily processed and packaged foods, I was still consuming processed sugars on a regular basis.

I gradually changed nearly all the sugars in my house to minimally processed ones and started to reduce the amount I used as well. These little tweaks plus increasing physical activity, both cardio and strength training, were exactly what my body needed. Over the course of several months, I was able to get my weight down to what it was when I was in high school. Following the same habits, my husband actually weighs less than when I met him in high school!

This is why I’m passionate about sugar and how to approach it in a healthy way without feeling like you’re missing out. For me personally, I have found that the shift from heavily processed sugars to more natural sugars has made me prefer less sugar in general. My theory is that natural sugars have more flavor nuances plus additional nutrients so they feed my tastebuds and my body better. I want to be clear though that I believe too much added sugar of any kind is unhealthy. Even if I’m consuming better sugars I want to make sure I’m not overdoing those either.

I want to be clear though that I believe too much added sugar of any kind is unhealthy. Even if I’m consuming better sugars I want to make sure I’m not overdoing those either.

Information about Heavily Processed Sugars

  • Consuming processed sugars is linked to things like obesity and an increase in belly fat which are in turn linked to metabolic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and dementia and other disease such as heart disease, depression, and liver disease.
  • In heavily processed sugars like cane or beet sugar and corn syrup, virtually all the fiber and micronutrients from the plant are removed. 
  • It is added to nearly all processed foods (it is one of the things that keeps you coming back for more). Reading labels even with organic or natural products is super important.

My Opinion about Natural Sugars and Minimally Processed Sugars

In my opinion, all sugar is not the same.  Popular media tried to tell us for years that a teaspoon of sugar was a teaspoon of sugar and it didn’t matter what type of sugar it was. While the calorie content may be similar, less processed sugars contain micronutrients and sometimes fiber (as in the case of whole dates – my favorite sweetener! Dates don’t count as added sugar since they are a whole fruit). We’ve been told that it wasn’t enough to make a difference, but I believe over time it adds up. Plus, research on some of those sugars is bearing this out. For example, dates and honey have been shown to help with blood glucose levels and insulin resistance. However, I recommend consuming them as part of a meal or snack that has protein, fat, and fiber when possible. In another study, honey benefitted the microbiome by increasing bacteria diversity in the gut.

Natural sugars are found in whole foods before processing (sugar in fruit  for example). Because they are combined with the fiber in the food and the micronutrients haven’t been removed, these aren’t likely to be what is causing weight gain or disease. 

What Sugars I Use in My Kitchen

I very, very rarely use any regular granulated sugar in my kitchen anymore and never use corn syrup.

  1. My first choice for adding sugar to a recipe is DATES. By using dates, I’m adding fruit to my recipe. This adds fiber and micronutrients.
  2. Minimally processed HONEY and real MAPLE SYRUP are my next choices.
  3. And finally, when I need something that has the same texture as granulated sugar, I use COCONUT SUGAR.

When adjusting or developing a recipe, I’ll often use a combination of these sugars as well to achieve the desired texture.

Reducing Overall Sugar Consumption

I have gradually reduced the amounts of sugar of any type I add to recipes over time. This has greatly helped not only reduce my family’s total amount consumed but has changed our tastes so that we now prefer much less sugar. As a result, we really don’t like the taste of overly sweet foods anymore.  Studies have shown that as people reduce sugar in their diet, they can taste more nuances and flavors in the food. It may take some time to adjust, so be patient. I started by reducing the sugar in a recipe by ¼ and then gradually going down from there. In many recipes, I have reduced down to ½ or less than the original recipe. At the same time, I started switching up the sugars to less processed ones. 

Here’s the Takeaway for Reducing Sugar Consumption and Using Less Heavily Processed Sugars

  • Cut out as much processed sugar as possible.
  • Cut down on packaged foods and read labels carefully.
  • Use more minimally processed sugars at home.
  • Gradually reduce the amount of sugar of any type you are adding at home.
  • Pay attention to how you can taste the flavors of the food better when sugar is reduced.

Looking for a dessert recipe that uses natural sugars?

2 Tea Time Bars on a white plate


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“High-Sugar Diet Lowers the Ability of the Taste System to Sense Sweetness.” Edited by Emily Henderson, News, 12 Oct. 2022, 

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