The Smoking Gun is Sugar

February 23, 2015   39 Comments

I know that we all want to identify the ONE factor that is making us unhealthy.

Reduce My Sugar

One thing is so much easier to remember than – let’s say – three things.

I am a fan of making life simple and working on problems with baby steps. Ask any professional in the field of getting people healthy and they are going to tell you that eating fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains – AND – exercising, sleeping, drinking less alcohol, ending smoking, etc. etc. etc. are the foundations of a healthy lifestyle.

Or you could simply cut down on your sugar intake.

I’m not kidding about this. Check out this statistic:

Americans consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which come from soda, juices and other sugary drinks. New York Times

Hello! That is 10 tablespoons or just over 1/2 cup of sugar per day of ADDED sugar. They are not talking about sugar that naturally occurs in fruit or raisins – they are talking about sugar that (for example) Americans drink in their orange juice in the morning.

I know it isn’t news to you that sugar is linked to obesity and other diseases. I bet it isn’t news that sugar is addictive.

Sugar isn’t evil but it is consumed at way too high a rate to be good for us and the rate of diabetes confirms that we eat too much of it. Our bodies literally give up after we soak them in sugar.

So, what to do?

How about a day without added sugar?

I did this exactly once and I noticed something. I felt a craving about 2 PM for a cookie and it would NOT go away. I found myself hunting under the seats in my car for some sort of snack so I could get my “fix”.

You don’t even notice how much your body wants it until you quit for a day – and that is a bit scary.

I limit my consumption of sugar in a number of ways that work for me. I don’t drink soda, juice, Gatorade or anything like it. My empty-calorie choice is wine and I drink a glass or so per day.

I don’t eat baked goods unless I bake them myself or they are homemade and I stick to dark chocolate if I want a treat.

What is the most difficult about lowering the amount of sugar you consume is how much of it surrounds us. Coffee drinks, granola bars, yogurt, and whole grain cereals have tons of sugar added – forget the obviously high sugar foods like ice cream and brownies.

If you were to stop drinking the obvious problems such as juice, soda, or whatever other crazy drink (like Monster) you consume, you would be halfway to cutting your sugar intake. How about it?

Have you tried to reduce the amount of sugar you eat? How have you done it?

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Instead of drinking orange juice I eat a whole orange. I also get extra fiber this way.

I agree that juices have a lot of sugar - but real juice (i.e. 100% OJ) would be natural sugar, not added? correct? The weird thing is that there is sugar (or worse - High fructose corn syrup) in things you wouldn't expect like spaghetti sauce or bread.

Maria, real juice has natural sugar but at a much higher concentration than the fruit because it takes several pieces of fruit to make one small glass of juice. That's why juice isn't such a great beverage, even when you make it yourself.

In our house hold we cook from scratch. I used to love sugar - a lot! I first noticed it's addictive effect when I once bought a packet of chocolate cookies and got in to the habit of having a couple after supper. Cookies in the house were an unusual thing as I had a fussy eater toddler and decided t keep stuff like that at bay. Once the packet was finished for the week, I noticed after supper I would have cravings that all I thought of were chocolate cookies. The cravings were not a 5 minute thing, it would go on for hours to the extent that I had trouble falling asleep! I avoid all artificial sugars as well and am wary of natural sugars too as not sure whether they have that same effect. We do have sweets and desserts but make our own and reduce quantities of sugar. Very rarely do we have fruit juices going instead for whole fruit. If we feel to have soda we buy full sugar but keep that to a few times a year.

I can't wait until the new food labels come out which will show the sugar breakdown by added sugar vs naturally occurring sugar in the food. It takes a LOT of time to read labels - but it'san eye-opening experience.

In October 2014 I went "cold turkey" and eliminated sugar in my life. Within a week, I was no longer craving the unhealthy foods; I didn't feel hungry all of the time; I wasn't irritable; I slept better; I felt better overall. I started eating low carb, moderate protein and fat (healthy fats) and in 3 months, I've lost 32 pounds and more inches than I can count! I read the labels when I'm grocery shopping, looking for those hidden sugars (educating yourself is the key).

I would like to email Robin- how can I

Contact her? Thanks!

I've done a three day sugar detox. This means NO sugar, not even natural sugar, for three days. Lean proteins, some vegetables, raw almonds, eggs for three days and watch what happens on day 4. My sugar cravings disappeared. My orange tasted like candy. It's amazing how addictive sugar is and how it changes your sense of taste!

I've been able to get rid of most sugar pretty easily - I don't drink soda, cook almost all my own meals, check the sugar grams on everything. But I have a real problem giving up wine and chocolate. And I'm one of those people who can't have just one piece of chocolate or one 4 ounce glass of wine. So I end up either having too much or none at all. :( I heard that there is sugar-free wine, but I have never seen it anywhere, and can't even imagine what it tastes like since wine is made from fruit and fermented by wine yeast "eating" sugar, so I don't get it. Anyone else had sugar-free wine?

I too just quit the sugar addition one week ago. The first three days I went through the withdrawals, headaches, sluggish, etc. Doing so much better, like others I have more energy, sleep better, even my complexion looks better. I have plenty of fruit and protein snacks on hand on instead of the candy and store bought baked goods. I'm very serious about breaking this sugar habit. The negative effects it has on my body are over whelming. Glad to read others are doing the same and Thanks to Snack Girl for putting this article out.

Stacie - If you want the taste of chocolate without the guilt, try the Quest Protein Bar - Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. It has very low amounts of natural sweetener (i.e. Stevia) and the chocolate tastes like chocolate! It has a lot of fiber, so I wouldn't eat more than one at a time.

In trying to strengthen my bones and lower my cholesterol I started eating all natural, no packaged foods. I lost 15 lbs. and belly fat disappeared over a summer. The only sugar I consumed was the honey I put in green or herbal tea. My husband eats lots of junk food and I slowly let myself slip into the old pattern. If it were up to me I would never bring another box of ice cream, cookies, chips into the house. I'm a good cook, I like to cook and I know what is healthy food. I am inspired now to label every packaged food item on the shelf with a skull and cross-bones. Thanks for the wake up call, I have come back to my senses.

Two years ago, I realized I had a problem with sugar...REALLY SWEET tea, which I loved and sipped all day at my desk. I was very overweight and knew the sweet tea was the fist obstacle I had to tackle. I attempted to go cold turkey but couldn't because of the severe headaches. So, I cut the sugar down gradually, and with patience. Eventually I realized I was no longer addicted to sugar. Since that time, I started walking, eating properly and have lost 86 pounds. My new routine will include some running. I now have an occasional sweet treat, but don't make a habit of it. If I can kick the sugar habit, anyone can.

I am hoping to start cutting back on sugar - figuring I need "baby steps" to get my intake down. I don't drink juice or soda and haven't for years (aside from an occasional glass). However, I also have the habit of needing something sweet after dinner. It's a really difficult habit to quit. I am giving up my nightly dish of ice cream for lent this year hoping that it will kickstart me into giving up my need for sweets. That part hasn't worked since instead of ice cream, I just eat other sugary things. I also have a glass of wine nearly every night. I don't really want to give that up completely though. I can't wait for the new nutrition labels to come out. It would be nice to know where there is added sugar in foods and how much is added. Some foods that have natural sugars will actually have more sugar added to it! I don't fully understand why, but that is where the American taste buds are going. If it's not sweet enough, 'we' won't eat it.

Great post! I stopped drinking sugary sodas and using sugar in 1972.

There are hidden sugars (and salt) in our drinks and foods so it's best to read the label.

Sugar can be disastrous for diabetics but a life saver if our blood sugar crashes dangerously low. It is the only way to bring it back to a safe level. That is why we have small meals every couple of hours or so to keep our blood sugar from going too high or too low. Deadly complications can arise if it goes to far either way.

For us, best to stick with those carbs that are in whole foods like fruits and veggies with an emphasis on proteins in the diet.

Fruit juice has sugar that goes directly into the blood stream unlike eating the whole fruit that digest much slower with more benefit. We use fruit juice, sugar, or hard candy if our blood sugar crashes.

Sugar is sugar even if it is from natural sources like honey.

The only other natural sweetener besides stevia is agave. Some studies have found agave to actually be beneficial to diabetics. This is what I use in cooking if I need to use anything sweet. For baking I use stevia. : )

Yes, I too am a sugar addict. I must quit. I am diabetic. I can feel the damage sugar is doing to my body. I feel it more and more everyday. This is perfect timing. I decided yesterday after thinking for months that today is the day. I am taking 1 step at a time. I will focus on the current moment and nothing beyond or behind. I can do this. . . One moment at a time. Thank you all for your input and thank you for this blog. This is a wonderful supportive community with great information.


Interesting. I'm surprised by this post after all the recipes you publish that call for sugar.

How about a quick n easy "No Sugar No Egg No Flour No Fat" wholesome cookie to help when kicking sugar out the door?

1.5 rolled oats
1 t cin
2 ban
1/2c ap
1/2 c raisins
350 deg 25mins…

I have a different take on the sweet addiction. My husband was diagnosed with diabetes. Since then to replace his favorites he has been eating foods with alot of Splenda in them. Icecream, soda, iced tea. How can I wean him off these items and still satisfy his sweet tooth. His stomach is quite large where the rest of him is thin.

Yes. I Turned To Herbs And Spices. Marjoram (Oatmeal), Black Sesame Seeds (Ham) Also Tarragon (Chicken). Also To A Lesser Extent Ginger, Cinnamon.

I decided to stop putting flavored coffee creamer in my coffee and use half and half. Not a good choice. I read the ingredients after purchase and found out it has corn syrup and sugar. Fail.

I just made the cookies suggested by Barb L. and they are good! Thank you!

Sugar also causes inflammation, which causes you to retain water among other things. I can tell the difference in how much fluid I'm retaining when I eat more sugar - pretty disturbing. It's SO hard to get rid of though if you eat anything at all that's packaged or processed. The stuff is everywhere.

One of your emailers is correct . . . sugar reacts in your body no matter its source. Maple syrup and natural honey do have some other health benefits, though. Fruit is NOT the panacea many think it is. I have stopped eating fruit (a doctor said it is loaded with sugar, and sugar is sugar) . . . In the Autumn I will have an occasional apple and a few blueberries and strawberries in summer, but other than that, I get my vitamins and fiber from veggies, and have never felt better since I got off fruit. Here is a recipe that I found in the 70's that has satisfied my "sweet tooth" for years. My children love these bars, too. Here is the original recipe, but over the years I replaced the whole wheat flour with coconut or almond flour and the oats with GF oats. To a small saucepan add 1 packed cup of raisins and the juice of one orange. Cover and cook till raisins are soft and plump (just a few minutes). Process 1 cup of walnuts as finely as possible and put into a bowl. Process raisins till pureed. You might have to add a little OJ if too dry. Put into bowl with nuts and add 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup of oats. Mix all and press into an 8x8 pan (sprayed with Pam) Bake 350 for about 30 min. Cut into 16 squares. Everyone who has had these say it is like eating a piece of pastry. You can use golden raisins, dried Montmorency cherries(they have no sugar), figs or any other dry fruit you like. I no longer use OJ, I just add enough water for moisture. For an extra treat, I sometimes add Hershey's sugar-free chocolate chips which I buy on Amazon.

There sure are a LOT of hidden sugar! I had a bout of bad stomach problem over holidays and ended up having to eat a lot of yogurt to try to get the bacteria in my stomach back. Bought activia because I didn't know what else to get (I'm allergic to greek yogurt :\ ) and only after eating it once or twice a day for nearly 3 weeks that I realized it has a ton of added sugar. I'm normally super careful about hidden sugar and bad ingred, that I really had no clue how I let this one slip. ~_~

but yes, I've cut out my soda intake (I don't even like soda, just like the bubbles! lol which I have a sodastream for now!) and on the once a month days that I crave a coke, I go diet. I know that's not good either due to the aspartame, but as far as I can tell from studies, aspartame is a big problem during high consumption (like at least 1 diet soda a day, sometimes more). I figured once in a month wouldn't cause that much of a problem...I'd buy a real coke except real coke uses High fructose corn syrup so honestly diet or regular, neither are good! x__x

anyway, I cook most of my own meal now (once in a while I just don't feel like cooking then I go out and get fast food takeout lol) and aside from real fruits (banana, oranges, apple), my next sugar intake is probably wine/alcohol at night. Although lately people keep leaving girlscout cookies at work so I've been snacking on those whenever I see them :( which is bad. fingers crossed people stop putting them out!

I don't usually buy juice tho I have prune juice for when I need to make things...go. Thankfully I prefer my coffee black, so I never bother with sugar and creamer in my drink, and starbucks drinks are too expensive for my stinginess so. :D

one thing I find to be interesting is that to avoid eating some things, it's just a matter of making sure that item never gets into my house/fridge. If I don't buy icecream (and I LOVE icecream), then I won't eat it. The few times I break down and buy something bad (like super fattening chips or cookies or snacks), I found that I can't keep it for more than like 2 days before they're ALL GONE because I always think about it and end up snacking. if it's not there, then no temptation! same at work, sometimes when I see snacks that are in package, instead of leaving it on my desk I toss it in a drawer and promptly forget about them. it's great. XD

Carol, so glad you liked these cookies. I learned about them from a comment on Snack Girl a few years ago! My family loves them too. Sometimes I toss in some nuts and I don't grind the oats; we like them chunky. You can use a snack size apple sauce which is a pre-measured 1/2 cup. :)

I completely agree, Lisa, and my beliefs have been bolstered by seeing the movie Fed Up! (produced by Katie Couric and Laurie David). I have a real problem with sugar cravings so I recently completed a 10-day sugar detox with 10 friends. Here's how we did it:…

My husband and I cut out all added sugar last year. Since January 2014 we've lost a combined 215 lbs.

Been off of all candy, cakes, icecream etc,and diet pop (water or plain iced tea only) since last March. My only sweet left was spun honey added to peanut butter on banana for breakast.Just cut out the honey and (due to a nasty cold) cut coffee - and this is MAJOR for me, and cheese. I have been plateau'd for months,with this recent change, dropped 3 pounds. Try to limit packaged foods and eating out. I will eventually add back in cheese and honey but as a treat, not an everyday gotta have.

I love oatmeal with maple syrup or brown sugar .Use only

1 tbsp. How can I enjoy this healthy food without sweetness?

Sheila: Maple syrup is a better choice than brown sugar because it is less processed. For oatmeal you can try adding a Tbsp raisins as it cooks (in lieu of maple syrup) which sweetens it alot and the raisins add fiber to slow down your sugar absorption. Also what I did 2-3 years ago was to just stop buying white and brown sugar. Instead I buy coconut palm sugar; its not processed and not as sweet. Its also expensive so I use it sparingly mostly in baked goods. Pure Leaf Stevia extract is an acquired taste but its an herb and safe for diabetics I'm led to believe. I find it only has an aftertaste if I use too much so 4 drops in my tea or coffee is perfect. As a matter of fact if you crave a soda now and then Zevia is a brand of 0 calorie soda that has no sugar and just stevia. I like the gingerale and rootbeer occasionally. Anything sweet with fiber would also make good sugar substitutes such as chopped dates, figs, bananas. As i write this I'm reminding myself to try chopping some dates in my next batch of homemade granola and ditching the maple syrup. Good luck with your sugar addiction, stay strong. :)

Singling out sugar as the culprit driving an array of conditions is neither accurate nor productive. Quite simply, sugars are sugars and should be consumed in moderation, like all foods and beverages. With regard to obesity specifically, a New York Times article explains sugar is a “minor player” in the rising number of calories Americans are consuming: USDA data reinforces this point, indicating that sugar plays a meager role in excess calories in the American diet since the 1970s. In fact, the majority (84%) of additional calories in the American diet come from fats, oils and starches; sugar, from all sources, contributes just 9% by comparison. Bottom line: Demonizing sugar won’t help health; adopting a more holistic approach to overall diet and exercise will.

-American Beverage Association

I too noticed a big difference with craving after cutting sugar. It is still hard for me to avoid it but I'm working on it. I also like a little something after dinner . Try this:

Frozen raspberries

Plain Greek yogurt

Some dark chocolate chocolate chips, or not

Mush it all up and you have a very low calorie healthy yummy "blizzard"


After reading this post, I would be tempted to replace sugar with artificial sugar substitutes but I understand while not fattening, those are really bad for you. Same with sodas that have glucose and fructose. Sugar might be the best choice out of some even worse options.

On 2-9-15, my doctor had a conversation with me about prediabetes because for the first time my blood sugar was up in that range. Just a little. But enough to scare me. My husband is an insulin-dependent diabetic and my mom was diabetic and didn't take care of herself for years before she passed away. Since then, I have cut out all processed foods and watch the sugar content in all the foods I eat. I have lost 25 lbs as of this morning. I never really thought sugar was the culprit it was made out to be, but now I'm a believer. I don't really crave sugary things anymore and if I do, I have a piece of fruit. I wasn't a big soda drinker and never drink juice, so I didn't have that hurdle to overcome. I also don't use artificial sweeteners. I'm learning more every day and the internet is an invaluable resource for eating healthy and cutting the sugar. I don't remember feeling bad or having a headache at the beginning, but I do know I sleep better and have more energy. This is the life!

I've managed to cut back my sugar for about a year now and I've lost around 35 pounds - without additional exercise or cutting back on fats. I just don't eat junk anymore (and I also eat whole grains). I feel better, still get to have sugar in tea and coffee, I just am much more careful about what I eat. My blood pressure is no longer high and I can fit into old clothing. Win/win!

A side note? I have a serious sweet tooth, so it was very hard in the beginning, and I still cheat sometimes. I just make sure I don't go TOO overboard!

I have read several books dealing with sugar addiction. IT IS the culprit to obesity in the USA. All processed foods have sugar even if it says SUGAR FREE. I have learned that we should not only look at the grams of sugar a processed food has, but to also look at the grams of carbs a processed food has. Every gram of carbs is four grams of sugar. For example, if a food lists 25g of carbs and 15 grams of sugar, in reality that is 100g of sugar plus the 15g of sugar grams listed as well. That food has 115g of sugar total. In order to lose weight consistently but in a healthy manner, one should not eat more than 25g of carbs a day. Stick w/healthy proteins, healthy carbs (no more than 25g total), and lots of green and low carb vegetables. I took on this plan for a whole month and I completely lost all cravings for sugar or sweets for that matter. I lost a total of 20 lbs and gained double the energy. I stuck w/it and in total I lost 60 lbs reaching my goal weight in 6 months. I have stuck with this plan on a 6 day basis, and on the 7th day I have a cheat day. I will eat pie, cookies, ice cream and any other carb I love, but w/moderation. And since I have increased energy, I make it a strong point to exercise at least 4 times a week. Due to bad knees I can't do any running, but I do walk 3 miles a day or bike-ride 10 miles. I change it up in order to not get bored and keep up the motivation to move. I have several girlfriends who tried the plan and they too, lost weight and had increased energy. Take care of your body and your body will take care of you. God bless.

I'm older and smarter (but not wiser) than most of you here. Ok, I'm not 85: I'm a spring chicken of 61. Bawk, bawk!! My husband is a no-nonsense organic process chemist who pretty much assured me sugar "addiction" was in my head. Then, last year, after repeatedly having failed WW, Overeaters Anon and every other effort, the kind man I live with cleared out our carb cupboard and we went Paleo. (Easy for him to say . . .) FLASH: What followed was not pretty. It was the four longest, most dismal weeks of my life!! I didn't have the typical 3-4 day withdrawal. I felt 2-D and physically drained for 20 days. I told my dear husband (who was losing weight and exclaiming how great he felt) I just couldn't do another day. He coaxed, "One more day for me." The next morning, I felt the dark sky open just enough to allow a ray of light through. I continued and in the fourth week, my quirky personality returned and I felt less tortured day by day. We who live in the land of plenty and have so much to be thankful for, have TOO many options foodwise. Our bodies were not designed to process this processed 'stuff' (some of it doesn't deserve to be called food, IMHO).

I still mentally crave everything carbaricious: for those who are as intoxicated as I was (and remain) breaking the sugar habit will likely be one of the hardest things you'll ever do - oh, and beware the increased desire for that refill on wine. I've slipped back into some bad habits and need another strict "Carb Cleanse" period - moderation is not a good suggestion for those of us with truly entrenched sugar dependent chemistries. While I'm NOT looking forward to the next several weeks of low carb, I will go through this once again to get 'clean'. Knowing (let me be the first to proclaim this absolute truth) is not the same as doing. Knowing is hot air directed no-where: Doing is wisdom.

Thanks for being here with your voice of sanity. Thank you for taking us on your journey. Your site (and the complementary "SparkPeople" site) inspires me!

I went "sugar-free" for quite a while but have slipped back. I felt deprived. I made a pan of frosted brownies recently and, for the first time in ages, feel full after eating one. I cut them, froze them, and bring out one at a time. I hope this satisfies me and fills me up. My weight is fine - for now. We'll see. I wish I didn't want sweets. My husband can resist but is a salt lover. Oh, my. I think being a sugar lover is harder.

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