How to Quit Sugar

The fructose goes

Fructose serves no purpose in our body. Standard table sugar contains 50 per cent glucose and 50 per cent fructose. When ingested, the glucose is used as energy, the fructose is converted to fat. Unlike every other food molecule, fructose does not have a corresponding appetite hormone in the brain that tells us when to stop eating it, which is why we can eat a packet of HobNobs in one go. Evidence links it to heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. It causes bloating, a rise in adrenalin and concentration loss, and inhibits the immune system. Our body can process nine teaspoons of sugar a day at most (about 252g a week) but we are consuming over a kilogram a week on average.

Break the habit

Studies show that it takes eight weeks to change a habit. If you experience energy slumps and sweet cravings and can’t say no to sugary foods, try quitting sugar . Reduce your intake for two weeks to give your gut time to adjust. Then cut out all sugar for six weeks, including fruit. Avoid sugar-free gum and sugar substitutes, as they trigger the same bodily response as sugar.

What not to eat

A glass of fruit juice contains the same amount of fructose as a glass of Coca Cola. (Wine, beer and spirits contain minimal amounts of fructose.) Avoid dried fruits: dates and raisins are 70 per cent sugar. Thai food contains palm sugar – instead choose Indian food with a tomato base. Pasta sauces can contain four teaspoons of sugar per serving. Sugar is added to low-fat foods to make up for their lack of taste. For example, a small tub of plain low-fat yogurt can contain six teaspoons of sugar, so eat full-fat. Be aware that “healthy” sweeteners often contain high levels of fructose. Agave, for example, is 90 per cent fructose.

Eat fats

Replace sugar with fats and proteins. Eat good-quality meats, nuts, eggs, full-fat dairy products and avocados, and cook with ghee or coconut oil. I recommend “crowding out”: eating as much nutritious food as you want so that you do not feel hunger pangs for sugar. If you do need a fix choose something fatty or protein-rich food to satisfy your craving for a “treat”, such as a chunk of halloumi or some warm milk. Often we are just craving comfort, so do something nurturing such as phoning someone who makes you feel good or buying some luxury herbal tea as a treat.

The pay-off

Quitting sugar will give you more energy and focus, and a clearer complexion. After eight weeks reintroduce fresh fruit – grapefruit, raspberries and kiwis are low in fructose – and use Stevia or rice malt syrup, which contain no fructose, instead of table sugar. Choose foods with less than 6g sugar per 100g.

“I Quit Sugar” by Sarah Wilson, is available from Telegraph Books at £10.99 plus £1.35 p&p