Cutting sugar from your hot drink routine might seem like a small change to your diet, but the overall effect it can have on your calorie intake is tremendous.
Consider this – a teaspoon contains about 5g of sugar, which contains 20 calories. So having three hot drinks a day with one spoonful of sugar in each is 60 calories, around 2.5% of the daily total recommended for men. Sounds small, but considering many people are habitual coffee drinkers, those calories add up. Ditch sugar and you’ll have almost 22,000 extra calories to play with every year, so it’s a move well worth making.
The problem is it can be dashed tricky to break the habit. Fortunately, a new study has been investigating the best ways to give up the sweet stuff. Unexpectedly, the results suggest that gradually weaning yourself off sugar is the worst way to go.
The study, published in the Journal Of Health Psychology, found that going cold turkey or taking a mindful approach to drinking coffee would both be more effective than weaning yourself off sugar slowly.
In the study, 127 participants were randomly assigned to three groups that changed their coffee habits over two weeks. One group decreased the amount of sugar they drank in their coffee a little bit each day. Another cut sugar from their coffee completely, and the third were taught to drink coffee mindfully – which meant they were given a tasting lesson so they could detect the flavour, acidity, sweetness, mouthfeel and aftertaste, and told to focus all this when drinking it.
The participants were then monitored for six months to see how the interventions had affected their coffee drinking. All three groups drank more sugar-free coffee than before, but the participants who were taught the mindful approach drank coffee without sugar more than the other groups, to the surprise of the study’s authors, who thought the gradual change would be the most effective intervention.
Study author Richie Lenne was also surprised by the long-term impact of the mindfulness approach.
“Initiating change is relatively easy, but maintaining that change is nearly impossible,” Lenne told Reuters Health (opens in new tab). “We fully expected most of our participants would revert back to sugar-laden coffee, yet the mindfulness group persisted in drinking coffee sugar-free.”
Going cold turkey was the next best option in the study, so there’s always that to try if the mindful approach is not to your liking. That said, taking a moment to consider the taste of your morning joe is no bad thing and while you’re doing it, you can also ponder the many health benefits of coffee. When it’s drunk without sugar, of course.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
Sign up for workout ideas, training advice, the latest gear and more.
Thank you for signing up to Coach. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.