Kick the Sugar Habit For Good

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Sugar is one of the most readily available and addictive substances in the world. 

A recent study found that sugar is more addictive than cocaine, one of the most addictive and harmful substances in the world.  It turns out that consuming sugar causes a similar chemical reaction in the brain and and endocrine system.  Sugar actually acts on the same receptor sites in the brain as illicit drugs do.  No wonder we are so easily hooked on sugar!

The average American eats over 130 lbs of sugar per year. Getting too much of it in your diet can be disastrous.

It can work to slow metabolism, increase fat storage & cause weight gain, contribute to fatigue, cause bloating, and it can also set the stage for several chronic diseases including hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.

You may think that you don’t eat much sugar, but sugar can be sneaky. 

It doesn’t just hang out in the junk food aisle, it is found in healthy foods too.  Foods don’t necessarily have to taste sweet to contain sugar.  Oats, legumes, raw nuts, and even green non-starchy veggies all contain sugar.  It is virtually impossible to cut out sugar entirely.   So what’s a health-conscious consumer to do?  Unless you eat an all-meat all the time diet (which I don’t recommend), you are inevitably going to be getting some sugar in your diet.  The key is to get the majority of sugar in your diet from natural, whole food sources and cut back on added sugars. 

Here are my top tips on how to kick the sugar habit for good:

Cleanse

This is the fastest, most effective way to rid yourself of a sugar addiction. Many people do not realize the amount of sugar they are consuming nor do they realize they are addicted to it!  By cutting out sugar through a cleanse, you stop the cycle in its tracks and the physical cravings dissipate quickly.  You also nourish your body better by replacing the empty calories from sugar with nutrient-dense calories from whole foods which makes for a healthier, happier you!

Retrain Your Taste Buds

Just like any addiction, the more you feed it, the worse it becomes.  The more sugar you eat, the more you will crave it.  With time, you can actually train your taste buds to enjoy foods less sweet.  If you are unable to go completely cold turkey, just cut back as much as possible.  Some people are more successful with a gradual process, taking baby steps.  Start by eating more fruits and vegetables. Drink extra water. Use fewer processed foods, which hide loads of sugar.  If you add sugar to foods like coffee or cereal, start by reducing the amount by half and continue to cut back gradually until you don’t add any. Cut back a little more each week. After a few weeks, you'll be surprised at how little you miss it.

Watch Out for Hidden Sugar

Ideally you should avoid packaged foods all together, but if you ever do purchase these items, you need to become an avid label reader.  Most packaged foods are full of additives, including sugar, so do your best to avoid them at all costs.  The following list has 28 of the different names for sugar that can show up in an ingredients list (sneaky indeed!).

  • Anhydrous dextrose

    Brown sugar

    Confectioner’s sugar Cane sugar

  • Corn sugar Corn syrup Corn syrup solids Dextrose 

  • Evaporated cane juice Evaporated cane sugar Evaporated corn sweetener Fructose

  • Fruit juice concentrate Granulated sugar High fructose corn syrup Honey

  • Invert sugar Lactose Maltose Maltodextrin

  • Malt syrup Maple syrup Molasses Nectars 

  • Pancake syrup Raw sugar Turbinado sugar Sucrose

When buying packaged foods, look for short ingredients lists with items you can pronounce.  If you don’t know what an ingredient is, it’s likely your body doesn’t either!  If sugar is one of the first 3 ingredients, think twice about purchasing that food.  Ingredients are listed in descending order according to weight- so the ingredients at the top of the list make up a higher percentage of the product.

Choose foods that are naturally sweet

To satisfy a sweet tooth, reach for fresh fruit.  In addition to providing that sweet taste you are looking for, you’ll also be getting some hydration from the water content, as well as some fiber, vitamins, and minerals to nourish your body.   Instead of sugar, try using (unsweetened) applesauce or sliced banana to sweeten your oatmeal.  If you need some extra sweetness in your smoothie, try adding dates.

Focus on Flavor

If you are looking to add depth of flavor to your foods, choose herbs and spices rather than adding sugar.  For example, instead of adding brown sugar, try sprinkling cinnamon on your sweet potato.  Marinara sauce goes well with the addition of fresh basil, oregano, and garlic.

Timing is Key

The best time to indulge in a little something sweet is within 20-30 minutes after a hard workout.  Studies show that during this window of time, your body is more efficient at processing and utilizing the sugar in foods.  Make sure to pair with a lean protein to prevent blood sugar spikes and aid in muscle tissue building and repair.

Be Suspicious of Substitutes

When trying to cut back on sugar or calories, it may be tempting to reach for a zero-calorie artificial sweetener. But besides simply being a lab-created chemical concoction, sugar substitutes don’t really help to curb cravings at all.  Studies show that while sugar substitutes don’t necessarily make you eat more (which is still being debated), many individuals reported sugar cravings and a need for more food after consuming so-called “diet” foods containing artificial sweeteners.  Additionally, they reported that once they cut back on artificial sweeteners, cravings decreased and it was easier to resist sweet indulgences and lose weight. 

Be good to your body and give it the care and respect it deserves.  This means fueling it properly with a healthy, balanced diet so that it can perform optimally and power you through each day.  You don’t need all that extra sugar anyway, you’re sweet enough already!