We all know that sugar is bad for our health. It is also associated with many chronic problems that include decreased immunity, some chronic infections, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndromes & irritable bowel syndrome. Furthermore, sugars stimulate insulin secretion in the pancreas, which in turn stimulates the liver’s triglyceride production. Triglycerides are linked to stroke, heart disease and obesity. Triglycerides deposited in liver lead to a condition known as “FattyLiver”, a disease which affects 1 in 4 adults.
Despite of knowing that sugar is bad for our health we feel we are helpless when asked to give it up using terms such as “Sweet Tooth” or “Sugar Craving”. What we need to understand that there is complex neuroscience involved & “sugar” acts like cocaine or any other narcotic drug in the brain acting on the same “Opioid Receptor” which is stimulated when we consume sugar.
The bottom line is that sugar works the addiction and reward pathways in the brain in much the same way as many illegal drugs. Sugar is basically a socially acceptable, legal, recreational drug, with deadly consequences and like with any drug addiction, you have to have a flexible but structured plan to beat it.
How to Fix a Sugar Addiction
- Eat regularly. Eat three meals and two snacks or five small meals a day. For many people, if they don’t eat regularly, their blood sugar levels drop, they feel hungry, and are more likely to crave sweet sugary snacks.
- Choose whole foods. The closer a food is to its original form, the less processed sugar it will contain. Food in its natural form, including fruits and vegetables, usually presents no metabolic problems for a normal body, especially when consumed in variety.
- Have a breakfast of protein, fat and phytonutrients to start your day off right. The typical breakfast full of carbs and sugary or starchy foods is the worst option since you’ll have cravings all day. Eating a good breakfast is essential to prevent sugar cravings.
- Try to incorporate protein and/or fat with each meal. This helps control blood sugar levels. Make sure they are healthy sources of each.
- Add Spices. Coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom will naturally sweeten your foods and reduce cravings.
- Physical Exercise. Walk, Run, Exercise, dance or do some yoga. Whatever movement you enjoy will help reduce tension, boost your energy and decrease your need for a sugar lift.
- Get enough Sleep. When we are tired we often use sugar for energy to counteract the exhaustion.
- Be open to explore the emotional issues around your sugar addiction. Many times our craving for sugar is more for an emotional need that isn’t being met.
- Keep sugary snacks out of your house and office. It’s difficult to snack on things that aren’t there!
- Learn to read labels. Although I would encourage you to eat as few foods as possible that have labels, educate yourself about what you’re putting into your body. The longer the list of ingredients, the more likely sugar is going to be included on that list. So check the grams of sugar, and choose products with the least sugar per serving.
- Become familiar with sugar terminology. Recognise that all of these are sweeteners: Corn syrup, corn sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, honey, molasses and brown sugar.
- Sugar in disguise. Remember that most of the “complex” carbohydrates we consume like bread, bagels and pasta aren’t really complex at all. They are usually highly refined and act just like sugars in the body and are to be avoided.
How to Deal with a Sugar Craving?
- Distract yourself. Go for a walk, if possible, in nature. Cravings usually last for 10-20 minutes maximum. If you can distract yourself with something else, it often passes. The more you do this, the easier it gets and the cravings get easier to deal with.
- Drink lots of water. Sometimes drinking water or seltzer water can help with the sugar cravings. Also sometimes what we perceive as a food craving is really thirst.
- Have a piece of fruit. If you give in to your cravings, have a piece of fruit, it should satisfy a sweet craving and is much healthier.
- Try Sugar Free Chewing Gums: e.g. Orbit