Sugar is probably one of the most addicting substances that’s out there today, and if you are someone struggling with this addiction, I can guarantee you are not alone.
Eating sugar causes serotonin, dopamine and endorphins to be released, which all contribute to making us “feel good.” Since we all want to feel good, we begin associating eating sugar with feeling good and our sugar cravings increase. Sugar actually stimulates the same brain receptors as heroin and morphine (sugar rush!) and it interferes with the hormones that let us know when we are full.
If you have a diet with a lot of sugar, kicking the sugar habit may cause withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and irritability. Part of this is due to the yeast, parasites and bacteria in the digestive system and other parts of the body that are fed by sugar.
While many foods naturally contain sugar, you can experience significant health risks from adding too much to your daily diet, with weight gain being just the icing on the cake. It can also lead to insulin resistance, central obesity, depression and other health risks over time.
So, if you’re trying to kick your sugar habit, try these six ways to get started.
1. Read the ingredients on food labels
When you’re serious about actually detoxing from sugar, you may not actually be getting rid of all the foods in your diet that contain sugar. Look for words that end in “ose” as a clue to sugars, like dextrose, or words that include syrup, molasses or honey. All these can be added sugar ingredients. Don’t assume just because the product doesn’t taste “sweet” that it doesn’t have any added sugar (for example— items like dressings and condiments, trail mix, yogurt, granola, crackers and bread).
How much is too much? Stick with less than 40 grams per day (there are naturally occurring sugars or fructose in fruits and veggies that are GOOD to have in moderation).
2. Eat more natural foods
One of the reasons why people turn to sugar is that regular food doesn’t satisfy their cravings. If you’re not eating real foods (foods that grow on trees, in the ground or come from an animal) on a regular basis, then you’re going to find it hard to give up sugary foods. Instead, buy natural foods that do not contain preservatives or additives (if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, it is probably not the best choice). Spend a little extra time cooking and you’ll start to notice the difference in your satiety, which will help you stay on track.
3. Add fruit to your meals
Fruit is naturally sweet and also full of nutrients and fiber. So, you can trick your taste buds into thinking that they’re getting something sweet by shutting down your cravings before you reach for dessert. Try adding some blueberries or bananas into your oatmeal instead of brown sugar or a few slices of pineapple to your grilled chicken. Use your imagination and don’t be afraid to use fruit in your diet to help you with your plan!
4. Increase your protein
Many people eat foods high in sugar and simple carbs because they find it gives them an energy boost to make it through the day. It does do this, but the flip side is that it often leads to a sugar crash from the ups and downs of your blood sugar levels. Protein throughout the day starting with breakfast can help provide your body with the energy it needs on a stable basis all day and help regulate your mood as well. This would include eating foods like meats, nuts, beans and dairy. As your body adjusts to this stability, sugar cravings will reduce.
5. Plan on how much and when to indulge
If you just feel like you are being too deprived and life is not worth living without your favorite sugary foods, then at least pick the best time and conditions in which to indulge. Pick one day a week to enjoy a sundae or frozen yogurt, or enjoy it post-workout when your body needs a higher glycemic carb for recovery. Save your snack for around half an hour after your workout and eat a protein source along with it.
6. Cope with stress
Stress can cause the brain to tell the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol, causing blood sugar levels and blood pressure to increase. That’s why when we are stressed we often crave sugary and fatty foods. Resist the urge and go for whole-grain foods with fiber instead. Complex carb foods help keep your energy level stable throughout the day so you don’t feel the need to get the sugar rush when you start dragging. Be sure to also get enough good quality sleep, exercise, maintain a social network of friends or family and make time for relaxation activities such as yoga or meditation to help reduce stress.