You’ve probably heard that sugar is as addicting as nicotine, cocaine or other drugs. Most likely you’ve also felt the effects of sugar addiction yourself. Highly sugary foods and processed junk foods trigger the release of feel good endorphins in our brain such as dopamine. However, if we chronically consume high amounts of sugar we become desensitized to the effects of dopamine. This translates into an increased amount of sugar needed to produce the same pleasure center response, hence the sugar addiction. Excess sugar can also lead to increased triglyceride levels, which can increase your risk for heart disease. Check out these ten tips to help kick your sugar addiction!
1. Reset Your Taste Buds
For three to seven days try and avoid all sugary foods and added sweeteners (including artificial sweeteners.) Sugar is like caffeine, salt, or even alcohol, you can build up a tolerance to it. By resetting yourself from it you can heighten your sensitivity. So when you enjoy a treat again, you’ll find yourself satisfied a lot sooner and with less sugar. Try three days, and then try to make it a week; if you make it that far try going for Sugar Free September!
2. Make Treats Acceptable
We crave treats when we think of them as “off limits” or forbidden. So unless you are trying to reset your taste buds, don’t think of sugar as off limits. Instead, allow yourself small treats regularly; that way you don’t find yourself binging later.
3. Trick Your Taste Buds
Increasing flavorings like vanilla, chocolate (unsweetened), cinnamon etc. can help increase your perception of sweetness while using less sugar. Use them in your coffee, smoothies, or wherever you typically use a lot of sugar.
4. Reduce Your Intake of Artificial Sweeteners
This is a tough one and somewhat controversial. Low calorie artificial sweeteners may increase your affinity for sweets. Artificial sweeteners (like Splenda, Sweet & Low, Equal etc.) are hundreds times sweeter than regular sugar. For this reason it’s thought they may actually increase your cravings for sweets. Try to limit them or cut back totally when you reset your taste buds and use them sparingly after that.
5. Eat Well-Balanced Meals
If you eat mostly carbohydrates, which turn into sugar, most of your day you’ll be fighting drastic spikes and dips in blood sugar which will cause you to crave even more sugar. Conversely, if you eat your meals totally devoid of carbohydrates then your body will be craving them. Try to eat well-balanced meals that include protein, healthy fats and enough healthy carbohydrates to support your lifestyle (less if you’re a desk jockey and more if you are an athlete).
6. Choose the Right, Healthy Carbohydrates
Healthy carbohydrates are full of fiber and will help stabilize your blood sugar throughout the day therefore minimizing cravings. The most nutrient dense sources are starchy vegetables like sweet potato, rutabaga, winter squash, taro, plantains etc… Whole grain options such as brown rice and quinoa can be used, but I find that it’s easy to over indulge in them so practice portion control. (In general, they should make up no more than ¼ of your meal.)
7. Cut Back On Caffeine
Crashes associated with caffeine can cause you to crave energy, and the most readily available source of energy is sugar.
8. Cut Back On Alcohol
One problem with alcohol is that alcoholic beverages are usually made with sugary mixers. Even if you order yours “on the rocks” or “straight up” alcohol alone can elicit a low blood sugar response and affect your body’s ability to maintain blood sugar levels. In addition, impairment makes it more difficult to resist sugary treats!
9. Choose Whole Fruit in Moderation
Fruit is made up of mostly carbohydrate in the form of “natural sugar.” While your body can’t tell the difference between natural sugar and refined sugar, it can be a nutrient dense way to satisfy your sweet tooth without derailing your efforts. Include up to one to two pieces of whole fruit per day, but skip the juice. Not only will it spike your blood sugar similar to soda and sports drinks, but it’s easy to overdo it. (It’s easy to drink two cups of apple juice but hard to eat the five apples it would take to make those two cups of juice.)
10. Get Plenty of Sleep
Research shows the less you sleep the more you eat. If you’re sleep deficient you’re going to reach for quick sources of energy—like sugar. Sleep deficiencies can also increase the stress hormone cortisol, which may also lead to higher sugar cravings. So get your beauty rest!
After a particularly indulgent Labor Day weekend my husband and I decided it’s time to reset our taste buds and tame down our sugar habit before the holidays set in. So, it looks like I’ll be participating in sugar free September too! Anyone with me?