There is no doubt that a diet high in sugar is detrimental to our health. Not only does sugar naturally occur in many foods, it is also added, in different forms, to most processed foods, making it difficult to avoid. Excess sugar consumption has been associated with conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, increased risk of cancer, and premature aging.
What’s more, as Dr. Lipman in his book “Revive” explains: “Not only does eating too much sugar lead to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay, it is also one of the biggest contributors to low energy and feelings of being overwhelmed – it has even been scientifically linked to depression.”
Hence, reducing sugar intake is crucial!
Unfortunately, often it’s easier said than done. Why?
Did you know that sugar and processed foods containing sugar are as addictive as heroine or cocaine? How come?
When we consume sugar in any form (sweets, cakes, fizzy drinks, and other high GL foods), glucose causes reaction in the brain whereby dopamine (a neurotransmitter that makes us feel pleasure) is released. The brain recognises this and makes us crave more. Therefore, cravings are driven by the brain’s need for “reward”, and not the body’s need for food.
Here are seven strategies to help you end your sugar cravings:
- Stop eating foods or beverages containing sugar, whether added or natural. Avoid sweet tasting foods or drinks. The less you eat or drink, the less you crave it. This is a necessary first step, so be mindful about your food choices. The good news is – once you do this, cravings diminish quite quickly.
- When the craving sensation appears, ask yourself “what am I craving?” Maybe you are simply dehydrated and a glass of water or herbal tea is just want you need. “Am I hungry?” – maybe you are ready for a balanced meal or a healthy snack if more than 3 or 4 hours passed since you have eaten. Or, simply try to distract yourself by going for a walk or switching the task you are currently busy with. Often when bored, people reach for sugary snacks.
- Focus on eating the most satiating foods: fat, fibre, and protein as they will keep you full and keep your blood sugar steady. Have avocado, nuts, seeds, and coconut oil for healthy fats. Eat a lot of vegetables for fibre and choose free-range, grass-fed (preferably organic) meats, eggs, fish, and beans for protein.
- Read the labels. Sugar is often disguised as fructose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, brown sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, date sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup, honey, maltose, treacle, malt, Truvia – if any of these ingredients is first (or even second) on the ingredients list, then you can be convinced this is going to be a very sugary choice of food or drink.
- Apply mindful eating, which can help you to enjoy a satisfying, healthy and enjoyable relationship with food. Eat slowly, paying attention to the smell, taste, sound, texture, and look of the food. Stop eating just before you feel full and wait 10-20 minutes before eating more food if you are still hungry. Following mindful eating might help you avoid eating puddings or sweat treats after your main meals.
- Chew your food well. Digestion starts in the mouth. Digestive enzymes start the process of breaking down starches into sugar. When you remove processed foods from your diet and chew your food well, you will start to notice the natural sweetness of fruits and vegetables.
- Get your sugar fix from whole fruit (not juice or smoothie) and choose low sugar (or low GL) fruit like berries, cherries, apples, plums, pears, apricots, grapefruits, oranges. Should the craving be very strong you could have up to 25g dark (plain) chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids) per serving. The more cocoa solid the chocolate contains the less sugar it has and more minerals such as iron and magnesium as well as antioxidant procyanidin, which help maintain your health.
Of course, there are many more strategies you can try (exercise, meditation, detox, etc.), however by implementing these 7 simple strategies you will make a good start.