Many can attest that overcoming an addiction is hard, and we’re not just referring to drugs or alcohol — many have found themselves struggling to deal with their cravings for sugar.
There is no denying that sugar makes you feel good; it perks your brain up. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high-sugar chocolate milk shakes energizes the brain more effectively than milk shakes that were identical in the amount of calories but lower in sugar. However, researchers believe that this surge of energy can lead to compulsive eating
. Besides weight gain, this could also increase the risk of related problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Give yourself 30 days
According to a research paper
in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, sugar can become a real addiction. Many people often make the mistake of going cold turkey, cutting sugar completely out of their diet. You’ll find that it is more effective to ease into the process. Give your body and your taste buds time to adapt.
If your devil is carbonated drinks, and you typically drink two bottles a week, start by cutting down from two bottles to one and a half bottles, then to one bottle the next week, followed by half the week after. Gradually, you will reach a point where you are comfortable to cut yourself off completely. The key is to cut down consumption at a reasonable rate, so you will not experience it as deprivation and put yourself at risk of regressing.
Identify your source of sugar
You would usually think of canned drinks, beverages, chocolate bars, or candy as the main causes of sugar addiction. But there are other silent sugar bombs as well. It might be that low-fat yoghurt, or processed bread, or that sponge cake you swear ‘wasn’t too sweet’.
In its natural state, sugar is relatively harmless. It is a necessary carbohydrate that our bodies need to function, and it is abundantly found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy. However, sugar is also commonly added to some foods during processing for flavour, texture, or colour.
You don’t have to be in the candy section to be surrounded by added sugar.
You should also not load up on too much fruit smoothies or sugary fruits like mangoes and grapes, thinking that “fruit is healthy”. Fruits provide important vitamins and fibre, but should be eaten according to the recommended guidelines. We should get most of our vitamins and fibre from vegetables and whole fruits, not smoothies.
Read food labels
Reading food labels is an important step to identifying sugar sources. You'll quickly realise just how often sugar is added to food when you make an effort to look at the ingredients list.
A nutritionist could easily point out that things not often thought of to be sweet. like tomato sauce, crackers, condiments, and salad dressings, could still be packed with sugar.
Ingredients are listed in order of the amount that exists in the product, so if sugar is listed right on top, you might want to reconsider purchasing the product.
Learn the different names for sugar, as it could be “masked” under several names. Some of the commonly used ones include high fructose corn syrup, dried cane syrup, molasses, sucrose, and brown rice syrup. These could be listed separately on ingredient lists, with each product containing three or four different types of sweeteners.
Start your day strong
Yogurt or high-fibre cereals are typically packed with a whole lot of added sugar. Start your day right by going for a no-sugar, protein-packed morning meal instead. You could also fill yourself up with some oatmeal or hard-boiled eggs.
Pack the protein
Fill the rest of your day with meals comprising of lean meat and veggies. Increased protein reportedly reduces ghrelin levels, a hormone that induces hunger. And if you’re not fuelling yourself with the right amount of calories at that point, the very first thing you will crave is sugar.
Don’t let your emotions get the best of you
You might feel like you need the comfort of a huge tub of chocolate ice cream after a breakup. Hormones, emotions, and memories can create a Pavlovian-like response and induce the urge to eat sugary comfort foods. Anticipate and acknowledge that these cravings will happen. It is okay to have a little sugar, but don’t let the indulgence control you.