Everyone knows that eating a lot of sugar can cause cavities, not to mention diabetes and heart disease, but many of us are unaware that our candy cravings and pastry proclivities may actually come from an addiction to the sweet stuff. And just like kicking an addiction to nicotine or alcohol, adopting a sugar free lifestyle is much easier said than done!
Sugar: Our New Favorite Addiction
To our body, sugar is like gasoline – it burns fast and hot, but too much of it can be dangerous, especially if our body develops an addiction to the pleasure-inducing chemicals (like dopamine) that flood our brains every time we eat something sweet. Because these chemicals make us feel good, our bodies begin seeing donuts, gummy bears, soda, chips, and bread products like french fries and bagels (which break down into sugar) as a reward, and over time, we begin actually needing sugar to feel normal.
How To Break The Cycle of Sweets
Though kicking the sugar habit may seem like a Herculean task, here are six things you can do to help break the cycle:
#1: Quit Cold Turkey. Like with any addiction, one way to kick the habit is to cut out sugar entirely. This helps our brains reset and, while withdrawal symptoms (yes, we suffer withdrawals from sugar, too!) can be excruciating, is the fastest way to get over the sugar cravings. Be forewarned: This method isn’t for everyone, and one whiff of fresh-baked bread or cookies can send you tumbling off the wagon once again.
#2: Clear The Kitchen. Temptations are the enemy of any diet, and keeping sugary snacks, fruit juices, soda, and empty carbohydrates around the house will make kicking your addictions even harder. Up your chances of success by clearing out your cupboards, pantry, and fridge of all food that might sabotage your efforts.
#3: Identify Sneaky Sugar. Foods that you don’t think of as being “sweet” can be loaded with sugar, and these incognito culprits can derail your clean-eating progress in a hurry. Before buying a product, read the ingredients – maltodextrain, corn syrup, glucose, malt, and anything that ends in “–ose” (like fructose, dextrose, sucrose) is sugar in disguise.
#4: Watch Your Blood Sugar Levels. Eating several small, protein-rich meals throughout the day will help you feel full and stave off intense hunger cravings. Natural fruit (not fruit juice) is also a great substitute for sugar, though fruit, too, should be eaten in moderation.
#5: Ditch Artificial Sweeteners. While not sugar, per se, artificial sweetners like aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, and stevia can develop into their own addictions, and the health warnings regarding of some “chemically-engineered” sugars are dubious enough that smart consumers should think twice about swapping a sugar addiction for a saccharine one.
#6: Monitor Magnesium Levels. Chocolate cravings, in particular, have been linked to Magnesium deficiencies, so if you find yourself constantly jonesing for Hersheys or Godiva, try eating Magnesium-rich foods like spinach, tofu, legumes and nuts instead.