Did you know sugar may be addictive? The fact that the average American consumes more than 150 pounds of sugar every year should certainly be a red flag. While research continues on the subject, a number of studies suggest refined sugars affect the brain in ways very similar to alcohol and drugs such as heroin and cocaine, producing an initial “high” upon consumption and resulting in dependency. Over time, greater quantities are needed to achieve the same sugar high. And attempts to eliminate sugar from the diet may result in withdrawal symptoms and cravings. So if you feel frustrated, thinking you simply lack discipline or willpower to turn down that triple fudge brownie, there may indeed be a physiological reason behind your sweet tooth’s constant demand for more sugar.
Refined sugar contains zero nutrients. The white crystalline table sugar we are so fond of is not a natural substance and is nearly impossible to digest. When you eat sugar laden foods, your body is forced to steal essential vitamins and minerals from other parts of the body in its attempt to process what is actually a toxin. As little as two teaspoons of sugar can throw your entire body out of balance. As a result, you are much more likely to suffer obesity, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, auto-immune disease, depression, and a variety of other illnesses.
As with other addictive substances, a sugar habit can be challenging to overcome. If you are struggling with a never ending desire for sweets, it may be time to check yourself into “sugar rehab.”
Try these tips for helping overcome sugar addiction.
- Admit you have a problem. As with any addiction, you must acknowledge the problem before you can become intentional about overcoming it. Giving yourself three to seven consecutive sugar-free days will let your body detoxify and allow the cravings for sweets to subside. Stay focused on the goal — living a healthier life and feeling better physically, mentally, and emotionally.
- Know what you’re eating. Sugar is hidden in almost all processed foods, not just cakes and cookies. Read labels when you shop, avoiding items containing sugary ingredients such as sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, and sorbitol. Buy fresh foods as often as possible.
- Include protein with every meal. Protein keeps blood sugar levels stable. It also helps you feel full longer, decreasing your tendency to want to snack.
- Replace a bad habit with a good habit. Instead of reaching for the candy dish, indulge yourself with a naturally sweet piece of fruit. Keeping healthy snacks readily available will make it easier to make the right choices.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners. Like refined sugar, these are not natural and have been linked to serious health problems.
- Brush your teeth immediately following meals. A minty-fresh mouth will help discourage the urge to snack on sugary sweets in between meals.
- Bring healthy finger foods to parties. Providing healthy alternatives will help you and other health conscious guests say no to sweet temptation.
- Exercise. A regular fitness routine helps reduce sugar cravings while maintaining a healthy body.
- Kick the habit with a friend, and keep each other accountable. Surround yourself with people who will support, encourage, and even join you in your quest for a sugar-free lifestyle.