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Sugar is insidious; it lurks in both the least expensive foods and the least expected. That flavored water in your cart has almost as much sugar as soda. Even fruits and vegetables, the holy grail of healthy eating contain natural sugars. It can be such a big part of your daily diet and you may not even be aware of a sugar addiction.
Studies have shown that sugar lights up the same parts of the brain as cocaine. This rush of dopamine is associated with feelings of pleasure and can lead us to crave even more. Over time, you need more and more sugar to get the same high. Of course, the brain requires at least some sugar to function; the brain uses the glucose in sugar to work properly. However, overloading the brain with sugar can cause cravings and a myriad of health problems.
While it is easy for humans to find food now, it wasn’t always. Millions of years ago when food was scarce, our bodies taught themselves to store fat in order to survive. The body is still capable of doing this, but now we have more food than we need. So, when a person eats more food, the body turns the excess food into body fat. If you consume a lot of sugar or any unhealthy food, it can lead to obesity.
Additionally, consuming a lot of sugar makes your body lethargic and exercising is the last thing you want to do. When you’re addicted to sugar, your blood sugar level is up and down throughout the day, which typically leads to a late afternoon bout of fatigue.
The rapid change in your blood sugar levels mentioned above can also cause big dips and highs in your mood. These constant mood swings can be disastrous for your mental health, especially if you are prone to depression.
Having a blood pressure higher than 130/80 means you have hypertension. Hypertension increases your risk of heart attacks and other serious heart problems. Drinking caffeinated beverages increases your risk of developing hypertension.
Type 2 Diabetes
There is some debate over whether sugar is a direct cause of type 2 diabetes or a secondary cause. Sugar often causes obesity and obesity directly contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes. .
Symptoms of Sugar Addiction
The symptoms of sugar addiction vary from person to person, but there are many commonly observed symptoms:
Craving Pasta and Foods High in Carbohydrates
The carbohydrates in food aren’t what you crave – it’s the glucose (sugar) that is produced by the carbs. If you always eat pasta, bread and other high carb foods, you should consider you that you have a sugar addiction. Constantly consuming salty or fatty foods are also a red flag.
Craving Soda and Drinks Rich in Sugar
Soda is bad for us. We all know it. But it tastes so good. That’s the high-fructose corn syrup and sugar talking. Diet soda isn’t any better – those artificial sweeteners have high sugar content and have been linked to causing some types of cancer. Coffee isn’t safe either – many coffee shops add flavor syrups that are packed with sugar and other sweeteners. Calorie-free doesn’t mean sugar-free. Water is just about the only true sugar-free drink.
Rewarding Yourself with Sugar
Sometimes people bargain with their brain to motivate themselves into doing something. If you have a sugar addiction, your bargain could be rewarding yourself with sugar. For example, to get yourself to go to the gym, you might “reward” yourself by stopping for ice cream or a soda on the way home.
Binging on Sugar
If you have a sugar addiction, you might find yourself eating ice cream, cookies or other treats when you’re alone. Eating alone isn’t a symptom of sugar addiction, but eating foods filled with sugar only when you are alone could be a sign.
Eating sugary foods when you’re bored, stressed or upset can be additional signs of a sugar addiction.
Unable to Quit
Quitting your soda addiction is similar to quitting drugs or smoking — it often takes more than one attempt. If you’ve tried to quit consuming as much sugar and failed, you’re probably addicted to sugar.
Making Excuses to Consume Sugar
“I’ll only drink soda at restaurants.” Have you told yourself this and then found yourself eating more and more at restaurants? People who are addicted to sugar can find any excuse to consume sugar.
What Deficiency Causes Sugar Cravings?
The human body needs macronutrients and micronutrients to perform even the most basic function. Macronutrients are fat, protein and carbs, which are relatively easy to include in the diet. But most people don’t think about the micronutrients – the vitamins, minerals and fatty acids the body requires. Missing micronutrients from your diet can cause trouble sleeping, weak nails and hair and more serious conditions such as obesity and cancer.
When you consume sugar, the sugar prevents the body from absorbing micronutrients calcium and magnesium, resulting in a micronutrient deficiency. What’s more frustrating is your body responds to this deficiency by craving MORE sugar. This is referred to as a craving cycle because it is an endless cycle that will continue until you remove excess sugar from your diet.
How Can You Stop Your Sugar Addiction?
Stopping your sugar addiction will be difficult and you might face some setbacks along the way. If you stop consuming sugar cold turkey, you will most likely go into withdrawal. Withdrawal to sugar can cause headaches, irritability and cravings.
You can help raise your chances of successfully quitting sugar with these steps.
Eat More Vegetables
Start your foray into healthy eating by replacing sugary foods with vegetables. There is actually small amounts of sugar in vegetables, which may be enough to hold off your cravings while you kick your sugar habit. The sugar in vegetables is natural, which makes it a healthier alternative to manufactured sugars.
Clean Out Fridge and Cupboards
Before you can begin your sugar cleanse, you need to remove any sugary foods from your house. That includes sodas from the fridge and cookies from the cupboards. Keeping sugary foods in the house is only setting yourself up for failure. However, completely overhauling your entire diet in one day can be overwhelming. You can slowly eliminate the sugary food from your fridge then move on to your cupboards a few days later.
One big reason people rely on processed foods high in sugar is that they don’t have a meal planned. Meal planning is a trendy thing more people are doing right now to save time and money as well as help lose weight. When you have a plan, you aren’t left standing in line at the nearest fast food place when you get hungry.
Guess what? Foods labeled as “sugar-free” or “natural” often do have sugar in them — in the form of artificial sweeteners. The labels on the front of foods are used to entice you to buy the product. The truth is closer to what’s on the ingredient label. Check before you buy!
How to Detox from Sugar
When someone is trying to quit drinking alcohol or smoke, the first few days are considered a “detox” phase where the person follows certain steps for a high success rate.
The following is a detox plan to fight sugar addiction:
- Get rid of all sugary drinks and foods
- Eat a healthy breakfast
- Drink a lot of water
- Meal and snack plan
- Carry healthy snacks with you at all times
- Aim to get 6-8 hours of sleep per night
- Exercise daily (Even going for a walk is great!)
- Reduce stress
How Long Does it Take to Break a Sugar Addiction?
It can take anywhere from 7 days to 10 days to even begin to break your sugar addiction. Like other addictions, the longer you stay ‘clean,’ the higher the chances of success.
You can start breaking your addiction to sugar with a sugar cleanse, as outlined above. Replace sugar with these foods that can fight sugar cravings.
Best Foods to Satisfy Sugar Cravings
Vegetables have a lot of nutrients and fiber to help give your body the necessary micronutrients it’s missing to reduce sugar cravings. While vegetables do have some natural sugar content but they are also low in calories and fill you up faster. Vegetables can lower your risk of developing heart disease or different cancers.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in the fibers that promote gut health. They contain significant amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, an important source for micronutrients. You can use roasted pumpkin seeds in trail mix or eat them straight as a snack.
While sugar-free gum does contain sugar from artificial sweeteners, using chewing gum in moderation can help reduce your sugar cravings and hunger. Most sugar-free gums or mints don’t have very many calories or the excessive amount of sugar as regular chewing gum, soda and other sugary foods. Some gums are even made without aspartame these days, such as the brand Pur. Moderation is key.
Beans are a legume, which are high in fiber and protein. Eating more beans can help control your sugar cravings and reduce hunger. Other legumes include chickpeas, lentils and peanuts.
Yogurt is rich in calcium, one of the micronutrient deficiencies that cause sugar cravings. Greek yogurt is high in protein to help keep you full between meals. If you do choose yogurt, be sure it contains live cultures, which have numerous help benefits. Avoid flavored yogurts, as they are high in added sugar.
The carbs found in sweet potatoes are quite healthy and can reduce the need for snacking. Sweet potatoes can provide you with the same sweet taste as sugar, but without the negative health effects. In fact, sweet potatoes are a nutritious replacement for sugary foods.
If you are craving ice cream or a sweet treat, whip up a fruit smoothie with yogurt for a filling, healthy option.
Eggs are rich in protein to satisfy your appetite. Opting for eggs in the morning instead of pancakes can save you from the unhealthy amount of sugar found in maple syrup. The protein in eggs will keep you fuller and reduce your sugar cravings.
Fruits are very sweet due to their natural sugar content. However, they also contain healthy fibers and nutrients that cause sugar cravings. Mangoes and grapes have high sugar contents than other fruits, so they are great options for a healthy sugar fix.
Berries are lower in sugar, but taste even sweeter than other fruits.
Ripe berries are an excellent, nutritious choice for stopping sugar cravings. They are a high fiber snack option if you’re used to snacking out of boredom or habit (such as when watching TV) instead of hunger.
Yes, there is chocolate that is good for you! Dark chocolate is made mostly from cocoa. It does contain some sugar, but less than other kinds of chocolate. It is a popular replacement for sugary sweets. Remember to use moderation when consuming dark chocolate.
Have you successfully broken out of a sugar addiction? Share your sweet tips and tricks down below!