How many times have you tried to lose weight and found that the hardest thing to give up is your sugar intake? So many of us are addicted to sugar and find this the biggest obstacle or challenge to weight loss and attaining our desired body. It is worth asking the question why do we all find it so damn hard to cut sugar out of our lives? Biology can help explain.
In a 2007 study, researchers conducted an experiment in which participants were given a choice between cocaine and sugar-water. The study revealed that these participants – rats – chose the sugar-water over the cocaine every time. It did not matter whether the sugar-water was natural or artificial, the rats were consistent in their choice. Surprisingly, when the amount of cocaine was dramatically increased, the rats still chose the sugar-water.
The conclusion that John Rosania, an urban Wellness Coach, draws from this experiment is that humans are hypersensitive to sugar and sugary products. If we consume sugar-rich products, the sweet receptors in our brain become over-stimulated and our ability to exercise self-control is revoked. Have a think about this: have you ever told yourself that you will just have one tiny bite of ice-cream, chocolate or cake and after that one bite you forget all about your promise to yourself and consume much more than you initially planned? This is because your brain is actually telling you to eat more. We are powerless to sugar.
Hide and seek
There are two types of sugars in our diets:
- naturally occurring sugars such as fresh and dried fruit (fructose) and milk, yoghurt and cream (lactose)
- sugars added during processing or preparation – these include white and brown sugar, honey, sweeteners and fructose syrups.
Reading the ingredient list on a processed food’s label can tell you if the product contains added sugars, but it won’t be able to specify the exact amount if the product also contains natural sugars.
Finding added sugars in food is sometimes difficult as it masquerades under different labels: brown sugar; corn sweetener; corn syrup; fruit juice concentrates; honey; invert sugar; malt sugar; molasses; raw sugar; dextrose; fructose; glucose; lactose; maltose; sucrose; syrup
Five Simple Ways to Break the Sugar Habit
If it is this easy for sugar to negate our self-control, we need to take action! How can we reduce our body’s natural craving for sugar? Our bodies don’t need sugars to function properly. Added sugars contribute additional calories and zero nutrients to food. Select low-fat and no-sugar-added foods to make good “nutrient buys” with your calorie “spend” each day..
We discuss five simple ways to break your sugar addiction for good below.
- Eat frequent low-sugar, whole foods every day.
When we don’t eat enough of this type of food during the day, our body craves calories by the afternoon or night. How many times have you felt a powerful craving for chocolate, lollies (or wine!) in the early afternoon or evening or arriving home from work? Our bodies are very smart and know that sweet, sugary foods are filled with calories.
The fastest and easiest way to reduce sugar cravings is to eat ample amounts of low-sugar, whole foods throughout your day. If you find yourself craving sugar, ask yourself why. Have you skipped any meals today? Did you eat enough breakfast and/or lunch? Try taking vegetables, greens, grass-fed meats, fish, gluten-free grains such as quinoa and millet, and good fats like avocados and coconut to work with you everyday. Incorporating some or all of these whole foods into your daily diet will greatly reduce your sugar cravings and your likelihood of running down to the vending machine for an afternoon ‘pick-me-up’ treat.
A little tip: Have afternoon tea waiting for you when you get home from work, such as steamed veggies or a green smoothie.
- Stay Hydrated.
Cravings for sugary foods frequently come about due to dehydration. When you feel a desire for sugar, drink two glasses of water. A healthy habit to incorporate into your daily routine is to start your day by drinking at least one glass of water and a healthy smoothie or juice for breakfast. These liquids will hydrate your body and brain and provide your body with easily digestible nutrients. Try to drink a minimum of two litres of water a day.
Handy tip: Carry a water bottle with you in your bag wherever you go.
- Eat fruit and use stevia.
When you crave something sweet, substitute junk food for fruit or stevia. Stevia is a plant containing sweet leaves that is used as a low-carbohydrate, low glycemic sugar. An interesting fact about stevia is that it does not cause cravings. Stevia can be added to teas, smoothies and desserts, such as natural yoghurt or fruit. Stevia can be purchased at any good health food store.
Challenge: eat only fruit or stevia instead of artificial sugar for two weeks.
- Eat sour and fermented foods.
A very interesting and unknown trick. When you desire sweet food, eat the opposite. Eat sour and fermented food such as kimchi, pickles and sauerkraut. These foods contain probiotics and several nutrients as well as reducing sugar cravings. Look for unpasteurized krauts at your health food store and kimchee at Asian grocery specialty stores.
- Take a daily probiotic.
When our digestive system is out of balance, we crave sugar. Probiotics assist in replenishing the good bacteria, removing the bad bacteria and strengthening the balance of our gut. Most probiotics don’t have a flavour or taste and just one teaspoon of a probiotic mixed with water is all you need to take once a day. Probiotics are available at all good health stores.