Experts believe that refined sugar is more addictive than cocaine because it stimulates the reward centre of our brain to release dopamine, which makes us want to experience that feeling more and more, encouraging a vicious cycle.
Refined sugar is found in almost all packaged and processed foods, even savoury ones like bread, soup and pasta sauce. Three hundred years ago, the average person ate a maximum of about 4 lbs of sugar per year. Now we’re eating close to 40 times that! A 2014 study by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, demonstrated that up to 75% of commercial foods and drinks contain added refined sugar.
We don’t need it in our lives and the cycle of sugar addiction CAN be broken. I’ve done it myself and don’t miss it a single bit! So to preserve your health, waistline and skin to keep it looking young for as long as possible, I strongly advise you to either totally eliminate sugar or dramatically reduce it from your diet.
My Top 10 Tips to Break the Sugar Addiction Cycle:
1. Take it day by day: Taste buds renew themselves every 10 days but 21 days is considered the appropriate length of time to break a habit. I find that total abstinence for this time is the best way to break the addiction, because even tasting a little bit of sugar can kickstart the cycle all over again. After just a few weeks off it, refined sugar will taste really synthetic and far too sweet. Promise!
2. Read nutrition labels on packaged foods carefully and aim to stock up on foods as close to their natural state as possible, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, nut butters, seeds, quinoa, beans and legumes.
3. Keep a food diary: This can really help us to track and eliminate mindless snacking and where and when we’re adding extra sugar to our diet, such as in cups of tea and coffee or late-night cravings for sweet foods.
4. Use natural sweeteners in moderation: Safe natural sweeteners include stevia (sold in liquid or powder form), Xylitol, pure maple syrup, raw local honey, cinnamon, alcohol-free vanilla extract, coconut sugar, coconut blossom nectar and blackstrap molasses, which is a rich source of iron and calcium.
5. Stay hydrated: It can be easy to go through a busy day and forget to drink water. Did you know that our body can mistake thirst for hunger? Get into the habit of sipping from a large bottle of water throughout the day. We need at least 8 glasses of water per day and more in warm weather or if we’re exercising. Veggie juices and herbal teas count too, but caffeinated drinks act as diuretics and can dehydrate us.
6. Always be prepared: Stock up on healthy snacks and when a sugar craving hits, try eating a piece of ripe fruit.
Green apples, citrus fruits and berries are lower in sugar than other types of fruit, and it’s important for anyone suffering from candida overgrowth to avoid sweet fruit, dried fruit, fruit juice and every type of refined sugar as it feeds the yeast.
If I’m craving something sweet when I’m tired, a handful of raw almonds, pumpkin seeds and organic raisins really helps. Together, they contain zinc, vitamin b6 and the amino acid tryptophan, to boost the product of brain serotonin, which is our ‘happy hormone.’ Low serotonin can lead to sugar and carb cravings, anxiety and depression.
7. Clean out your cupboards: No matter how much discipline and willpower we have, if we know there’s a chocolate bar or packet of crisps in the house, the likelihood is that we will think about it and eat it. I know I would! Clear the fridge and cupboards of junk and fill them with healthy snacks like raw unsalted nuts and seeds, almond butter, fruit, sugar-free oatcakes, hummus and fresh veggie sticks.
8. Avoid eating out too often: This can be tricky for anyone out all day at work, but being in control of what goes onto your plate can make all the difference. Aim to pack your own lunches rather than grabbing a shop-bought sandwich. Get into the habit of requesting potentially sugar-laden sauces, dips and dressings on the side, and try not to tempt yourself with the dessert menu!
9. Stock up on cinnamon: I sprinkle this sweet warming spice on a range of dishes and add it to smoothies because I find it brilliant for helping to curb sugar cravings, plus it helps to fight fungal infections, boost blood circulation and it’s a rich source of minerals and antioxidants. It’s also a good source of the mineral chromium, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels and the laying down of fat in our body.
10. Cheat with a treat! I love this tip because it would be bonkers to go through life without a treat to look forward to. No matter what type of eating plan we follow, if any, I think it’s important to reward healthy living with a tasty dessert or sweet treat. All of my desserts and tasty treats that are simple to make and free from refined sugar, trans-fats, artificial ingredients, gluten and dairy.