Did you know that sugar has the same addictive properties as tobacco and alcohol? Studies suggest that sugar is eight times as addictive as cocaine. The more sugar you eat, the more you need to satisfy your cravings. If you feel you are addicted to sugar, quitting cold turkey to see the effects on your body may be advisable. Otherwise, you keep triggering the addiction center in the brain. If you’re prone to depression, fluctuating energy levels or mood swings, cutting out sugar may make a big difference. Particularly, if you are addicted to soda or sugary beverages, quitting cold turkey may have an immediate effect on your body, such as an increase in energy and weight loss.

But if quitting cold turkey is too daunting, there are many simple strategies to cut back on your sugar intake. The key is awareness! Many food companies love to market high-sugary foods as “healthy.” For instance, it is best to buy unsweetened Greek yogurt and add in your own fruit. Sugar naturally occurs in lactose so nonfat Greek yogurt has approximately 6 grams of naturally occurring sugar. Many brands of low-fat yogurt, however, contain added sugar. A nonfat strawberry yogurt may contain up to 18 grams of sugar. This means there is an extra 12 grams of added sugar.

Always read food labels carefully to look for hidden sugar, whether it is a breakfast cereal, salad dressing or jar of marinara sauce. Food companies love to trick us into believing there is less sugar in a product by using clever labeling. Sugar may even have a host of names in a particular product, such as:

Evaporated cane juice, Dextrin, Barley malt, Beet sugar, Brown sugar, Corn syrup, Caramel, Brown rice syrup, Buttered syrup, Carob syrup, Fruit juice concentrate, Maltose, Fructose, Glucose, Lactose, High fructose corn syrup, to name a few.

For example, if you shop the energy bars aisle at your local grocery haunt, you will notice that many bars contain a whopping amount of sugar grams (20 plus!) with a carefully labeled ingredient list, compromising several separate ingredients categorized as sugar. But at the end of the day you can still enjoy your favorite foods in the least processed variety by experimenting in the kitchen or simply swapping out one brand for another that is not chalked full of sugar.

Another great way to cut down on sugar is by eating fruit instead of juicing it. When fruit is juiced its fiber and most of its nutrients are lost, while its sugar content becomes more concentrated. This explains why your blood sugar spikes after drinking juice. And if you’re looking for a sweet beverage without the side effects, you can easily infuse spring water with whole fruit in your favorite combinations. In addition, as a general rule stay away from artificial sweeteners and use natural sweeteners in small doses, such as stevia, maple syrup, lucuma powder, palm sugar, raw honey, molasses and artichoke syrup.

You can control sugar cravings by paying attention to what sets them off. For instance, after a stressful meeting at work, do you regularly eat a bag of cookies or chocolate at your desk? If so, you need to come up with a new strategy to control your stress-induced cravings like practicing breathing techniques, yoga or going for a walk to get more exercise.

Overall, cutting back or eliminating sugar from your diet increases the quality and quantity of your life. You will be less likely to develop Type-II diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Not to mention you will have lots of energy, be at a healthy weight and have the clarity of mind to live your life to the fullest.

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