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August 13, 2017 0

Breaking the Sugar Addiction

Posted by:admin onAugust 13, 2017

 The amount of sugar in the typical person’s diet over the past few decades has grown exponentially.  In fact, the average American consumes 140 pounds of processed sugar annually.  That adds up to 22 teaspoons per day for adults and 34 teaspoons per day for teenage boys!  Also, consider that the average American eats 133 pounds of processed white flour, and you’ll see that we have a major sugar problem.

Over consumption of processed sugar has been blamed for contributing to serious health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and the obesity epidemic, which has been sweeping western nations. Repeatedly eating foods with sugar leads not only to deteriorated health, but also to a cycle of cravings and habitual carbohydrate eating.

We have all likely experienced how sugar cravings work: when you get into the habit of continuously having sweets throughout the day, you wind up craving them more and more. This is especially true if you develop a habit of eating or drinking sugar at specific times of day, or in certain locations that you begin to associate with having sweet foods; for example, having ice cream before bed each night or dessert after you eat dinner at a restaurant can become an engraved habit pretty easily.  Even a glass of orange juice in the morning or a bowl of oatmeal with raisins can present a significant problem.

Why Do Sugar Addictions Develop?

A sugar addiction can partially form out of pure habit, but it can also become a physical and psychological addiction. The reason for this is because of the affects that sugar has on the body:

  • Sugar has an extremely high score on the glycemic index. This means it wreaks havoc on blood sugar levels, leading to insulin spikes and dips. Drops and rises in insulin make us crave more sweets, and eventually this can result in the serious condition of insulin resistance or diabetes.
  • Sugar also lacks any nutrients at all although it does provide a high amount of calories. Calories from sugar are “empty”, meaning they do not provide our body with any form of lasting energy.
  • A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that sugar is highly addictive by triggering the addiction center in the brain called the “Nucleus Accumbens”.

Avoiding Processed Foods is Key

You will want to avoid processed foods as much as possible if you have a sugar addiction. It’s very common to find at least one type of sugar, if not more, in many “healthy” sounding processed foods like yogurts, cereal, frozen meals, diet soda, sports drinks, gum, whole grain breads, condiments, and more.  Consuming these types of processed foods makes you more prone to falling into a habit of craving sugar and carbohydrates throughout the day.

Artificial Sweeteners Are No Better

 Don’t be fooled into thinking that having artificial sweeteners is any better. To truly heal your sugar addiction, its best to eliminate all artificial sweeteners (although continuing to have some natural sweeteners or herbal sweeteners, like organic stevia extract, may be an option in the future once you’re initial cravings subside). Artificial sweeteners are commonly added to a variety of popular packaged foods, especially those that are trying to promote themselves at being “light,” “diet,” or “sugar free”. The reason artificial sweeteners add to your sugar addiction? Once we taste something sweet, our brain expects sugar to be ingested, and therefore calories as well, yet no calories or sugar enter the body when we eat artificially sweetened foods. The brain then winds up signaling to the body that it wants other forms of sugar and sweets to compensate for the lack of calories that is previously experienced.

How to Get Rid of the Sugar

To squash your sugar cravings for good, you can use one of two approaches:

Gradually cut back on sugar or go completely cold turkey and give it up all at once. If you’d rather give up sugar slowly, consider small steps you can take to start cutting it from your diet.  Try adding less to your coffee/tea each morning, switching to a breakfast with less added sugar, giving up soda, and so on.

If you would like to take a bigger leap and totally cut out sugar all together, you will likely be able to heal your addiction faster, however this approach does take a lot of effort and the willpower to get through a slight “withdrawal phase”.   I recommend going “cold turkey”, but either approach is fine, as long as you are able to stick with it.

The biggest changes that you should make in order to heal your body and optimize health, regardless of current food addictions or not, is to eliminate as much processed food as possible and focus on eating real food.  Toss the cereal, bread, flavored yogurts, juices, instant oats, and so on.   Aim to get your sugar intake from whole, natural foods like vegetables, nuts, and low glycemic fruits (berries) is the best option, and will allow you to enjoy your food without over-doing the sugar.

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