Most of us set goals to achieve each new year, some lofty, some simple. When you think about how goal setting can improve your overall health and wellness, in turn, improving your quality of life, simple is key! Many of us also want to lose weight or improve nutrition in the new year, and cutting sugar is a simple way to reframe this goal into something clearly defined and 100% attainable. By cutting sugar, you are reducing processed foods and replacing them with nourishing alternatives. Sugar is added to most processed foods, adding flavor while quietly kicking up a craving for more sugar. This is a little trick the food industry does to keep us continually buying processed foods. The added sugar in the American diet contributes to chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney dysfunction, and even mood and mental health disturbances.
Did you know that sugar is considered a toxin to the body? It damages blood vessels and nerves, affecting every organ system in the body, and contributes to obesity and cavities. Health providers and health organizations know this well. The World Health Organization recommends keeping added sugar down to 25 grams per day for adults which equates to 6 teaspoons (https://www.who.int/news/item/04-03-2015-who-calls-on-countries-to-reduce-sugars-intake-among-adults-and-children ). When you look at the added sugar in processed foods, it is clear why this is difficult. Sugar is added to breads, sauces, condiments, baked goods, protein bars, granola bars, cereals, juice drinks, and of course, candy. A Snicker’s bar packs a whopping 27 grams of sugar while a package of Nature Valley Honey and Oat granola bars contain 11 grams, and a serving of Tillamook yogurt contains 33 grams of sugar. It’s easy to see how those grams of sugar can add up without us realizing it.
Have you ever wondered why you crave sugar? A point the food industry does not tell us is that sugar is addictive. It triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, also released by addictive substances like heroin and cocaine (https://wellnessretreatrecovery.com/sugar-and-dopamine-link-sweets-addiction/#:~:text=So%2C%20our%20brains%20still%20perceive%20sugar%20as%20beneficial,when%20we%20cut%20it%20out%20of%20our%20diets. ) It can be challenging to kick the sugar cravings because your body wants more for that dopamine release. Dopamine is a feel-good hormone, giving you that feeling of reward.
Kicking the sugar habit can be done, however. It takes a few days to a few weeks depending on the individual for the cravings to subside. Here are some tips for overcoming sugar addiction:
1. Drink water flavored with a slice of fresh lemon or vitamin water enhancer. I love the B21 Zip Fizz packs I buy at Costco! Water is hydrating, filling, and a little added flavor helps with sugar cravings.
2. Eat fresh fruit. While fruit does contain sugar, remember it is natural sugar balanced with fiber, water, vitamins, and minerals. The glycemic index of most fruits is much lower than processed foods, especially berries. Plus, the nutrients in fruit serve to fuel your body and heal any underlying problems related to inflammation and cell damage that can occur when eating a lot of sugar and processed food.
3. Sip on tea. There are many teas to choose from in the world of tea. Herbal teas eliminate any unwanted caffeine and add flavor to your day.
4. Use Gymnema, an herb that anesthetizes the sweet taste buds on your tongue. Then you are unable to taste anything sweet. It also helps improve blood sugar balance in the body by reducing the amount of sugar entering the body from the intestines and enhancing insulin secretion by the pancreas.
5. Snack on nuts. The high-fat content will fill you up and help balance blood sugar.
6. Get outside. When you experience strong cravings for sugar, grab a healthy snack and go for a short walk. The time outside releases endorphins to offset your brain’s desire for dopamine and the time allows your healthy snack to balance your blood sugar.
Voila! Just like that, after a few weeks, you will find you have overcome sugar craving. Plus, your health improves dramatically through reducing sugar intake and improving your nutrition. You will find you feel better, have sustained energy throughout the day, sleep better, have less bloating, and lose your craving for sugar. Another bonus is that your taste buds adapt to having less sugar and over time, sweets become too sweet! Take it from me, a former sugar addict who kicked it several years ago. I no longer crave sugar as I used to and when I have it, it is often too sweet and a bite or 2 is enough.
Love yourself a little more in 2021 by keeping your goals simple, and taking them step by step. By reducing or eliminating added sugar in your diet can improve your health in countless ways!