Meanwhile, if you think you are powerless against sugar cravings, don’t feel too bad; you are not alone. Most of us have taste receptors have been conditioned by many years of fast and processed foods that have been engineered to create high salivation response, and excite our brains’ reward centers.
Before you start your fight again sugar cravings and addition, you need to know that:
- Refined sugar has no nutritional value and adds only empty calories to your diet.
- Added sugar not only destroys your teeth but also disrupts your metabolism leading to liver and kidney disease.
- Too much sugar can result in insulin resistance and eventually diabetes.
- Excess sugar intake is the leading cause of obesity in both children and adults.
- Dietary sugar promotes painful inflammation, swelling and bloating.
- And finally, you need to realize that eating sugar and sugary junk foods releases dopamine in the pleasure centers of your brain and is highly addictive!
Where do I begin?
Step 1. Know Your Enemy! Before you can begin to eliminate sugars from your diet, you need to know and recognize what to watch for. Sugar goes by many names, often (but not always) ending in “-ose”. Glucose, fructose, lactose, galactose, sucrose, maltose, dextrose, and high fructose corn syrup are all forms of sugars used in processed foods.
For added sugar in packaged foods, always look for the followings:
- Corn syrup
- Brown sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Fruit juice concentrates
- Malt sugar
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Raw sugar
- Invert sugar
- Sugar molecules ending in “ose”
The list goes on. Watch out for even more additional added sugar sources: cane juice, beet juice, date sugar, caramel, carob syrup, malt syrup, fruit juice, turbinado, sorghum syrup, dextrin, maltodextrin, diastase, ethyl maltol and simple maple syrup. These are just a few of the sugar sources you will find in processed and manufactured junk foods.
Step 2. Stop Drinking Sugar! Many of the manufactured, prepackaged and bottled beverages that we consume every day are loaded with sugars. Carbonated sodas and colas, that glass of juice “from concentrate” you had with breakfast, the juice box or carton of chocolate milk your children drank with lunch, and especially that high dollar and high calorie coffee frappuccino concoction you picked up on the drive to work. All of these drinks contain obscene amounts of liquid sugar! The most effective way to reduce your unhealthy sugar intake is to replace these liquid sugar drinks with clean water!
Step 3. Stop Eating Junk and Break the Addiction! Do you really NEED that powdered sugar donut? Or that pie, cake, brownie, cookie or scoop of ice cream? Of course not. You may think or feel that you need those sugary snacks, but you now know that you “need” the donut because the sugar it contains releases dopamine in your brain. This is why sugar addiction that is so difficult to break. It’s not your stomach that needs the sugar, but your brain. Eating sugar makes you “happy” at least temporarily. And when that happy feeling wears off, you eat more sugar to get that rush again. Once you recognize the cause and effect of this addictive cycle, you can experiment and discover healthier food choices to replace the sugary junk you crave.
Step 4. Stop Rewarding Yourself with Sugar! You are not a puppy, stop rewarding yourself with “treats”. By all means, you should reward your successes, accomplishments and milestones – but not with candy, cakes or sugar! Find healthy alternatives for meals or snacks to mark those accomplishments. Try a healthy meal at a nice restaurant, or maybe a glass of red wine with a few squares of very dark chocolate, both are healthier choices. Or reward yourself with a movie, clothing or event.
Step 5. Identify and Eliminate the Hidden Sugar in Your Diet! Many of the foods we eat contain “hidden” sugar. Foods like condiments, dressings, and sauces, especially ketchup, salad dressings and BBQ sauces are loaded with syrups and sugars. Foods labeled “low fat”, “diet” and even “organic” are often packed with added sugars. How can you identify these hidden sugar bombs? Learn to read labels! Look for those sugary synonyms we discussed in Step 1. Check the individual ingredients which are listed in order of quantity, if you see one or more of those sugars listed at or near the top, find a healthier alternative. If you are preparing meals at home, you can also replace sugary condiments with spices and make your own simple low fat, low sugar dressings.
Implement these five simple action steps to reduce or eliminate your sugar consumption TODAY and you will be well on your way to a happier, healthier (and lighter) YOU!