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Kicking Sugar Addiction- Eating Less Sugar to Be Healthier.

We’ve all heard that eating sugar is bad for you. There is a reason that your mom wouldn’t buy every candy bar at the grocery store and that dentists scream around Halloween: human bodies aren’t designed to process large amounts of manufactured sugar. The trick is to learn to start eating less sugar to be healthier.

 

Basically, what happens when you consume sugar is a lot like this:

The cycle of eating sugar and how it affects your body. Eat sugar - rapid blood sugar spike- pancreas releases too much insulin - blood sugar levels drop - crave sugar as an energy source.

 

The challenge is to stop eating it. It is in so many little things that the moment you become aware of it, you can become overwhelmed and give up on the effort to avoid sugar.

 

Additionally, sugar is addicting. While it isn’t as harmful or as difficult to break as a drug addiction, your body goes through withdrawal symptoms if you quit cold turkey. Kicking your sugar addiction could mean extreme fatigue, depression, muscle aches, and migraines.

 

The trick is to gradually teach your body to function properly without sugar and to realize why you’re craving it.

 

There are many reasons why you might be craving sugar.

 

Not enough quality sleep.

Your body is desperately trying to find energy any way it can. Check out our post about how to improve your sleep!

 

Habitual sugar snacking.

If you always have dessert after dinner or a sweet treat after lunch, those become mindless actions that take conscious effort to stop. Realize when you start reaching for the ice cream and cookies and think of why you are going to eat them. If you are not actually hungry and the motion is out of habit, just walk away!

 

Stressful moments.

When your body is stressed, it releases cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone. Apart from setting you on edge, it also slows insulin production, which doesn’t allow your body to absorb energy from the sugar in your blood. Without that energy source, your body believes it needs more, leaving you craving sugar.

 

Emotional eating can give your body the dopamine it craves.

You might find happiness from eating, since it can release dopamine, especially when emotions are running high. Eating can be a calming action, since dopamine can help you feel better and happy. With dopamine, the more your body releases, the more you subconsciously start to crave more of it, which in turn leads you to eat more things that make you feel good, which releases more dopamine…

 

Eating too much or not enough of certain foods.

  • Too many starchy or high carbohydrate foods increase sugar cravings since they get digested too quickly, which include white breads, pastas, and sugary cereals, but also candy and dried fruits.
  • Not enough iron in your diet leaves you low in energy and increases your sugar cravings to compensate.
  • Be sure to eat more healthy fats and proteins such as eggs, red meats, pork, poultry, beans, nuts, and seeds. Eating protein and healthy fats prevent too much insulin from being released at a time, which keeps your blood sugar levels stable.
  • Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables are great for offering nutrient-dense choices without having excessive carbohydrates.
  • Fiber helps to slow digestion and stabilizes your blood sugar levels. Fibre can be found in whole-grain bread, oats, peas, quinoa, skin-on potatoes, spinach, and almonds.
  • While artificial sweeteners reduce the overall calorie count of a dish, they should be used with caution. There are several mixed studies on if they provide benefits or cause harm, so we recommend talking to your health care practitioner before consuming large amounts or switching over from regular sugar.
  • Simply not eating enough. When you’re hungry, your body wants energy quickly, which usually leads to fast snacks. A great way to prevent this is to eat a high-protein, low-sugar breakfast, which reduces cravings, makes you feel balanced, and leaves you less likely to snack on sugary things during the day.

 

Dehydration sugar cravings.

When you become dehydrated, sometimes your body confuses thirst for hunger. You reach for the chocolate bar instead of a glass of water- and now your blood sugar is too high, and you still need to drink fluids!

Here are some of our tips on keeping hydrated and improving your fluid intake.

 

A pile of vegetables, including potatoes, peppers, zucchini, radishes, and carrots.

 

Eating less sugar is a great start to being healthier.

 

Get meal prepping to become aware of what you eat.

When you meal plan in advance, it allows you to make sure your food variety is balanced, nutritious and enough substance for each day. This way, you can reduce extra snacking while still feeling satisfied!

 

Don't wait too late to hydrate!

Drink a glass of water when you start craving sugar. If water doesn’t do the trick, have a cup of herbal or naturally sweet tea without additional sweeteners.

 

Tea will give your taste buds the satisfaction they require without affecting your blood sugar levels. If you don't like tea, eat a piece of fruit or a sweet vegetable. They do have natural sugars in them, but they are easier for your body to process than a cookie with added sugar!

 

Time to get spicy!

There are a handful of spices (and herbs) that help to stabilize your blood sugar levels, including cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric. They are great for improving insulin sensitivity, which keeps your blood sugar levels more consistent. Try sprinkling cinnamon on banana slices or putting a pinch in your morning coffee. For ginger and turmeric, try making a golden latte.

 

A golden latte with three hearts on it, beside a wooden whisk and a small plant.

 

Since trying to quit something overnight can be difficult, try these suggestions to reduce the amount of sugar you consume.

 

The first step is noticing.

The first step to changing nearly anything is that you must notice what is going on first. Once you recognize how much sugar you consume, it'll be easier to reduce!

 

Make cookies at home instead of store bought.

While you will still add sugar to them, you can control the amount you put in as compared to store-bought snacks. After all, we're eating less sugar to be healthier, not trying to punish ourselves by removing sugar completely.

 

Choose dark chocolate instead of milk or white.

Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and it has less sugar than the sweeter types of chocolate. Eat with moderation, but you don’t have to lose your comfort foods completely.

 

Eat whole-grain bread instead of white bread.

When your starches like bread, pasta and rice are a lighter colour, versus more brown or yellow, it is because they are heavily processed and often have more sugar added to them to make them appealing. Choosing the whole grain option is better for your health and blood sugar levels.

 

Ask for less sweetener with your fancy drinks.

Do you know how much sugar goes into a Starbucks drink? A grande chai latte has four pumps of chai syrup, which is FORTY-TWO grams of sugar. Assuming that the sugar comes from the syrup alone, if you get just three pumps, that drops about ten grams of sugar (which is a lot) from your cup. Being conscious about eating less sugar is a great way to be healthier.

 

Dish up smaller portion sizes.

If you normally have two chocolate chip cookies for an afternoon snack, enjoy just one and snack on berries and almonds alongside it. After supper, have a smaller piece of cake than you were going to eat or share it with someone.

 

Wait about ten minutes after you feel your sugar craving before giving in to it. It might fade, especially if you distract yourself. Go for a brisk walk, dance around your kitchen, or do a quick, ten-minute stretch!

 

We want you to feel your best and to enjoy life to the fullest! Reducing your sugar intake can prevent the onset of type II diabetes, increase your energy levels, and help prevent weight gain. Make a change to gradually reduce the amount of sugar you consume in a day to lead a healthier life.

 

Any links included are for reference, additional information, or entertainment value only, without monetary compensation. Contact us on social media or at team@westretch.ca. Photos courtesy of Unsplash.

This article is not intended to act as or replace medical advice. Please talk to your health care practitioner if you have any concerns.

 

Written by Kayla Willsey

 

Updated October 12, 2021