The dangers of consuming too much sugar are all over the media and blogsphere right now. You can join a 21 Day Sugar Detox or the 8 Week I Quit Sugar program. I personally did the 8 week sugar detox on my own. It was hard. But I am glad I did it. I have a pretty serious sweet tooth and I am sure that many of you do too. Sugar cravings are believed to be stronger and harder to resist than a cocaine addiction!
The World Health Organization and American Heart Association both have lowered the recommended daily intake of sugar to about 6 teaspoons a day, that’s 25 grams. They are talking added sugar not naturally occurring sugars in food, but really, that 25 grams is about all your body can process each day anyway. Do you know what it takes to get 6 teaspoons of sugar? About 2 servings of fruit. So imagine if you eat a few pieces of fruit every day, plus a sweet breakfast, a sugary snack, an afternoon soda, flavored yogurt with lunch, a spoonful of sugar in your coffee, dessert after dinner, a late night square of chocolate….. well, you get the idea. The average American eats 156 lbs of sugar each year.
Later on I’ll fill you in on lots more news and research on the effects of sugar on our bodies, but for now here’s a list of 25 pointers and tips for reducing our sugar consumption and cravings.
- Find a friend or family member who is interested in doing it with you; someone to talk with, complain with, and share food and recipe ideas with.
- Start reading food labels! Check the total grams of sugar and read the ingredient list for added sugars. Be aware.
- Switch to brown rice syrup, rice malt syrup or malt barley syrup for your home baking and sweetening. These sugars have no fructose, the “bad” part of most sweeteners that our liver processes like alcohol. Still keep these in moderation, 25g a day.
- Use stevia as a sweetener in coffee or other drinks and foods. (SweetLeaf brand is good. Or try growing your own plants.) The insulin response is still triggered by a sweet taste, but no actual sugar needs to be processed by our body.
- Eat more protein. A low protein diet can cause sugar cravings.
- Eat more fat. When you feel satiated and satisfied by your meal or snack cravings will be less and easier to say no to.
- Eat regular meals to keep your blood sugar levels steady.
- Find a savory replacement for your daily sweet habits (cheese after dinner instead of dessert, popcorn at the movie instead of candy, a handful of nuts for snack instead of a sugary granola bar)
- Keep processed flour consumptions to a minimum (breads, pasta). Eat whole grains instead.
- Find an herbal tea you enjoy that can be your new nightcap instead of a late night sweet or use as a mid-day treat. Licorice root tea and chai tea taste sweet.
- Do a kitchen clean out of sugary foods. Remove the temptations.
- When experiencing a craving wait 20 minutes, then see if you still need or want it.
- Drink more water (about 60 ounces a day/ 8 glasses)
- Add cinnamon to foods when appropriate. It helps to control blood sugar and can ease cravings
- Keep easy snacks on hand, like a bag of nuts or cacao beans. These are great to nibble on if you are out and feeling like you might give in to that caramel pumpkin supersized double shot syrup latte.
- Chose to eat fruits that have a lower fructose level than others. These include: kiwi, grapefruit, honeydew melon, blueberries, and raspberries.
- Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum. If having wine chose a dryer variety; the yeast in the fermenting process used more of the fructose.
- Try chewing on raw cacao beans or nibs for a chocolate fix. (They are a super-food too!)
- Notice how you are feeling when you are having a sugar craving. Be curious as to why.
- Choose to do this to make yourself feel better and improve your health, don’t view it as a restrictive diet.
- Set a goal to go about 8 weeks with no sugar at all. After 8 weeks check in again and see if this is something you still want to continue with. Be gentle with yourself.
- Initially it is important to stop eating ALL sugars and anything sweet tasting in order to break the addiction, recalibrate taste buds, and mental food reward pathways.
- If quitting entirely be prepared to not feel so well for a few days up to a week or two while you body does some sugar detox (yes, really, DETOX)
- Do some Internet searches on the effects of sugar on our bodies and the science behind it. Read a few books on the subject. Educating yourself will help you to stay firm in your decisions and motivated for change. Having that information is helpful when someone wants you to explain your reasons to them. Also, some people can be pretty interested in how to do it too!
- When you do give in to a sugar craving or overindulge be honest and forgiving of yourself. Don’t feel guilty. You’ll be more likely to resist next time if you can stay positive.
- The more you say NO to sweets the easier it gets. You feel stronger each time you do it, every day.
Sugar is surrounded by emotional and physical attachment. For many, sugar is equated with love. Some people will take great offence when you choose to not indulge. It is helpful to be prepared with a simple, non-defensive explanation as to why you are choosing not to eat the sweet. Explain, “ I am choosing to reduce my daily sugar consumption for my health.” Leave it at that. If they continue to argue with you that “sugar is natural!” respond with, “Sugar is natural, but so is arsenic and petroleum…” If they still argue with you, well, they are the one with the problem, not you.
I am personally working on reducing my sugar intake. Do you have any other tips for nixing the cravings or beating the sugar blues? Share in the comments! I could use more ideas!