If you can’t seem to kick the sugar habit, you might want to start. There are many strategies to cut your addiction to sugar, but these 15 tips are some of the best methods!
Refined sugar contributes to a variety of negative side effects like tooth decay, a weakened immune system, cancer, mineral deprivation, liver damage, insulin resistance, weight gain, premature aging, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, mood swings and hyperactivity (among many others).
Of course, not all sugar is created equal. When I talk about sugar, I mean highly-processed, refined sugar you buy in a grocery store. I am not talking about fruit sugar, which is processed by the body in a hugely different respect, and helps prevent all of the above mentioned rather than encourage it. Please, keep the fruit in your life! I have been raw vegan for 5 years, and much of my diet consists of fruit and leafy greens, and I feel younger and more vibrant every morning!
Here are 15 strategies to cut your addiction to sugar:
1. Cut back slowly
If you go cold turkey, you are more than likely to binge on everything sugar after a couple days. Cutting back slowly, by say, adding half a teaspoon of sugar to your tea instead of 1 or 2, is more reasonable than stopping altogether (or if you eat one bar of chocolate every day, cut back to half a bar, etc.). Eventually you will find that you don’t want as much sugar, and breaking the addiction will come naturally.
2. Don’t fall for sugar-free
Sugar-free items are often loaded with artificial sweeteners, which are cancerous, disease-causing and essentially the worst thing you could be putting in your body. In fact, artificial sweeteners increase your appetite and cravings for sugar (because your brain gets confused, it signals you are giving it “sweet” but isn’t fully satisfied, so continues craving), which in the end, will have you gaining more weight than you otherwise might not have wanted.
3. Read food labels
Many processed foods (canned, boxed, bagged), are loaded with sugar – food items you would have never thought possible. Sugar manages to make its way into crackers, breads, cereals, soups, condiments and so many other store-bought manufactured products. Read your labels, and make sure sugar content is below 1-2 grams per serving.
4. Beware of sneaky sugar names
Sugar isn’t always labelled as “sugar” under ingredients. It has many other forms, like sugars ending in -ose (sucrose, dextrose, fructose, glucose, galactose, lactose, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), glucose solids), cane juice, dextrin, maltodextrin, dextran, barley malt, beet sugar, corn syrup, caramel, buttered syrup, carob syrup, brown sugar, date sugar, malt syrup, diatase, and golden syrup.
5. Add flavour with sweet herbs
There are some pretty interesting herbs out there, like vanilla, and cinnamon that possess hints of sweetness and can satisfy strong sugar cravings. The bonus with cinnamon is that it regulates your blood sugar and controls your appetite. Experiment with cocoa, citrus zests, and other herbs to maximize flavour, while cutting back on sugar.
6. Don’t drink your sugar
Drinking your sugar is one of the easiest, and fastest ways to consume it without even thinking twice about it. Sodas, flavoured waters, and sports drinks are all loaded with massive un-necessary sugar content that you can swig back in no time. Instead of these sugary drinks, make flavoured water with different fruit and herbal infusions.
7. Dump processed bread products
Most commercial bread products contain sugar or high fructose corn syrup, which is highly responsible for the obesity epidemic today. In fact, processed bread can have sugar contents as high as 3 grams per slice! Two slices of toast for breakfast can equal the equivalent sugar content as a candy bar. Skip the bread, and instead make a fruit smoothie! It will satisfy you longer, and make you feel much more alive.
8. Keep candies and sweets out of the house
When they aren’t in your house, you won’t be as likely to eat them! Get rid of any candy or sweets in your house and replace them with fruit – your new habit will be much better for you, and you won’t be tempted to reach in your cupboard for something sweeter (medjool dates make a great “candy” substitution).
9. Stop adding sugar to your recipes
One of the easiest ways to reduce refined sugar consumption would be to stop adding sugar to your recipes! Casseroles, soups, sauces, vegetables, you name it – they often call for sugar. Instead, you can substitute applesauce, mashed bananas or pureed dry fruit in baking, or you can simply cut the sugar in half, or not even add it at all!
10. Make your own condiments or don’t use any at all
Condiments are often loaded with sugar. Take ketchup, for example. This common household condiment contains over 4 grams of sugar per tablespoon. That is a ridiculous amount of sugar for such a small serving size. Anything ranging from ketchup to relish, to barbecue sauce and salad dressings, are all loaded with sugar. Make your own, so that you know just how much sugar you are consuming.
11. Eat enough healthy fat
Eating enough healthy fats will prevent you from craving highly-processed (“empty”) nutrient-deprived carbs like rice, white bread and white pasta. If you aren’t fuelling your body properly, it will resort to the fastest calorie source, regardless of nutrient value, which means anything from pies, pastries, donuts, cookies, white bread or white pasta.
12. Exercise beats sugar cravings
Exercising regularly actually helps beat sugar cravings. Exercising vigorously for just 20 minutes a day will encourage endorphin release and dopamine production. Why is this so significant? Daily bingeing on sugar repeatedly releases dopamine in the nucleus accumbens (the reward centre of the brain), similar in the way a drug addict’s brain will release dopamine each time they partake in drug use.
So basically, exercising will excite dopamine production in the same way sugar does, so the next time you are craving some sugary goods, go exercise for awhile and you will find that your craving will disappear. And when you’re done exercising, make a healthy fruit smoothie with some added greens to fully satisfy your brain’s glucose requirement, and to replenish your muscles.
13. Drop fancy teas, coffees and hot chocolates
If you are addicted to the daily routine of latte’s and sugar-loaded teas and hot chocolate, then you may want to substitute it with something else. There are great coffee substitutions that you can easily whip up in no time, as well as the option of making your own beverages at home. This way you can track how much sugar you are putting in your drinks, and you can also opt for immune-boosting honey instead (make sure it is raw, and local), or unrefined coconut sugar.
14. Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep under your belt is another crucial factor in ensuring you don’t reach for the nearest cookie jar. One of the negative side effects of sleep deprivation is that our ghrelin levels increase (hormones that make you feel hungry), while our leptin levels decrease (hormones that make you feel full), setting up a perfect scenario for over-eating when tired.
Lack of sleep is often correlated with a preference for sweeter foods, mainly because our brain is fueled by glucose, and so to keep us awake throughout the day, it desperately seeks out any source of fast, easy sugar access. So make sure you get enough sleep, and if you don’t get enough sleep, at least make sure only healthy carbohydrate-rich options are at your reach, like bananas, dates, mangoes, or any other fruit!
15. Eat leafy greens and fruit
Leafy greens, whether you eat them in salads, press them in juices or blend them in smoothies are a great way to retrain your tastebuds and detox your liver from years worth of sugar consumption. Usually when our brain is craving refined sugar, we are instinctually craving what our body needs most – FRUIT! Fruit contains beneficial sugars that our body can recognize and use in their true, raw form, as well as vitamins and minerals that we require to function at our absolute best!