One of the most common issues my clients reveal to me is this: "I am a sugar addict."
Why is it so challenging to curb our sugar-use? The answer may be found by taking a closer look at our biology.
In a 2007 study (1), researchers found that given the choice between sugar-water and cocaine, rats chose sugar water every time. It doesn't matter whether this sugar is natural, like an apple, or artificial, like saccharin. Astonishingly, when researchers increased the concentration of cocaine, the rats still chose more sugar-water.
What conclusion can we draw from this?
We are hypersensitive to sugar.
When the sweet receptors in our brain are over-stimulated by sugar-rich diets, the sugar easily overrides our mechanisms for self-control.
After that first bite of ice-cream or brownie, it's an uphill battle for most of us to stop. Our brain is literally telling us to eat more.
Four Simple Ways to Break the Sugar Habit
So if sugar easily overrides our self-control, what are some actions we can take that work with our body's natural desire for sugar?
1. Eat enough low-sugar whole foods daily. When we don't eat enough low sugar whole foods during the day, our body naturally craves calories. Guess which type of food our body knows has calories? Sweet foods. Remember that late afternoon cookie binge? How about snacking on junk food when you get home from a hard day's work? Eating sufficient amounts of low-sugar whole foods is the simplest and fastest way to reduce cravings. When you're craving sugar check-in with yourself to make sure you've eaten enough during the day. Did you skip breakfast? Only had a small lunch? Eat whole foods like grass-fed meats, wild fish, vegetables and greens, non-gluten grains like quinoa and millet, and good fats like avocados and coconut. Adding sufficient amounts of these whole foods into your daily regime will dramatically cut your cravings for sugar.
Simple trick: Have a green smoothie as soon as you get home from work to curb cravings for junk food.
2. Hydrate. Sugar cravings often arise because of dehydration. When you feel a craving, first drink a few glasses of water. A good health habit is to start your day by drinking water and having a smoothie for breakfast. This practice will hydrate your system, give your body easily digestible nutrients, and set you up for healthy eating for the rest of the day. Look to incorporate 2 liters of water into your daily regime.
3. Eat fruit or use stevia. When you desire something sweet, eat fruit or use stevia exclusively. Stevia is a plant with sweet leaves that is often used as a low-carbohydrate, low glycemic sugar that doesn't feed yeast or fungus in the body or cause cravings. You can add stevia to teas, smoothies or deserts. Make a commitment to eating only fruit and using stevia for two weeks. It may be more challenging to reduce sugar when eating at restaurants so make a commitment to eating only fruit and Stevia at home.
Simple Sweet Drink recipe: add a dash of stevia and apple cider vinegar to water.
3. Eat sour and fermented foods. This is the trick of the trade. When you crave the sugar taste, hit it with its opposite. Eat sour and fermented foods like sauerkrauts and kimchee. These foods give you a blast of probiotics, nutrients and cut sugar cravings. Look for unpasteurized krauts at your health food store or easily make them at home.
4. Take a daily probiotic. When our gut bacteria is out of balance, we crave sugar. Probiotics help replenish intestinal flora and restore balance to the gut system. They help tip the scale back towards good bacteria and away from bad bacteria, fungus and yeast. Consider taking at least 15 billion active bacteria daily.
Remember, your body is naturally hypersensitive to sugar. Don't fight it. Work with it. Start now incorporating these doable strategies into your life rather than depending on will power alone. It's not your fault. You're amazing. The sugar monster can be curbed.
I'd love to hear how it goes.
You can listen to the audio here.
(1) M Lenoir, et al. Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward. PLoS ONE. 2007; 2(8): e698.