Sugar is everywhere. It can be found in some of the strangest places and is extremely hard to avoid. You really have to be an aware and conscious consumer to avoid eating too much sugar on a daily basis. And not to mention, sugar makes our taste buds and our brains go crazy with ecstasy, making us wanting more and more.
I used to have the most INTENSE sugar addiction and let me tell you it was not easy to tame that craving. I still do enjoy sweet foods but in a much different and healthier way. And now that I’m a knowledgable consumer, I’m able to avoid foods with unnecessary added sugars and only consume the sugar that I choose to – usually in the form of fresh fruit or natural sweeteners.
The Problem with Sugar
Sugar has been linked to numerous health issues and has become a major epidemic in our society. Consuming too much sugar puts us at an increased risk for heart disease and cancer, disrupts our gut microbiome (crucial for a healthy body), can lead to anxiety, can cause acne, and damage our body in many other ways. Not to mention, it’s a foolproof way to gain unhealthy weight.
Where are these sugars usually hidden? The top offenders are soft drinks, cereal, cookies, candy, yogurts, and almost all processed foods. But it’s also hidden in places you may not realize such as ketchup, salad dressings, soups, bread or cured meats. Even the foods that many think are healthy, such as those labeled “low-fat” or “fat-free” can be deceiving. They usually contain added sugars to increase taste, since there is normally a loss of flavor when you trim the fat.
When purchasing products from the grocery store, instead of looking at the nutritional profile, look at the ingredients listed and try and identify if sugar is a component. It’s oftentimes disguised with names such as high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, barley malt, dextrose or other strange labels since there are almost 100 different names for sugar depending on where it’s coming from.
But what about fruit? Doesn’t that have sugar? Yes, it does! But it’s also filled with fiber, lots of water and tons of vitamins and minerals. When we consume these components together, our bodies don’t suffer the same damage as they do when we eat sugar in things like processed foods. I love fruit and it’s nothing to be afraid of.
So how do we tame our out-of-control sugar addictions? I’ve got you covered. Below are my top 5 ways to ditch excessive sugar intake for good.
1. Incorporate more fruit and sweet vegetables into your diet.
Some foods have more naturally occurring sugar than others and if you add some of these to your diet on a daily basis, it’s likely your sugar craving will subside. Fresh fruit is a great option, but there are also many vegetables that are naturally sweet too, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash, onions, and beets. These foods will help satisfy that sweet craving in a healthy way.
2. Don’t go overboard on salty food.
Our body always wants to be in balance. So, when we eat too many salty foods, our body tries to counteract that by craving sugar to create an equilibrium. Natural sea salt or Himalayan pink salt in moderation is a great addition to a healthy diet, but many processed foods have an absurd amount of salt that will leave your body craving sugar after you’re done. This type of ideology can be tied back to the whole yin + yang principle. Salty foods are very yang and sugary foods are very yin. Our body always wants a nice balance of the two.
3. Drink herbal tea after dinner.
If you’re a nighttime sweets lover like I was, this is a great trick to manage this. Herbal teas are healthy and can help us calm down and relax before bed, but they also have a very strong flavor that will usually make us forget about sugar once we start to drink it. And since it can help calm us down, it lessens our need for wanting sugar due to stress or anxiety.
4. Don’t let yourself get too hungry.
When we get to the point of extreme hunger, we tend to make very poor food choices. But, this is because our bodies are smart! When we are really hungry, our body will crave anything that can provide quick energy, which is easily obtained through sugar intake. So don’t let yourself get to that point of hunger, and instead grab a healthy snack when the hunger strikes.
5. Go cold turkey.
Okay, this one is hard. I did it myself and it can definitely be done if you have the drive and determination. With this method, avoid ALL sugar for 2 weeks, even fruit. The reason for avoiding all sugar is so you can reset your taste buds and your body’s dependence on sugar. The first few days may be a little rough, but it does get easier as time goes on. After 2 weeks, eating fresh fruit will literally taste like candy and sugary baked goods are usually too intense to be enjoyed in large quantities.
Now that you know all about sugar and some tricks to help your cravings, try to be conscious of your sugar intake and take a peek at the ingredient labels in the processed food you buy. You may be surprised by what you find!