If you’re anything like me, your day is occasionally distracted with visions of sugar plums and dark chocolate peanut butter cups. Sugar addictions are alive and real, mostly because the sweet substance can be found in everything. Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, those zesty barbecue sauces or seemingly-innocent salad dressings are loaded with added sugars. It’s no wonder that the majority of Americans are addicted.
Sugar addictions are believed to begin at an early age. One study from Washington University illustrated that newborn babies are more likely to favor sweet things over other flavors. It could also be evolutionary, as children who favored high-calorie foods were more likely to survive when food sources were unreliable.
If that weren’t enough, sugar makes us feel good. Sugar fuels cells in the brain, leading our minds to think of it as a reward. The more sugar we eat, the more we increase the habit. A hormonal imbalance, PMS, or pregnancy can also lead to sugar and simple carbohydrate cravings, as it provides a sense of relaxation during times of anxiety and irritability. (Hence why your partner might bring you chocolate when Aunt Flo is making her monthly rounds.)
The problem is that sugar highs are quick to dip into sugar lows, leaving us feeling shaky, depressed, and searching for more. We end up constantly craving the next fix, and these cravings can lead to weight gain, overload your liver, and elevate your insulin levels. These issues are just triggers for further problems; once your insulin levels are up, you’re more likely to develop cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Suddenly Little Debbie doesn’t look so innocent.
But there are ways you can start to rid yourself of a sugar addiction! And while the first few days might not be fun, the end results will be well worth it. Many report the benefits of breaking sugar addiction to include things like clearer skin, weight loss, increased energy, and better sleep patterns. Below we’ve assembled a few tips to get you started.
Avoid Processed Foods
Just chalk up sugar addiction as another reason to avoid anything with a laundry list of ingredients. Processed foods are one of the biggest culprits for secret sugars, and you’ll likely be better off eliminating them from your diet altogether. Even things that don’t necessarily taste sweet, like potato chips and white bread, can affect your insulin levels. Try subbing your midday snacks and meals for whole foods like oats, hummus and veggies, and beans.
If sugar is Voldemort, than fiber is Harry Potter. Fiber helps fight the sugar cravings by keeping you full and providing energy without raising your blood sugar. A protein and fiber combo will keep you satiated and prevent any hungry crashes from disrupting your day.
Keep Your Blood Sugar Stable
If you have sensitive blood sugar, you might notice that you’re crankier when you’ve gone a few hours without eating. This feeling leads you reaching for feel-good foods, such as cookies, sugary cereals, and high-starch snacks. A better option is to eat small healthy meals throughout the day, making sure to balance your carb and protein intake.
Search for New Ways to Get Your Serotonin
We like sugar because we like serotonin, also known as the “happiness hormone.” But you can get your serotonin boost without the Sour Patch Kids. Try upping your vitamin B6, getting outside, changing up your exercise routine, eating foods that aid digestion, and avoiding stressful situations. Self care is of the upmost importance when fighting sugar addictions.
Limit Fruit (For Now!)
One of the biggest questions that come up when dealing with sugar addiction is how to handle fruit. Many fruits are loaded with sugar, but they’re also filled with fiber and water. This makes it take longer to digest, so that the fructose hits your liver slowly and you stay full for longer. That being said, when you’re trying to break a sugar addiction, you’ll want to limit your fruits in order to avoid craving more sweet things. After a few weeks, you can start easing fruit back into your diet, and making them part of a normal routine.
Have you battled with a sugar addiction? How do you limit your cravings?
Amanda Kohr is a 25-year-old writer and photographer with a penchant for yoga, food, and travel. She prefers to bathe in the moonlight rather than the sun, and enjoys living in a state of the three C’s: cozy, creative, and curious. When she’s not writing, you can find her driving her VW Bug, looking for the next roadside attraction or family diner. She also roams the internet at amandakohr.com and through Instagram.