Do you get pangs for a sweet treat several times a day? If you’re not careful, these sugar cravings can turn into something more sinister.
Sugar stimulates the same neural responses that some street drugs do, which can hardwire our brains to become dependent on it. A mounting body of research supports the claim that sugar can be as addictive as cocaine.
Even if you try to avoid sugar, you may be shocked by how prevalent it is. Some well-hidden sources: Granola, protein bars, flavoured yogurt, and even instant oatmeal.
(Fun fact: A tablespoon of ketchup contains one teaspoon’s worth of sugar!)
And there are many reasons why we should be wary about their effects. From contributing to obesity and metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, the risks from excessive sugar consumption are too plentiful to ignore.
If you’re ready to go on a sugar detox, here are some simple steps you can start with:
Reach for something bitter
Research suggests co-opting bitter foods like arugula, bitter melon, dandelion greens and even unsweetened cocoa into your fight against sugar cravings.
Bitterness not only stems the receptors in our brains that respond to sugar, but also helps to slow the absorption of sugar into our bloodstream.
As a bonus, they also have a wholesome effect on digestion as well as stimulate the release of hormones that suppress appetite. In one study, subjects that ate meals prepared with bittering agents ingested 15% less calories.
Eat more fermented foods
The bacteria living in your digestive tract could be behind your sugar cravings. Also known as microbes, they can influence your eating behaviour through neural pathways that link your brain and stomach.
That’s why some experts recommend having a good mix of fermented foods and probiotics to restore a healthy gut microbiome.
Pickles, sauerkraut, and kombucha tea are perfectly tangy options that will satisfy your taste buds similar to how sugar does. If you’d rather go the supplement route, select a probiotic that is heavy on Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Go for diet sodas instead
Beware: Your soda habit will balloon your risk of cardiovascular disease by 20%. But if the thought of going cold turkey is daunting, limiting yourself to diet beverages may be the next best option.
Studies show that diet beverage drinkers often turn to chocolate, ice cream and other sources of sugar to compensate.
Water down your fruit juices
Did you know fruit punch could contain as much sugar as a can of cola? And the fancy cold-pressed juices aren’t any better.
And when you process fruit into juice, you miss out on their fibre, vitamins, antioxidants and other metabolic benefits. The loss of fibre causes fructose to be released into your bloodstream at breakneck speed, which results in chaotic blood sugar levels.
Even cartons labelled as “not from concentrate” may very well include heavily processed flavour chemicals. These chemicals allow the juice to retain its recognizable taste, but they essentially turn the product into massive sugar bombs.
If you must have fruit juice, dilute it with plenty of ice and water, or opt for 100% tomato juice without added salt or sugar.
Sleep well to prevent comfort binging
Being sleep-deprived not only interferes with the hormones that regulate hunger, but also your prefrontal lobe’s ability to resist unhealthy cravings. It may also elevate your levels of endocannabinoid, which makes eating feel more euphoric particularly in the evenings.
There are weight-related benefits to getting your zzzs as well: Those who don’t get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep are at risk of eating twice as much fat” and “more than 300 extra calories” the following day.
Manage your stress well
When you’re stressed out or upset, your body wants a quick fix of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that immediately improves your mood.
Sugar can offer that same sedative effect: Research shows that carbohydrate-rich meals can boost serotonin more than protein-rich meals. It is no coincidence that the bucket of ice cream you reach for after a breakup contains off-the-chart levels of sugar.
Even though comfort foods help to calm you in the interim, they actually inflict more harm on your mental health in the long run. Scientists have warned that blood sugar rollercoasters can worsen symptoms of anxiety amongst many other emotional disorders.
This has probably happened to you: You’re bored at home, and you find your mind wandering to the fridge even though it’s barely an hour after lunch.
Like stress eating, boredom eating is also a coping mechanism – think of how we reach for our mobile phones out of habit when we’re idle. Sugary treats inject us with a short-lived boost of dopamine. Over time, they become a temporary high that we chase.
The next time you find yourself in the thick of a craving, head outside for a 10 minute walk. A 2015 study shows that quick (but not necessarily intense) bouts of physical activity can moderate cravings for sugar to a very large extent. Consistent exercise may even be the answer to weaning off sugar completely.
A better way to lose weight
Eliminating sugar from your diet is a good start, but if fast and long-term weight loss is your end goal, it may not be enough.
Creeping weight gain is often the result of our bodies becoming more metabolically inefficient with age. When this happens, losing weight becomes an uphill battle even with sensible eating and exercise.
That’s where our CSH therapy® can help. Designed to improve your metabolism in a fast, natural and long-lasting manner, CSH therapy® uses traditional Chinese methods to help you shed your weight with ease. That means no exercise, supplements or extreme diets needed.
*Results vary between individuals.