In today’s society, overcoming addiction seems to be as common as collecting the morning paper. One celebrity enters rehab for alcohol abuse and the next for drug use. We watch contestants on weight loss shows struggle to lose weight as they overcome addictions to sugar, salt and caffeine. In today’s day and age, new addictions are being recognised and treated appropriately.
When it comes to food, there appears to be one main perpetrator that is contributing to the obesity epidemic, and that is sugar. Sugar addiction is as real as any other addiction. Addicts become physically dependent on sugar and without their daily fix, experience a range of withdrawal symptoms including headaches, anxiety, jitteriness and cold sweats.
Sugar’s detrimental effect on the body is very real. The physical impact of sugar is well documented, including the effect of sugar highs and sugar lows, which leave you feeling hungry, lethargic, shaky and dizzy.
The good news is you don’t need sugar as much as you think you do. Like any addiction, it is possible to wean yourself off sugar. By reducing the amount of sugar you have daily, over time you will slowly reduce your dependence. Your taste buds will change and you will find the foods you once enjoyed too sweet and overbearing.
The following four steps will help kick your sugar addiction for good. And before you start stressing, this does not mean you will never have your favourite dessert again! You will still be able to have it and enjoy it, you just won’t CRAVE it.
Step 1: Eliminate hidden sugars
Next time you add sauce to your stir-fry, have a yoghurt or dig into a bowl of cereal, look at the ingredients list. Aim to limit foods that contain sucrose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, treacle, maltodextrin or molasses. You will be surprised how many of the foods you eat have added sugar. This will reduce your sugar intake dramatically without feeling deprived. If you consume a lot of processed, packaged food, this step will result in a major reduction in sugar intake. Therefore, you will reduce your dependency on sugar, without limiting your consumption of added sugar.
Step 2: Limit added sugar
You may find this step the most challenging, as you have to cut back on the amount of sugar you add to foods. While you are addicted to the taste and the physiological effect of sugar, you have also created a habit, in adding sugar to foods. It is time to reduce the amount of sugar you add to foods. If you normally order a latte with two sugars, ask for one. Each week reduce this further until you no longer require sugar in your coffee at all.
Step 3: Alternative sweeteners
Sugar substitutes can be a healthy alternative to sugar. They provide the taste of sugar without the negative physical response. Choose a sugar substitute that is free from chemicals and depending on your nutritional goals may be free from calories. The three best sugar substitutes are stevia, sugar alcohols and active honey.
Step 4: Tantalize your taste buds
You do not need to add sugar to add taste to the foods and drinks that you have come to enjoy. There are a range of herbs and spices that can sweeten your baked goods, stir fries and cereals. Experiment with vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves, allspice and nutmeg to add flavour without the calories.