By Dr. Joanna Rosenfeld ND
Sugar addiction is very real, and with sugar being added to most food products, it is becoming nearly impossible to avoid. The numbers are alarming – on average Canadians consume 110g of sugar per person each day, and children aged 1-3 derive 27% of their calories from sugar! (Statistics Canada). Sugar and high glycemic foods trigger your brains pleasure centre, which makes you feel good and drive you to seek more of that feeling.
It’s not news that sugar consumption causes obesity and is linked to most chronic health conditions, so what can you do to stop the vicious cycle and break the addiction?
Add in Real Food
Processed foods, simple carbohydrates and sweets will all spike your blood sugar, giving you an immediate boost of energy. But just a short while later, your blood sugar crashes, leaving you feeling tired, lethargic and foggy. In order to get your blood sugar back up, and quickly, our body starts to crave sugar and carbs. So how do we break this cycle? Focus on eating protein, healthy fats and fiber at every meal and snack. This will stabilize your blood sugar, and keep you feeling full for longer.
- Protein: fish, eggs, lean meat, quinoa, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds
- Healthy fats: fish, olive oil, coconut oil, flax, avocado, nuts and seeds
- Complex carbohydrates: root vegetables, quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, millet
To break the vicious cycle of sugar addiction and retrain your taste buds, eliminate all forms of processed sugar from your diet for 3-4 weeks. Soon fruits and vegetables will begin to taste sweet, and your sugary morning cereal will taste much too sweet. It’s important that you start reading food labels so you can recognize “sugar” in all its various forms. One of the easiest ways to identify sugar on a food label is by seeing the -ose suffix. When you find words that end in -ose, there’s a good chance it is sugar.
Sugars ending in -ose include: Sucrose, Maltose, Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Galactose, Lactose, High fructose corn syrup, Glucose solids. There are many others as well, and don’t be fooled by “organic” sugar or cane syrup – they are all processed in the body the same way.
Get 7-8 hours of Sleep
Lack of sleep increases cravings for sugar, because it will provide an instant energy boost when you are feeling tired. The hours you get before midnight are the most restorative, so try to go to bed early for increased benefits. Adequate sleep also helps to manage the stress response, which is important because our stress hormones can wreak havoc on blood sugar.
Address your Stress
During stressful times, you are more likely to reach for processed and sweet foods, as these foods trigger our pleasure centres in the brain and provide an often much needed distraction. Chronic stress also causes elevations in cortisol, which increases our blood sugar levels. Stress reducing activities include exercise, yoga, meditation, or even just taking a few deep breaths when you are feeling overwhelmed.
Sugar busting supplements
There are several safe and natural supplements that will help to curb your sugar cravings. Minerals like chromium and magnesium can have beneficial effects on blood sugar levels and cravings. Supplementing with certain strains of beneficial bacteria can trigger our reward circuitry in the brain, and decrease our reliance on sweets for pleasure. Supplementing with glutamine, an amino acid and the primary fuel source for intestinal cells, can halt sugar cravings dramatically. Lastly, herbs that help to lower cortisol levels such as relora and rhodiola can also have beneficial effects on sugar cravings. Every person is different and some supplements will interact with medications, so make sure you consult your Naturopathic Doctor before taking any supplements