Consuming sugar means more than reaching for the nearest chocolate bar or adding a teaspoon of ‘safe’ sugar substitutes into your coffee. Sugar shows up in many foods that we often consider healthy, like yogurt, juice, and even fresh fruit can be incredibly high in sugar, contributing to sugar cravings throughout the day. Eliminating sugar from your diet might be tricky, but overcoming that hump and getting into healthier habits is possible!
“The chemical process, or dopamine release, of sugar addiction is similar to the process that leads to drug addiction,” Rebecca Lee, a registered nurse and founder of RemediesforMe.com tells Lively. “When you’re trying to break the sugar cycle, start off slow, by cutting out one of your least favorite types of junk food, one-by-one.”
Why Should I Start Eliminating Sugar?
Aside from the obvious benefits such as weight loss, eliminating sugar has a number of health and wellness benefits too. Studies have shown that eliminating sugar from one’s diet can aid in a boost in energy and maintain mood stability.
A common misconception about consuming sugar is that it spikes energy levels; while it may feel that way at the onset, a low-sugar or sugar-free diet can actually help feel energized longer as a result of balancing blood sugar levels and stop insulin resistance – when the body has trouble absorbing glucose and the effects of insulin no longer work. When we reduce sugar intake, our glucose levels decrease, ultimately eliminating that “sugar high” we were seeking.
“The body naturally breaks down glucose, which is broken down by a hormone called insulin. Once the glucose is broken down, it is then used by the cells as energy,” says Lee. “When your body does not adequately produce enough insulin, it causes a rise in the body’s sugar level.”
Where Do I Start?
According to Lee, the easiest way to start eliminating sugar is to stop buying junk food at the supermarket. She recommends learning which foods are high in sugar and avoid them, like candies, cookies, and ice cream. Some foods are not as obvious, such as carbohydrates (bread, pasta), juices, fruits, yogurt, processed foods, cereal, or condiments.
“The most important and most helpful way to break a sugar addiction is to stop buying sweets and junk food while you’re at the supermarket,” she says. “If you don’t have snacks at home, you won’t be eating snacks at home.”
Learn which foods are high in sugar and avoid them. Some foods are not as obvious, such as carbohydrates (bread, pasta), juices, fruits, yogurt, processed foods, cereal, or condiments.
“While you’re cutting back on sugars, add some healthy and naturally sweet treats into your diet at the same time,” says Lee.
Lee recommends incorporating some healthier snacks such as:
- Organic trail mix
- Apples (or other fruits or vegetables) with peanut butter or almond butter
- Vegetables and hummus
- Air-popped popcorn lightly seasoned with freshly ground peppercorns and himalayan salt
- Low-fat cottage cheese or other cheeses with fruits
- Dark chocolate
- Lightly salted edamame
- Hard boiled eggs
The biggest rule of thumb, says Lee, when eliminating sugar from your diet is to remember that you have to give your palate some time to change.
“In the beginning, you may not be craving something like fruits. You’ll be surprised to see that the more you keep at it, your palate will grow to enjoy healthier treats!”