Why is sugar so bad?
One of the most dangerous substances we consume in our diet today is sugar. Scientific research has determined that it is highly addictive, up to 8x more than recreational drugs, like cocaine.
If you, like me, have struggled to stop consuming sugar and sugary foods, this is one of the reasons why it is so tough to give up.
While we can’t technically classify it as an actual addiction, we can use it to soothe negative emotions, which in turn makes us feel better for a short period of time, because it triggers a release of dopamine in our brain. Dopamine is known as the happy hormone. The more we reach for sugary foods to cope with negative emotions, the more we start to create a habit of association, and this creates a recurring cycle.
Sugar and health conditions
We need to understand that it is our relationship with sugar that creates potential problems because if we constantly rely on it to cope with emotions, it can lead to excessive sugar consumption, which in turn leads to many health problems.
Sugar is linked to health conditions, which are challenging to deal with such as:
· Frequent cravings
· Low energy
· Lower immunity, causing frequent colds
· Digestive problems, such as bloating
· Painful periods
· Nutrient deficiencies
· Premature ageing
Sugar is also linked to more serious and chronic health conditions such as:
· Type II diabetes
· Heart disease
· Dementia / Alzheimer's (Type 3 Diabetes)
· Anxiety and depression
· High cholesterol
· High blood pressure
· Acne, PCOS, infertility
A healthier approach to sugar consumption
That is not to say that allowing ourselves to eat the odd, sweet treat is totally banned, but we should aim to do that only when our nutritional needs have been met with a healthy, balanced approach to diet. We should try to avoid associating it as a reward because when we do that, we connect it with emotional eating, and then we can tend to feel guilty, and that can lead to a negative cycle of emotionally relying on food to cope with emotions.
We should also avoid drinking our calories, which include diet drinks, fruit juice, energy drinks, sweetened teas and coffee, and alcohol. As an example, 1 can of coke has 39 grams of sugar and to put this in context, 1 can a day increases a woman’s chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes by 80%.
Apart from the health risks, these drinks don’t have any nutritional value and are digested almost immediately creating a spike in blood sugar, which means that our liver must process it, taking it away from the other 500 or so jobs it must do to keep our bodies working. This can cause the liver to be sluggish, and this will have a knock-on effect where you will feel sluggish as well. Sugary drinks don’t make us feel full, which creates further cravings.
10 ways to kick the habit!
1. Eating whole foods, fibre including lots of fruits and vegetables will help to balance blood sugar levels, keep those cravings at bay, and help support the liver so it can better do its job of processing your food. Fill up on veggies, which will help keep you feeling full.
2. If you feel the need for something sweet, choose a piece of fruit as this will help manage the need for something sweet, e.g., banana, apple, mango.
3. Remember to stay hydrated, as hunger can be confused with thirst! Aim for 2 litres of still filtered water daily (excluding additional hydration needed for exercise).
4. Try to identify what your life would look like if you gave up sugar e.g., weight loss and management, better energy levels, control over diet/nutrition, feeling and looking healthier. Identifying these positive reasons and keeping them somewhere you can regularly look at them can help to stay on track and kick the habit.
5. Cinnamon seems to help the body control the amount of sugar in our blood, which then evens out the ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ that can induce cravings. I add it to my morning oats, and in smoothies!
6. The craving zone tends to be mid-late afternoon, as our energy levels dip. Try to eat lunch at 1 pm, and make sure you include protein which will help you feel fuller for longer and give your body energy. E.g., eggs, chicken, fish, meat, yoghurt and tofu.
7. Use Turmeric in cooking, particularly in curries – it has traditional uses in Ayurvedic medicine and aids blood sugar control, helping those with Type 3 Diabetes.
8. Lower your stress – when we are stressed, we can tend to reach for sugar and carbs. Ways to de-stress are through deep breathing techniques, meditation, relaxing Epsom salt baths, getting outdoors and gentle movements such as yoga, and stretching.
9. Get enough sleep - getting less can suppress the hormones that tell you when you’re full, so the cravings keep coming.
10. Snacking is ok if you choose wisely. If you plan and prepare your snacks in advance it will help you avoid making bad choices. E.g., Greek yoghurt, carrot sticks with hummus, a tin of tuna, a small handful of raw nuts, or rice crackers with almond butter can help curb your hunger until dinner time.
Sugar is one of the most dangerous substances we consume in our diet today, said to be 8x more addictive than cocaine. While it is not technically classed as an addiction, using sugar to cope with negative emotions, creates a cycle of habit which can potentially lead to some serious health conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, dementia, heart disease, premature ageing and many more.
Kicking the habit is not impossible. We can choose to take charge and employ a lot of different strategies to change our habits for the better. If we associate positive outcomes with making these changes, it can help us to stay on track and manage through the process of change.
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