Let’s face it: sometimes the urge for something sweet becomes…uncontrollable. In spite of knowing that your enjoyment will be temporary and that you’ll regret it later, you just can’t help yourself: you’re addicted to sugar.
It’s becoming harder and harder to ignore the obvious, though. New research continues to point to a sugar-laden diet as the biggest contributor to serious, chronic inflammatory conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Still, no matter how many times you decide to cut back on sugary foods, your resolve just seems to fly out the window in the face of a fresh-baked cookie or homemade cinnamon roll.
Imagine how sublimely self-controlled you would feel if you could say “No, thanks!” to that cookie without batting an eye. Can you ever hope to achieve such self-control?
The answer is “yes,” but you’ll need more than just willpower to break your sugar addiction. You’ll also need a better understanding of how to stop craving sweets, along with a bullet-proof strategy.
Health Risks: When Sweet Dreams Turn into Nightmares
Before learning how to stop sugar cravings, it’s important for you to understand why consuming added sugar is so dangerous. According to Dr. Josh Axe, “…we now know today that sugar impacts just about every organ system in the body. And not in a good way.”
What has research revealed about the harmful health effects of sugar? Here’s a brief list of conditions that are now strongly linked to sugar consumption:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Leaky gut
- Esophageal cancer
- Small intestinal cancer
- Colon cancer
- Breast cancer
Thanks mainly to the efforts of a powerful sugar lobby, Americans have been told since the 1960s that dietary fat—not sugar—was the culprit behind the upsurge in heart disease. But in recent years, new research, along with the exposure of a huge sugar industry scandal, has revealed that the development of heart disease is much more closely associated to sugar intake than to dietary fats.
“How Much Sugar Should I Eat?”
Most nutritionally-oriented physicians and researchers agree that, ideally, we should consume NO added refined sugars such as table sugar or high fructose corn syrup. But these unnatural sweeteners are hiding out in so many processed foods and beverages, the average U.S. adult now consumes approximately 22 teaspoons/day of them!
To put the typical American’s daily sugar intake into perspective, consider that the American Heart Association recommends an upper limit of 6 teaspoons/day for women and 9 teaspoons/day for men.
Why Do So Many Foods Contain Added Sugar?
Sugar continues to be a major ingredient in processed foods and sweetened drinks because it is an addictive substance. In fact, one recent study concluded that sugar is eight times as addictive as cocaine. (Yes, you read that right.)
But table sugar is not “officially” considered to be an addictive substance, as far as food manufacturers are concerned. Since refined sugar remains on the list of Generally Regarded As Safe (G.R.A.S.) ingredients, no one wants to be the first to stop using it and watch their sales plummet. The reality is, however, that refined sugars are dangerous chemicals that our bodies are not equipped to handle.
How Sugar Affects Your Brain
Sugar–like cocaine or caffeine–affects the “pleasure center” of your brain, which regulates the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Every time you eat a sugary food, your blood sugar levels spike, and your brain also triggers the release of more dopamine into your bloodstream.
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for our ability to stay motivated, reach goals, make good decisions, and control our emotions. Eating sugar causes an increase in both blood sugar and dopamine levels, with an inevitable “crash” shortly thereafter when both of these levels fall. That’s when your brain starts demanding more sugar in order to raise dopamine levels again and repeat the pleasant experience.
Sadly, the blood sugar imbalance created by eating sweets can cause an increase in the speed at which dopamine is broken down, producing a never-ending downward spiral. The more sugar you eat, the more of a dopamine deficit you create when your levels fall again, making you want to consume even more sugar in order to feel “normal.”
Take a Quiz to Evaluate Dopamine Cravings
If you think that your sugar cravings may be spiraling out of control and affecting your dopamine levels, Dr. Mehmet Oz has designed a short quiz you can use for a self-evaluation:
- Do you have a late-night snack at least two times a week?
- Do you keep eating even after you know you are full?
- Are you irritable or tired when you cut back on favorite foods?
According to Dr. Oz, you probably have low dopamine levels if you answered yes to any of the above questions.
Eat Foods Rich in Tyrosine
Before rushing headlong into the battle against sugar cravings, you will want to have your “secret weapon” on hand: foods rich in the amino acid tyrosine. Tyrosine-containing foods have been shown to encourage the brain to release dopamine and another neurotransmitter, norepinephrine. When you eat these foods in place of sweets, you can raise your dopamine levels and “fool” your brain into being satisfied.
Some of the best food sources of tyrosine are:
- Cottage cheese
- Mustard greens
- Kidney beans
- Sesame seeds
By keeping some of these tyrosine-containing foods readily available to combat cravings, you can get off to a good start toward a more sugar-free existence.
For additional brain support, try supplementing with a formula such as Dopamine Plus which contains clinical doses of L-Tyrosine and DL-Phenylalanine to help promote healthy dopamine production.
Don’t Skimp on Protein and Healthy Fats
Protein can help keep your blood sugar levels balanced, and that can really help to reduce sugar cravings. Some of the best protein foods to help you crush your sugar addiction are:
- Grass-fed beef
- Wild fish like salmon, mackerel or tuna
- Organic chicken
- Black beans
- Free-range eggs
- Raw cheese
When you stop feeding your body added sugar, it will need to start burning fat for energy instead of the sugar it has become accustomed to. Be sure to start consuming more healthy fats—the kind commonly found in a Mediterranean-style diet. By burning fats for energy, you won’t feel fatigued, and this will give you even more resistance against sugar cravings.
The best fat for overcoming a sugar addiction is coconut or coconut oil. Other good fats to include are avocados, olive oil, ghee, and organic, grass-fed butter.
Eat Plenty of Fiber
For many people, one of the major causes of sugar cravings is the presence of candida in their body’s digestive tract. High-fiber foods can support detoxification and actually help reduce candida symptoms in your body. Another very important reason to eat more fiber is to help you stay fuller longer. Start consuming more high-fiber vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, including:
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Acorn squash
- Brussels sprouts
- Split peas
A high-fiber diet is also very important for helping to keep many chronic inflammatory conditions in check.
Decrease Cravings with Sour and Fermented Foods
Sour, fermented, or probiotic-rich foods are great for reducing sugar cravings because of the good bacteria found in them. These bacteria can fight off and reduce candida in your body, helping to restore your gut health.
- Probiotic-rich foods to consume include kefir, yogurt, kombucha, natto and coconut kefir.
- Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, salted gherkin pickles, and brine-cured olives can also help reduce cravings.
- Sour raw apple cider vinegar and fresh-squeezed lemon juice can help you withstand sugary temptations when you consume them throughout the day.
Replace Sugar with Natural Sweeteners
For those times when you need a sweetener, use one that is natural and has no negative impact on blood sugar levels. The best and safest natural sweeteners to incorporate into your sugar detox diet are stevia and monk fruit.
In his book The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, Dr. Mark Hyman recommends to: “Stop all forms of sugar, all flour products, and all artificial sweeteners—which cause increased cravings and slow metabolism, and lead to fat storage.”
You’ll Succeed If You Stay Prepared
Whatever you do, once you begin your new sugar-free way of life, keep plenty of foods on hand from each of the lists above. Be prepared, especially when you’re away from home, to handle those difficult moments when you’re starting to feel tired or hungry. Have a high-fat or high-protein snack with you (such as nuts), and sip on lemon water throughout your workday.
Then take a few deep breaths and relax. You’re on your way to “crushing it.”
Sources for this article include:
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.