Quitting sugar is not actually as daunting as you may think: when I say “I quit sugar” I am actually talking about the high GI ‘free‘ sugars that wreak havoc with your health, and cause disease and illness – not healthy sugars like those found in whole fruits.
In this post we will take a look into refined sugar and their effects, and the 6 foolproof ways to curb sugar cravings.
The High Price of too Much Dietry Sugar:
We’ve heard it said time and time again that sugar is bad, and we need to cut down or pay the price. And a high price it can be – with too much refined sugar being contributed to not only type 2 diabetes, but also heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome and obesity. Knowing all this it may be time to give this highly addictive refined grain the heave ho.
FACTS ABOUT SUGAR – FREE SUGARS
Not all sugar is created equal – firstly we have the kind of sugars that comes under the titles of ‘free sugars‘, ‘fast sugars’, and ‘high GI sugars’. These are basically any sugar that has been fractionated from its original state (such as when oranges are made into fruit juice). This same method applies to white and brown table sugars, icing sugar, coconut sugar, fruit juices, and syrups such as maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup and honey.
As you can see, there are some ‘free sugars’ on here that are considered healthy, and some of them ARE actually “healthier”, like maple syrup and honey, as they also contain other nutrients. And you might be interested to know that brown rice syrup is actually low GI, though more research is currently being done into its true healthful benefits.
Sugar is stored as Dangerous Belly Fat
Although the so called ‘healthier‘ free sugars do also contain nutrients, they will unfortunately still act in the same way as any other free sugar in the body, causing a sudden sugar spike and then the subsequent insulin release to clear those sugars from the bloodstream (usually they are stored in fat cells as refined carbohydrates are more likely to go on as dangerous belly fat). And so sugar must only be consumed in very small doses.
WHOLE ‘UNFRACTURED’ SUGARS
Now these guys are so much better for us and come in the form of whole fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, and anything else that hasn’t had the fibers and bulk of the plant removed.
The reason they are healthier is because those fibers and other nutrients slow down their sugar release, making them much lower GI (GI is short for glycemic index, which is a number associated with the amount of carbohydrates/sugars in food. The lower the better).
How To Use Them
You can use these wholefood sugars in your cooking and to sweeten other foods. For instance, by adding a ripe banana into a green smoothie, or using dates and other dried fruits to sweeten cakes and biscuits, it will give you that sweetness you crave without the side nasty effects.
In fact there are so many ways you can use whole sugars to sweeten your diet that actually you need never use refined free sugars again.
HERE’S WHERE IT CAN GET COMPLICATED
ALL refined carbohydrates, which includes not only sweet things but also white flour, white rice, white pasta, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, confectionery, and anything that contains free sugars, are all considered medium to mostly high GI foods.
BUT, and here’s the complicated bit, you can slow these sugars down with the addition of proteins and healthy fats in the same meal. So by using this method you can have high GI free sugars and get away with it a lot more than if you were to eat free sugars on their own. The addition of healthy fats and protein will ‘slow down‘ the sugar release, but will NOT make the food healthy as such, just a ‘healthier‘ way of consuming it. But it’s by no means a ‘get out of sugar free card’ (If only) and still needs to be used in moderation.
Low GI Carbohydrates
Even whilst eating lower GI carbohydrates such as unsweetened dried fruits, normal fruits (especially the higher sugar tropical fruits, like mango, pineapple, bananas and papaya), and starchy vegetables, it is always wise to have some healthy fats and/or protein with them like a handful of nuts and seeds, OR avocado and coconut oil. This will slow down the sugars, make for a more filling and substantial snack, and also keep your blood sugars more stable afterwards.
SUGAR ADDICTION – WHEN SUGAR TURNS UGLY
I guess I didn’t really know I was in the grips of a sugar addiction until I tried to give it up. I went cold turkey as an experiment for 1 month. And when I say cold turkey – I mean COLD TURKEY! I didn’t have any high sugar fruits, milk or cheese (because of the lactose which is another type of sugar), and definitely NO free sugars, refined carbohydrates, yeast or alcohol. In fact nothing that would cause that addictive cycle of a sugar spike and the inevitable crash.
I kid you not the first few days were just horrendous, and the only thing that got me through was sucking on a few sugar free sweets when things got really bad. I didn’t sleep very well, had terrible brain fog, was highly irritable and had severe cravings, seriousley, I even had the shakes at some point. Sounds familiar right? Well these are all signs of an addict coming off of any other drug.
So What’s Going on?
Well that this was exactly what was happening because sugar is a drug that has been said to be more addictive than cocaine, and after my experience I believe it. Although I am not saying for a minute that it was as bad as coming off of hard drugs, of course not, but it was still not a nice experience.
BUT…after the initial 3 to 4 days of feeling crappy something magical started to happen, and I started to notice changes, the most prominent being my sleep. I had always suffered insomnia, but on the sugar free diet I slept more deeply and soundly than I can ever remember, well since I was a kid anyway. In fact I could go to sleep at will, something that I’d never been able to do before, my skin looked a million times better, and I could think more clearly.
Anxiety and Depression – A Hidden Link
I also noticed I didn’t feel as stressed in situations that would previously have stressed me out, and so it’s obvious to me now that sugar keeps you hyped up, wired and on edge – and you don’t even know it’s happening when you know no different.
But the sugar free diet kept me calm and chilled out – a state of mind that cannot coexist with anxiety and depression, and the reason why I believe it is 100% worth the time and effort of cutting free sugars from your diet as much as possible.
You probably don’t have to go to the extremes that I did. Just cutting out the free sugars and keeping the natural sugars is fine, and you will still notice a huge difference in your health and vitality.
Almost Everybody is Addicted to Sugar!
Even people who say they are not a ‘sweet person‘ are more than likely addicted to sugar as it can come in under your radar in so many forms. Just look at most of the so called savory items in your kitchen cupboards and you will see exactly what I mean – sauces, pickles, gravy powder, stock cubes, potato chips, and most convenience foods ALL contain sugar in some form, and more than likely disguised under a term that you won’t understand.
For help to clear these hidden sugars out of your cupboards and your life for good, please read my post ‘Eating Clean in 10 Easy Steps‘.
Cut Down Slowly for a Higher Chance of Success
I know I may have gone to extremes with my no sugar diet but that’s just me, and part of my research for my job. I would recommend you cut down slowly, or just cut down your refined sugars and still eat fruits etc. I didn’t stick to this extreme way of eating for good, even though I felt fabulous and learnt a lot about myself.
However it did stand me in good stead, because learning new ways of eating without added sugar really changed my taste buds, and helped me to build healthier food habits for life. I have never since gone back to eating refined sugars, except on very odd occasions.
I QUIT SUGAR – 6 FOOLPROOF WAYS TO CURB CRAVINGS
Here are some of my favorite ways to cut down sugar and nip those cravings in the bud. They always work for me, and have helped me transform my health AND my body for the better.
1. KEEP BLOOD SUGAR STABLE
Possibly the most important rule of all, because if your blood sugar is stable then you won’t be on that roller coaster of sugar cravings. To keep your blood sugars stable always eat low GI foods, which means no refined sugars or carbohydrates, and food combining correctly. Making sure you eat proteins, low GI carbohydrates, and a little fat at the same meal or snack, will all help slow down those sugars.
The Brilliant Avocado!
The very best foods for keeping blood sugar stable (and I know I go on about them too much in my posts, but they truly are a wonder food) is avocados. In fact, an avocado in the morning keeps me from craving sugar practically ALL DAY and is on my list of super foods. I could write a book on all the other benefits of avocados, but that’s probably for another time.
Another great thing to incorporate into your diet is coconut oil, and all things coconut for that matter; such as raw whole coconuts, the dried flakes (make sure they have no added sugar), coconut cream, milk, and water. I know you may be thinking “what about the calories and fat!“, but when you eat these things in moderation, and on a low sugar diet, you should not gain weight. It’s SUGAR that makes us fat more than anything else!
2. DRINK LOTS OF WATER
It’s surprising how thirst can trick us into thinking we need an energy boost from sugar, when actually we are just plain dehydrated. When we are dehydrated our body gives us the signal that it needs energy before it gives us a thirst signal (thirst signals seem to be one of our body’s less evolved mechanisms). In fact we can already be severely dehydrated before we actually feel thirsty,
Try to drink at least 1.5-2 liters of pure or filtered water daily. When you do this you will be fascinated to see lots of other little health niggles clearing up, and your skin will be just AMAZING.
Now this is another biggy, and something I notice every time I don’t get a good nights sleep; when we’re tired we crave quick sugars for energy, and these cravings are easy to give into under these circumstances as you also have low willpower when you’re tired. So make sure you try to get a good 7-8 hours of good quality sleep a night (or whatever amount you know your body needs).
A wonder spice! Cinnamon has been PROVEN to control blood glucose levels and reduce sugar cravings. It reduces the insulin spike after meals that can often lead to you to craving even more sugary foods.
You can add cinnamon to many of your meals, or hot drinks and herbal teas etc. (Always buy good quality cinnamon of the flaky bark variety as shown in the picture, and not the hard rolled sticks as they are not the same and do not have the same benefits). To be sure you know what you’re getting it’s a good idea to buy the bark and grind it yourself, either in a coffee grinder, or pestle and morter.
There is so much more to cinnamon than you could imagine, and it can be a super weight loss enhancer. Read more about how you should add more cinnamon to your diet to get these effects in my post ‘Cinnamon and Fat Loss’.
5. PROBIOTICS AND FERMENTED FOODS
These will help keep blood sugars under control by keeping your good bacteria healthy and proliferating. When we have too much bad bacteria in our gut (which is the stuff that makes us crave sugars, because sugar is what it feeds off) we will feel out of balance and want more and more refined carbohydrates and fast sugars.
Taking a good probiotic may help this, but eating lots of gut friendly foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kombucha, pickled vegetables, kefir and plain yoghurt will also help keep the gut in balance.
6. CHROMIUM PICOLINATE
Chromium picolinate is a chemical compound that is sold in supplement form and is often used to treat diabetes and help with weight loss. This is because of its effects on keeping blood sugar under control by helping to enhance the effects of insulin. Taking this may help you with your sugar cravings, especially alongside all the above on this list. Find out more on the benefits of chromium picolinate here.
You can see that in order to quit sugar for good you will need to eat a low GI diet as stable blood sugar is the VITAL secret to stopping sugar cravings. Everything is underpinned by stable blood sugar, including diseases like type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. For more in depth information on starting your healthy low sugar diet the easy way, please read ‘Starting A Healthy Diet’.
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