Want to know the truth about sugar? Well, the truth is our bodies aren’t meant to handle such extremely high levels of sugar in our diets. In fact, we are killing ourselves with an addiction- a sugar addiction.
For over 50 years, Americans have been brainwashed into believing that fat is the bad guy, when really it’s that sweet, sweet devil we call sugar. It’s sugar, not fat, that makes you sick, overweight, and irritable. In fact, sugar (in it’s many forms) is the root cause for most chronic disease in this country and the rest of the world. Think of an unpleasant or life-debilitating condition/disease. Chances are sugar is the culprit. Heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, depression, acne, infertility, impotence- all sugar-related.
You’re probably thinking, “But I don’t consume that much sugar, I’m fine.” Sugar addiction is a sneaky trickster. You’d be surprised how much sugar is in your diet.
The average American has an intake of approximately 152 pounds of sugar a year. That’s about 22 teaspoons every single day. Children and teenagers consume roughly 34 teaspoons a day, making 1 in 4 kids pre-diabetic. The American Heart Association says you shouldn’t consume more than 37.5 grams (9 teaspoons) of sugar a day if you’re a man, or 25 grams (6 teaspoons) if you’re a woman. To give some perspective, a venti hot chocolate from Starbucks has 60 grams of sugar, a Chai latte has 52 grams of sugar, and their hot mulled fruit with grape and chai has a whopping 99 grams of sugar.
Besides sugar constantly being in your face and readily available to overload your system, it is also highly addictive. 8 times more addictive than cocaine, reports one study. Dr. Nicole Avena conducted an extensive study on the addictive properties of sugar and found some astonishing results. The test subjects were given sugar on an intermittent-feeding schedule for one month, and began to display behaviour traits associated with drug abuse. Sugar acts just like an opiate within the brain. When the test subjects stopped ingesting the sugar they were craving, they experienced the same effects as those who stopped taking addictive drugs. Withdrawals, depression, and anxiety are just a few of the responses noted by removing sugar from ones daily intake.
Okay, so now you should have an understanding of how dangerous sugar is for your brain and your body. But how do you remove the sugar from your diet without suffering these awful after-effects? Dr. Mark Hyman has some powerful suggestions to help you.
In his book, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, he lists 10 ideas to help you kick the sugar habit.
1. Make the decision to detox
You can read as many studies as you want, and tell yourself that you know how bad sugar addiction is for your health, but until you are really ready to make some serious life changes, you will remain a slave to your addiction.
Like everything else in life, you have to want it. You have to want to defeat the cravings, you have to want to make better choices, and you have to want to do these things because you know they will undoubtedly benefit your brain and body.
2. Go cold turkey
Just like with every other sort of addiction, the most effective way of quitting something is to completely stop. No little “cheats” here and there. You must remove all sugar from your daily consumption. The idea is to reset your body’s neurotransmitters and hormones by getting rid of that one thing which is controlling them.
“Stop all forms of sugar, all flour products and all artificial sweeteners — which cause increased cravings and slow metabolism, and lead to fat storage. Also get rid of anything with trans or hydrogenated fats and MSG,” recommends Dr. Hyman.
3. Stop drinking your calories
Most of the stuff triggering our sugar addiction is found in our drinks. Liquid sugar is more harmful to your body than solid foods with sugar content. You are basically mainlining the bad stuff directly to your liver! Sweet beverages are the biggest contributor to sugar calories in our diet. That means you need to pay attention to (and remove) sodas, juices (except green veggie juice), sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas and coffees. 20 ounces of soda contains approximately 15 teaspoons of sugar; Gatorade has about 14 teaspoons in one bottle. Dr. Hyman states, “One can of soda a day increases a kid’s chance of being obese by 60% and a woman’s chance of type 2 diabetes by 80%.”
4. Start your day with protein
Eat protein at every meal- and don’t skip breakfast! The key to abolishing those cravings and balancing blood sugar and insulin levels in the body is to eat a protein-filled breakfast, and incorporate protein in all your meals. Start your day with farm fresh eggs, then use nuts, seeds, eggs, broccoli, fish, chicken or grass-fed meat with other meals. Look up foods that are high in protein, and find fun ways to add them to your diet.
5. Eat unlimited carbs, but make sure they’re the right ones
Yep, carbs can be good for you if you avoid the starchy ones. That means unlimited veggies- greens, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, collards, asparagus, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, fennel, eggplant, artichokes, peppers etc. are all great for detoxing your body. Avoid potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and beets for a minimum of 10 days. You will feel a surge of energy in your body, and mental clarity is noticeably improved when you remove sugar. I find that results are drastically increased when you remove grains and beans from your diet as well. Eating healthy carbs is a fail-proof way to fight sugar addiction.
6. Fight sugar with (good) fat
Fat is not your enemy, sugar is. Fat doesn’t make you fat, despite what you have been led to believe, sugar makes you fat. What fat does is make you full, it balances your blood sugar and is a necessary part of your diet to give your cells energy. Combined with protein at every meal, adding healthy fats will boost your body’s metabolism and curb those cravings! What are healthy fats? Extra virgin olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, coconut butter, nuts and seeds, and fish with high Omega 3 content.
7. Be prepared for food emergencies
When you feel your blood sugar levels start to plummet, you don’t want to be stuck in a food emergency with no options. Being hungry and needing something to boost your energy levels but not having healthy options nearby(at the airport, convenience stores, fast food joints, vending machines) can leave you feeling frustrated. More than likely, this is where those cravings will kick your butt. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have no options. You just need to prepare for those moments- for those food emergencies. Always have a healthy snack pack ready for when your body is telling you it needs something NOW. A few good tidbits to keep with you: turkey or salmon jerky, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sardines, kale chips.
8. Stop stressing and breathe
When you put your body through stress your hormones go haywire. Cortisol increases which makes you feel hungry. It also causes belly fat to be stored and can lead to type 2 diabetes. Recent studies have shown that taking deep breaths activates the vagus nerve. This activation by breathing shifts your metabolism from fat storage to fat burning, and reduces stress at the same time! All you have to do is breathe! Start by taking 5 deep breaths. Breathe in for the count of five, then exhale for the count of five. Do this 5 times. That’s all there is to it. Dr. Hyman advises doing this before every meal to see noticeable results.
9. Remove inflammatory foods
The most common sources of inflammatory foods are sugar, flour, trans fats, and food sensitivities. More often than not, gluten and dairy cause adverse reactions in people’s bodies. This is because our bodies are sensitive to what is in food, especially if we have a slight allergic reaction to it. Give up gluten and dairy products for 10 days. Will it be easy? Heck no, it’ll be one of the hardest things you will do for yourself. But after just 3 or 4 days you will notice a difference; you will have more energy, and relief from cravings, not to mention you won’t have bloating issues and your clothes will fit better.
10. Get plenty of rest
Give your body the rest it needs. When you deprive your body of a full night’s sleep, you are inadvertently affecting your hormone levels. Even just reducing your sleep time by 2 hours is enough to increase hunger hormones, decrease appetite-suppressing hormones, and causes sugar and refined carb cravings. If you don’t get enough sleep, your natural response is to give the body energy in the fastest way possible- sugar. Sleep is the best way to combat those sugar cravings in the morning.
This isn’t going to be easy, but the rewards are definitely worth it, and following these steps will absolutely put an end to your sugar addiction.
I did a sugar and starchy-carb detox for 3 weeks. The differences I felt and noticeably saw made everything worth it. The first 3 days are the hardest, but once you get past that point you will notice the cravings start to diminish little by little. Do I still want bread, pasta, and two scoops of sugar with my coffee? Yes and no. I think I want it because it became habit, and I associated happiness and feeling full with sugar and unhealthy carbs. But I don’t really want it. I found that having a huge plate filled with veggies, wild rice, fish, seeds and nuts was way more enjoyable and beneficial to my health. After the first week, I noticed my thoughts were clearer (not as much brain fog), I became more aware of flavours, my reflexes and reactions were improved, and the best part is my clothes fit a whole lot better.
Next time you think you are needing a sweet treat, or a sugary beverage, think about what you are doing to your brain and your body, instead.
Related: How sugar can destroy your brain.
Written by Raven Fon