As scientists continue to study and learn more about its effects, we’re continuing to learn why sugar should be only a very small part of diets.
Among other health issues, in excess, sugary foods and beverages like soda, candy and even snack bars and cereals contribute to weight gain and obesity, impaired memory, and an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Plus, as Rene Ficek, a registered dietitian and the lead nutrition expert at Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating points out, “For many of us, indulging in these foods has created an insatiable sweet tooth.”
Essentially, the more you eat sugar, the more you’re likely to continue craving it.
“But we must work on controlling sugar cravings,” Ficek said. “By getting sugar cravings under control you will have a better chance to maintain your healthy eating habits in the long run.”
First and foremost, Ficek does not recommend trying to “kill your addiction” through a cold turkey detox or any other similar method.
“If you believe you eat too much sugar, why not try cutting back rather than abstaining 100 percent?,” Ficek said. “Forcing yourself to eliminate sugar completely for any length of time increases the likelihood of binging on it at some point.”
For this reason, Ficek says, instead it’s important to find a balance in your diet and practice moderation.
“The all-or-nothing approach when it comes to food often fails and sets dieters up for a harmful yo-yo diet cycle,” she added.
Ficek also notes that you should recognize the difference between added sugar (like table sugar and concentrated sources like in fruit juice) and naturally occurring sugars (like those found in fruits, vegetables, full fat dairy, honey and unrefined carbohydrates).
“These naturally occurring sugars are valid energy sources, and along with the other nutrients in these foods, are important for nourishing a healthy body,” she said. “While eliminating added sugars from the diet is possible—but may be very difficult to do—eliminating all sugars from the diet may end up being harmful to one’s health. So, start with these simple tips to eliminate the excess, added sugar from your diet.”
Ficek says: Begin your sugar “detox” by avoiding adding sugar to your drinks and meals, and curb obviously sweet foods like candy bars, pastries and sodas. Start reading labels on the items in your refrigerator and pantry. Many foods like sauces, condiments, soups and of course sodas have added sugar. It may masquerade under a different name, but rest assured that any ingredient that ends in “-ose” probably means sugar. This process will likely be quite daunting; as most packaged, canned and otherwise processed and preserved foods have added sugar.
Ficek says: When your body is dehydrated it actually craves sweets, so by drinking a lot of water during the day you can decrease your sugar cravings and give your body more energy. When you are first starting out, drink at least one large glass of water each hour of the work day.
Jumpstart your Health With Whole Foods
Ficek says: If you know that you are addicted to sugar and experience headaches and body aches after not having sweets, it is even more important to jumpstart your health by eating real whole foods to help cleanse your body from toxins and give you more energy.
Increase Your Greens
Ficek says: Adding greens to your diet is one of the best ways to keep energy levels up and eliminate those sweet cravings. Try having a green smoothie for breakfast, a big salad for lunch and a green veggie stir fry for dinner. These meals will make you feel so good; you won’t dare go back to those sweet treats.
Satisfy Sweet Cravings with Fruit
Ficek says: When craving chocolate or cookies, why not try an apple instead? You may be surprised with how satisfied you feel after. The natural sugars and fiber in whole fruits will provide the sweetness you are craving without the blood sugar spike, keeping energy and moods lifted.