Trying to cut down can be anything but sweet, but if there’s one thing you can do to improve your overall health today, it’s reducing your refined sugar intake. Not only is it inflammatory, but it spikes your insulin levels, encourages weight gain and feeds bad bacteria in the gut, which can wreak havoc on your digestive system.
Sugar addiction is becoming increasingly common, especially with our reliance on prepackaged foods, so I’ve put together a guide to help you figure out whether you (or someone you know) could be addicted and some tips to help you banish those cravings for good.
10 signs you’re addicted to sugar
If you're ticking more than a couple of these boxes; then you could have a problem.
- You experience an afternoon energy slump: This probably happens between 3-4pm. Your energy levels drop and before you know it, you’re reaching for something sweet or high in carbs
- You’re generally tired: You know the drill; you wake up tired and feel sluggish and slow throughout the day. To give yourself a boost, you grab a soft drink or chocolate bar
- You love coffee with a sweet treat: The thought of going out for a coffee hits those sweet cravings into overdrive and you end up buying a cookie or cake to go along with your caffeine hit, or opting for a sweeter version of your favourite drink (iced mocha with whipped cream, maybe?)
- You love an after-dinner sweet: Most nights after dinner, you reach from something sweet and don’t feel satisfied until you do
- You don’t like bitter foods or greens: If your palate is accustomed to sugar, then it’s likely that any bitter or astringent foods are too much for you to handle
- You’re a choc-a-holic: I’m not talking about enjoying a nice piece of dark chocolate here or there; I’m talking about those people who need to have chocolate (usually the rich, milky kind) daily
- You love soft drinks: You often crave soft drink, even the diet kind, and drink them regularly
- You reach for sweet over savoury: You’d rather have something sweet for lunch as opposed to a salad
- You love chewing gum: In between meals, you need a hit of the flavour and artificial sweeteners that come with a piece of ‘chewy’
- You love artificial sweeteners: You might think you’re doing your waistline a service by adding the artificial sweeteners, so you sprinkle it over everything from drinks to cereal
12 ways to combat sugar cravings:
Here are some tips to stave off those cravings.
- Enjoy a protein-rich breakfast: avoid a high-carb breakfast such as oats, cereal and toast and opt for a veggie omelette, poached eggs with greens and avocado, or try my Superfood brekkie bowl
- Eat regularly: Eating three main meals and enjoying two snacks throughout the day help prevent your blood sugar levels dropping
- Eat balanced meals: Your meal must contain a form of protein, good fats and a slow-releasing carb. It’s also important to eat fats at lunch, which helps reduce sugar cravings. For some inspiration, check out my website; there’s plenty of free recipes
- Avoid fruit in the afternoon: Eating fruit after lunchtime often triggers sugar cravings later in the evening. Instead try snacking on carrot and celery sticks with hummus
- Drink one coffee a day: Various studies have found that consuming too much caffeine affects the way we perceive sweetness and can trigger cravings. I recommend sticking to one coffee before 10am
- Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep increases sugar cravings, because you end up feeling so tired throughout the day that the quick energy spike that sugar gives you becomes a lifesaver
- Manage stress: Too much cortisol spikes sugar cravings, so incorporate some regular restorative practises such as yoga or meditation
- Add apple cider vinegar to your water with your meal: Apple cider vinegar helps to balance our blood sugar levels, thereby reducing cravings
- Limit alcohol intake: Not only are most alcoholic beverages laden with sugar, but consuming alcohol increases sugar cravings. If you need help resetting your sugar cravings, I recommend going alcohol-free for a period of four weeks. Better yet; get your friends involved, raise money for a good cause and tackle Dry July!
- Avoid refined and white carbs: Refined carbohydrates cause insulin levels to spike, which leads to repeated sugar cravings, so opt for wholemeal and gluten-free alternatives
- Heal your gut: This includes taking a daily probiotic under the guidance of a healthcare professional, eating less gluten and practising stress management. Poor gut health increases your sugar cravings
- Avoid artificial sweeteners: Despite what clever marketers would have you believe, in most instances, artificial sweeteners are actually worse than refined sugar. They can trigger sugar cravings
Trying to cut back on your sugar intake? We’ve partnered with Jessica Sepel to create some exclusive recipes – all with no refined sugar. Check them out on The Check Up.