Even after heavy meals, we all still want something sweet for dessert. On average, a person consumes approximately 66 pounds of added sugar per year. Excessive sugar intake causes a host of medical problems including headaches, fatigue, bloating, obesity and heart problems. Eating too much sugar can negatively impact your gut health and disrupt the effectiveness of your probiotic supplements and other vitamins.
From healthcare professionals to politicians, the consensus is that the daily consumption of sugar in the United States needs to be reduced to about 10% of your daily caloric intake. Many states are working together to raise awareness about the harm of excess sugar in one's diet and taking steps to support their efforts. For example, Seattle has already begun to tax sugary drinks and several other states have proposed to do so as well.
How much sugar is enough?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that 5% of your caloric intake be sugar and no more than 10%, ought to come from added and natural sugars. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), women should consume no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day while men should stop at nine teaspoons. Children caloric intake is determined by age and weight, however, should be restricted to 3-6 teaspoons a day.
Managing Your Sugar Addiction
Did you know that according to various studies that your sugar intake may cause changes in the physiology of your brain, similar to cocaine or an alcohol addiction. If you struggle with sugar cravings you may find relief with a bit of discipline and daily diet planning. Here are a few ways to help you stop sugar cravings without facing dips in energy or sudden headaches.
Go for Low Sugar Options
If you regularly reach for breakfast cereal, remember to check the nutritional values printed on the box. Chances are that the high sugar content in your favorite cereal will surprise you. Switch to low-sugar cereals or other options like plain oatmeal, yogurt or whole-wheat biscuits.
Prepare your bowl of oatmeal with skimmed milk or water, and you have a nutritive breakfast packed with vitamins, fiber, and minerals. If you must have a taste of something sweet, opt for healthier additions that have natural sugars such as bananas, pears, apples, strawberries or other fruits.
Another option for a healthy sugar-free breakfast is whole wheat toast because it has a higher fiber content than regular white bread. Top your toast with low-sugar spreads if you want to change it up every day.
Avoid ready-made soups, meals, stir-fry sauces, pasta sauces, salad dressing, sweet chili dishes, and similar foods as much as possible. These ready-made dishes have excessive sugar and preservatives that are unhealthy. While cooking food at home or eating out, be aware of all of the disguises under which sugar gets into your diet so you can do away with it. Sugar is often found in sauces, gravy, breads, etc.
Get Your Entire Family Onboard
It is difficult to give up a bad habit when everyone around you is still indulging. If your family members are chowing down on sugary sweets, the temptation might just be too much for you. Get everyone onboard the health train and get all the processed foods that have sugar out of your house. Choosing healthy food options is easier if your family is eating the same thing.
What to Do When Cravings Hit
Sugar cravings are often associated with social eating and emotions like boredom or sadness. When your energy is low and you're feeling blue, you tend to reach for sugary snacks to alleviate the negative feelings by getting a bump of serotonin. There are many ways to consciously distract yourself when the craving hits. Try some of these:
- Satisfy oral fixation with sugar-free chewing gum or a cup of green tea.
- Plan a fun task to do immediately after meals so you have something other than dessert to look forward to.
- Call a friend or family member who knows of your sugar-free diet and ask them for some moral support.
- Go for a walk or exercise to get your body's endorphins pumping.
If you still feel like you might succumb to the temptation of grabbing a sugar fix, remind yourself why you decided to cut this culinary villain from your diet. Keep your goals of losing weight, gaining more clarity in thought process, gaining more energy, etc. in mind. Remember the cravings will not last forever. In fact, after a few weeks, your taste buds will have adjusted to the new diet and those overly sweet things you liked will no longer entice your taste buds.
Drink More Water
Surprisingly enough, most of your excessive sugar amounts are coming from artificially flavored sugary drinks such as juices and sodas. In fact, a 500ml bottle of soda typically comprises of over 17 cubes of sugar! Steer clear of these drinks and choose to keep yourself hydrated with water instead. You could also try flavored detoxifying water that is infused with lemon, lime or other fruits.
Choose All Natural Sweeteners
If you have sugar cravings and would like to satisfy your sweet tooth without binging on sugar, consider switching to natural sweeteners that have zero calories and additives, such as stevia. These sweeteners are available in small pellets to add to your tea/coffee as well as powdered forms for baking. All natural sweeteners have no calories or additives and do not spike your blood sugar levels.
Try Fermented Foods and Drinks
An easy and tasty way to get rid of sugar cravings for good is to add fermented food and drinks like yogurt and kefir to your diet. The sour undertones of these healthy items help reduce cravings for sugar and processed foods, and may even eliminate them completely. Furthermore, the probiotics in fermented foods actually helps to break down the natural sugars in what you have eaten (fruits, sweet potatoes, etc.) so that your sugar intake does not negatively affect your body.
The next time you find yourself fighting a sugar crazing consider some of the ideas and tips shared her. With a bit of awareness and a few small changes to your daily diet, you can kick the sugar cravings for good and make your way to a healthy and energetic life.
Cesare R. Sirtori, Chiara Pavanello, Laura Calabresi, Massimiliano Ruscica. (2017) Nutraceutical approaches to metabolic syndrome. Annals of Medicine 49:8, pages 678-697.
Mariangela Rondanelli, Milena Anna Faliva, Simone Perna, Attilio Giacosa, Gabriella Peroni, Anna Maria Castellazzi. (2017) Using probiotics in clinical practice: Where are we now? A review of existing meta-analyses. Gut Microbes 8:6, pages 521-543.
Rachel K. Johnson, Lawrence J. Appel, Michael Brands, Barbara V. Howard, Michael Lefevre, Robert H. Lustig, Frank Sacks, Lyn M. Steffen and Judith Wylie-Rosett on behalf of the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism and the Council on Epidemiology and Prevention
Circulation. 2009;120:1011-1020, originally published September 14, 2009
Shu Wen Ng, Jessica D Ostrowski, Kuo-ping Li; Trends in added sugars from packaged beverages available and purchased by US households, 2007–2012, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 106, Issue 1, 1 July 2017, Pages 179–188, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.117.153858