Why sugar is highly addictive and effective tips to break the ‘sweet cycle’
Sugar is a highly addictive substance. Even rats prefer sugar to cocaine. Our brains are wired for reward, it is part of our survival instinct, the primary force behind human survival. Anything that creates a release of dopamine in our brain (a neurotransmitter) will induce a feeling of pleasure we want to repeat. Similar to nicotine, cocaine, heroin and alcohol, sugar hits our pleasure centre and we want more and more of any substance that releases dopamine. Further, once we have an addiction to one substance, the brain can switch from one substance to another, whether it is alcohol, morphine, nicotine or sugar. This is why smokers who quit often turn to caffeine or sugar instead. So, whilst we already understand how bad sugar is for us, creating weight gain, decaying our teeth, interfering with our lipid management and control, disastrous for our heart health, not to mention our risk of diabetes and obesity to cap it all off, we now also understand how addictive the white stuff is. It’s time to let it go.
So, how to break the sweet cycle?
- Remember it is an addiction so be gentle and kind to yourself.
- Increase fresh veggies in your diet. This will bring extra micronutrients and more importantly, fibre into your body. Fibre will help to slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream.
- Choose mainly wholefoods including nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, fish and seafood, legumes. Natural wholefoods do not contain sugars in a high enough level to dysregulate our blood glucose levels or impact our brain neurotransmitters.
- Eliminate sugar slowly, dropping things from your diet one by one. This might be sugar added to hot drinks, or any added sugar to foods, like cereal or porridge.
- Avoid soft drinks and energy drinks. Instead, select herbal teas, freshly made vegetable juices and water.
- Avoid processed foods like muesli bars, boxed breakfast cereals, commercial sauces and ketchups – they all contain sugar. Read the labels and become aware of the sources of sugar in your diet. Be alert for words meaning sugar: sucrose, fructose, cane syrup, refined cane sugar, maltodextrin, dextrose, xylitol, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, agave syrup, maltose, rice bran syrup.
- As things run out in your pantry, plan to replace them with better quality, sugarless products, or remove processed choices from your diet completely and fill your diet with fresh, natural whole foods instead.
These small changes in habits and routine will help you to avoid the headaches and nausea that a sudden change in your diet can incur. You may however, struggle with sugar cravings and low blood sugar moods that can plague you for a number of weeks if you do not know how to control them. If this is the case, then simply add a good quality protein and fat with your meals and snacks, especially at those times of the day when you are most likely to want sugary foods, mid morning and mid afternoon are often the worst times for many people.
Look forward to a healthier, more vital version of you…the one without the lethargy and hangover of that sweet poison.
Creating healthier and happier individuals and workplaces
At the Australasian Sustainable Wellness Academy we’re not just an academy delivering accredited wellness training, we’re a movement to create healthier and happier individuals, workplaces and communities.
Our flexible, effective and scalable wellness training and development programs empower individuals, workplaces and communities to lead healthier, happier lives with purpose, engagement and optimum performance.
Image credit: with gratitude to the Sydney Vegan Club