Every once in a while, you may find yourself craving for the taste of sugar. Whether you're inclined to sugar in your tea or coffee, chocolate, a fizzy drink or sweets, sugar is sugar and can in the long run, unfortunately, be very unhealthy for us.Gone are the days where sugar is a treat for a special occasion or associated with loved ones and a get-together. In our lives where chaos and stress are at a high, sugar is now something which we consume to get us through the day and as an added extra in our diet.Found most commonly in things like sweets and chocolate, you may also find it hidden in other things less obvious such as fruit, coffee drinks, cereals, salad dressings, tomato ketchup and even things we can consider a healthier option like yoghurt.In a world of convenience where we live our lives at full speed, we turn to processed foods that can be ready in a few minutes, but they may be full of sugar, too. They give our bodies the quick rush it needs to match the convenience of the preparation.However, it's not just the high calories or easy microwave and processed meals that contain a high level of sugar. Do not be fooled by the low-fat options available either. Even if the calorie count is low, there is a good chance the sugar content is high. Lots of low-calorie foods contain sugar to make up for the taste which is absent due to the low-fat content - just take a look at the ingredients list of a zero calorie salad dressing!
The average fizzy drink has around 35g of sugar in it, whereas 'juice drinks' can have a little as 5% fruit juice in and topped up heavily with sugar - look for 100% fruit on the labels.
How does sugar work in the body?
It's a simple circle of events, but one that can lead to a sugar addiction if repeated over and over again.
When we consume sugar, our blood sugar levels go up. Once this happens, the body releases insulin in response which causes the blood sugar levels to crash after a huge spike. As the ups and downs of the effects of sugar continue in the body, this can lead to heightened hyperactivity, worsened concentration and feeling anxious.
We become addicted to the energy surge released into the body, caused by increased levels of endorphins and serotonin - the happy hormones. We remember the feeling of power and the moment of happiness, which ends in cravings we cannot ignore. So the next time we are feeling a little tired or overworked, we reach for the energy drink or chocolate bar in the hope that we can recreate the burst of energy needed for the next few hours. This circle is what keeps the cravings going; it's a real-life addiction.
If you are thinking about reducing the levels of sugar you consume or giving them up altogether; it is not advisable to go cold-turkey. Doing this will wreak havoc on your body, and it is often advised to do it in stages. The common symptoms of kicking a sugar habit include low energy, mood swings, headaches and the continued desire to eat more.
So what can you do to start kicking your sugar habit?
1 - Know what you are looking for
Sugar has many other names and may not be listed simply as 'sugar'. Other names which are frequently used to describe added sugar include cane sugar, corn syrup, corn sugar, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, corn syrup, maltodextrin, molasses sucrose, raw sugar and turbinado sugar - that's a lot of names for one ingredient!
Reading labels also includes looking at the amount of sugar added to a product. On labels, ingredients are listed in weight, so the higher up the sugar is on the ingredients list, the more it will contain. Try and avoid a product which has sugar set out in the top three ingredients on the list.
Look at the nutrition facts panel on the product and the line where it tells you the total sugars. If it does not have any of the above names for sugar on the list, then it should not contain any 'added sugars'.
2 - Opt for naturally sweet alternatives
Choose fresher foods to kerb your sweet cravings. Try foods such as fruits, berries, dates and raisins. Although they may have a high sugar content, they also contain other vitamins, minerals and fibre, as well as some hydration, so they will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
3 - Watch your emotions
We've all been there before! A little upset or a little stressed and we're heading straight for the biscuit tin or the bar of chocolate you've kept in case of emergencies! Ask yourself what do you need, something sweet is only a quick fix, and you'll soon be dealing with the sugar crash once again. Maybe you just need a good chat or a hug instead!
4 - Prep food in advance
Having healthy options when your food cravings kick in will stop you from raiding the sugary snacks. Foods such as chopped up carrots or cucumbers are perfect for you and will keep you feeling full and keep you away from the biscuits. You need to find the healthy alternative to your sugary preference and keep yourself stocked up.
5 - Eat a balanced diet
Of course, there wasn't going to be tips about health in here without mentioning the good old balanced diet! Avoid processed foods, packed with added sugar and replace with fresher foods which will help your body restore its natural balance. Partner this with a high-quality multivitamin, such as Terranova Full Spectrum Multi-Vitamin Complex, which can help eliminate nutritional gaps that lead to cravings.
Sugar is one of the most powerful, addictive and attractive substances in the world! Learn how to manage your intake, stay healthy and feel good by consuming in moderation and finding the best alternatives for you when you are reaching for your next square of chocolate (or two!).