Addictions are generally thought to be a dependence on alcohol or drugs which negatively impact the life of the addict. However, other substances can be either physically or psychologically addictive, or both, and this includes sugar addiction. It’s easy to become ‘addicted’ to sugar – it tastes good, it gives you a boost of quick energy, and it’s legal. People who are addicted to illegal drugs often have to scramble around trying to find their next fix, but the next sugar fix can be found right in your grocery store. And unlike alcohol, where you need to be a certain age before it can be purchased, a toddler with a few dollars in his or her hand can buy a candy bar.
So, What’s Wrong with Sugar?
All of us love to sit down with a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy a donut or piece of cake simply because these things taste good. However, how many of us then reach for seconds and maybe thirds, because we do receive instant gratification from eating these foods. It has been determined that sugar acts on the brain in much the same way that cocaine does – it causes the release of excess amounts of dopamine, causing a sense of euphoria.
Anything that makes us feel good in some way has a very high chance of being repeated, and if you’re getting a mental jolt of pleasure from your dessert or snack, you’ll probably want more of it. Besides the mental effects, sugar enters the bloodstream quickly and provides a boost of physical energy. Both of these ‘boosts’ wear off quickly, however, which sends you running back to the cupboard or fridge for your next fix.
In addition to the addictive qualities of sugar, there are a number of serious medical conditions that can result from an excess consumption of the sweet stuff:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Tooth decay
Breaking the Sugar Habit
As with any addictive substance, it can be hard to cut back or stop using sugar altogether, but getting sugar consumption under control can be done fairly painlessly. There are some simple practices that can help you break your sugar addiction and lead a healthier life as well.
- Exercise helps to reduce your need for sugar because it helps to release our very own ‘feel good’ substances in the brain – endorphins. Simply taking a walk gets you out of the house or apartment and can help to distract you from your cravings.
- Substituting milk and other dairy products can also help to break the sugar cycle. It’s been found that serotonin (another brain hormone that elevates mood) is found in milk protein. Additionally, milk also provides calcium and other nutritional elements necessary for good health.
- Do not exchange artificial sweeteners for sugar. These substances can actually cause you to gain weight as they interfere with your brain chemistry – you will want to eat more because your brain perceives that you haven’t eaten at all.
- Don’t go anywhere without some healthy snacks. Nuts, raisins, and fresh fruit can help you to overcome cravings in a healthy way.
- Avoid foods, such as salad dressings and desserts that have been designated as being fat-free. Fat-free they may well be, but generally sugar has been substituted for the fat. Make sure you check the label on any food that is advertised as being fat-free.
- Regularizing your meals can also break your need for sugar. Your body will quickly become accustomed to getting an input of food at a certain time every day, so you will not be as liable to experience hunger pangs that will have you reaching for something sugary.
- If you cut out sugar completely for several days, your body will adjust to this and your need for a sugar fix will plummet.
Don’t be too stiff-necked about eating sugar; those who go overboard initially often backslide. You can simply start by cutting back on how many sugary foods you eat every day, and when you absolutely ‘have to have’ some sugar, make it a small amount or eat it with another food – have a piece of candy along with a hunk of cheese; the protein in the cheese will remain in your system longer so you won’t feel hungry again in a short period of time.
Breaking a sugar addiction can be hard, especially for those with a sweet tooth, but overcoming excessive use of sugar can help you to feel and look better, and also head off some potentially dangerous health problems.
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