By now unless you’ve been hiding under a rock most of us know eating too much sugar isn’t good for us and that overdoing the sweet stuff has been linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, metabolic disease, fatty liver and other chronic health conditions. The SACN Report found that high intakes of sugar were associated with greater risk of tooth decay and obesity. Sugary drinks were shown to increase Body Mass Index (BMI) in teenagers – this age group tends to consume the highest volume of sugary drinks. Some research suggests that having too much sugar in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Sugar has absolutely no nutritional benefit and that's why it is regularly termed as 'empty' calories as it is literally just pure energy - there are no vitamins or minerals in it. Large amounts of sugar have been linked with raised levels of insulin, which increase the risk of diabetes. The excess sugar in the British diet is a huge factor the UK's enormous rise in obesity. The body also turns surplus sugar into fat and stores it around the vital organs, placing us at risk of liver and heart disease. Sugar isn’t great for teeth because it provides the perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria in the mouth.
However knowing all of this and that we need to cut down our sugar intake doesn’t necessarily make it any easier – for many people reducing their sugar intake isn’t that simple and they find it incredibly difficult to give up the sweet stuff For whatever reason though, most of us still find it hard to resist sugary foods such as sweets cakes, biscuits, sugary drinks and snacks.
Most people if their honest enough can identify with having intense sugar cravings often leaving us feeling powerless and convinced that we’re ‘addicted to sugar’. Add in the internal dialogue and actions that accompany this setting up an ingrained practice of ‘having a treat’ to make our selves feel better with food, we start to develop a cycle of ‘pacifying and ‘treating ourselves’ with food instead of dealing with the underlying stress.
But is sugar addiction even a thing?
Whilst there is currently no definitive classification or clinical diagnosis on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, specifically for sugar or food addiction (the manual by which mental-health professionals classify mental disorders. his is largely because there is little clinical research in humans to substantiate the idea that food or sugar addictions are real.
Brain-imaging studies in humans Studies have shown that people who consume foods like those containing high amounts of sugar — activates the same key reward regions of the brain similar to class A drugs such as cocaine. Unsurprising when people are faced with a real sense of ‘powerlessness’ over food and their cravings. There is however very strong animal research to support the notion that sugar IS infact addictive evidence so just because we lack a diagnoses for sugar addiction doesn’t mean that it isn’t ! Our taste buds are incredibly sensitive to sugar but the reverse is also true – so the more you have the more you want but a physical reduction in sugar can affect our taste buds.
But just because we lack a diagnosis for sugar addiction doesn’t mean that sugar isn’t addictive
Is sugar withdrawal even real?
Actually yes ! As is common with caffeine, nicotine withdrawal it’s also common for people to feel negative symptoms from sugar (at least in the short term) including mood swings, irritability, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, intense sugar cravings. So it’s a good idea to cut down gradually to avoid these symptoms and also ensure your success whilst cutting down. After a few days of reducing your intake — after which patients generally report major improvements in both mood and energy levels.
What are the benefits of a sugar-free or low sugar diet?
"Eating a sugar-free diet may allow you to lose weight more easily. Sugar is quickly metabolised into blood sugar, which prompts your body to release insulin - and insulin surges promote fat storage. By contrast, foods that are low on the glycemic index such as oats, vegetables and wholegrains produce only small blood-sugar and insulin fluctuations and keep your energy levels balanced, helping you feel fuller for longer periods of time."
Lower risk of diabetes
"Reducing sugar can significantly improve our physical health as well as reduce the risk of diabetes. The reason being that sugars increase the risk of being overweight, which in turn raises the risk for diabetes. Drinking one or more sugary drinks a day can in fact double your diabetes risk compared with a person who drinks less than one sugary drink per month."
"Cutting sugar from your diet may significantly improve mood or at least regulate mood swings. People who consume too much sugar often suffer 'sugar spikes' followed by a 'crash' in blood sugars after consuming sugary foods. Too much sugar can easily lead to anxiety, poor concentration, irritability and emotional outbursts. Regulating sugar intake may also have a positive effect on mood disturbances before menstruation as well as during menopause."
How can we cut down on or eliminate sugar?
"The good news is that the palate is sensitive to sugar. The more you have the more you want but the reverse is also true – the less you have the less you crave it. When first cutting down on sugar you'll probably experience headaches and feel grumpy and lethargic for a few days. However, after a week you'll start to feel better and be amazed at how quickly your addiction fades. Set realistic goals and do this gradually. The simplest way to start is by halving your sugar intake each week until you're down to none. For example, if you currently have two sugars in your tea, have one in the first week and half a teaspoon in the second week. After six weeks you'll find your palate is more much more sensitive to sweetness and your cravings will naturally diminish
It starts at the Supermarket
What you put in your shopping basket will ultimately end up on your plate so the simplest way to improve your diet and reduce your sugar intake starts with what you put in your shopping trolley…Fresh produce fresh vegetables, fruit, lean proteins such as turkey, chicken, eggs beans and pulses are key, if you make up your meals from fresh ingredients and ditch foods in packets then that’s a key start to - cook from scratch.
"Switch white pasta and rice for brown and eat wholemeal bread and wholegrain cereals or porridge for breakfast. These low glycaemic (low GI) foods will slow the speed at which sugar gets into your system, keeping blood sugar and energy levels constant. As a result this will make you less likely to crave that instant sugar hit. Eating more lean meat and fish will also help because protein keeps you feeling full and stabilises blood sugar levels."
Eat regular meals
"Regular meals will help stabilise blood sugar levels so you won't be hit by a sugar slump in the mid-afternoon."
Keep a food diary
"Keeping a food diary can really help you see what you are taking in and be mindful of how much sugar you are currently consuming."
Read the label
"It's a good idea to check the ingredient list of foods and note how high up the ingredients list sugar is placed . The less processed foods you eat and the more you cook from scratch, the less sugar you will automatically be taking in."
Sleep easy and relax
"The more tired you are, the more your body craves sugar to give you an energy boost. While you’re weaning yourself off sugar, aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night and avoid burning the candle at both ends. But don't use coffee as a pick-me-up if you've had a late night as caffeine can make sugar cravings worse. Reach for herbal, fruit teas or decaffeinated instead. When we're stressed or sad, it can lead us to have really strong cravings for sugar so working on relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga and massage can really help us de-stress."
Keep your eye on the Nutrition Facts label and ingredient lists.
Being aware of hidden sugars This is half the battle – the obvious sugar is one thing but if you don’t understanding food labels is half the battle here. However you may not know all of the nicknames for added sugar and have a hard time spotting it in the ingredient list.
Know there names – here is a list of what sugar is also called :-
With at least 60 Names for Sugar … IT’S unsurprising that
Barley malt syrup
Cane juice crystals
Coconut palm sugar
Corn syrup solids
Dehydrated cane juice
Evaporated cane juice
Free-flowing brown sugars
Fruit juice concentrate
HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)
Find better ways to manage stress
For many of us, eating sugary foods has become a coping strategy.
Replace sugary foods with nonfood rewards. Develop other ways to manage stress such as mindfulness, meditation, journaling, yoga, swimming, massage, reflexology, aromatherapy walking and running.