We’ve all seen the news recently, we are all aware that sugar is very bad for you, especially in the amounts we are all apparently consuming it. With our favourite foods jam-packed with tablespoons of sugar, and more and more negative side effects being reported, it might be time for us all to start re-evaluating our diets, perhaps looking for slightly less sweet options.
Luckily, there are plenty of sugar substitutes you can opt for, something we’ll go into shortly.
The thing with sugar is that many of us are addicted to it without even realising. We have all been consuming so much of it for so many years, most of us for out entire lives, so as you can understand, combating a lifelong addiction you weren’t aware of is not going to be an easy task. It is something you’ll need to approach with caution.
Are you addicted to sugar?
Many of us are addicted to sugar. Two spoonfuls in your tea, an extra spoonful on top of your cereal, a little extra added to that cake mix to make it lovely and tasty. That’s before you even begin to look at the sugar content of the foods you eat every day. Even the ‘healthiest’ foods on our shelves are jam-packed with sugar, and not the good stuff either, the healthy and nutritious sugars you’ll find in sweet fruits like strawberries.
The easiest way to see if you are addicted to sugar is to cut it out of your diet for the day and see how you react…
Sugar withdrawal symptoms
There are many reported sugar withdrawal symptoms, all a result of the short-chain carbs and sucrose not longer being the staple in your diet. Among the most popular and common, you will find these:
Change to mood – you may be angry or irritable, and you may be quick to flare-up, your temper being very short. You may even show aggression out of character.
Anxiety, stress and depression – cutting out sugar can have a massive impact on your life and it can affect your sleeping patterns which, in turn, will have a massive effect on your mood. As you are feeling aggressive and angry, you may find that the feelings don’t go away, and this can lead to problems with social anxiety, stress, depression and other mental health conditions.
Changes to your appetite – you may find that you want to eat less or more in general but above all else, you’ll more than likely experience pangs and urges to eat high-sugar foods. This is when you are likely to binge on sugary foods such as chocolate and sweets.
Dizziness – this has a little something to do with your blood sugar levels. If you consume sugar regularly and then all of a sudden you omit that from your life, the sucrose your body no longer has will cause blood sugar levels to drop and this causes you to shake and feel light-headed or dizzy.
Exhaustion – the sugar provides you with a short term energy fix so in response to sugar withdrawal, you may find that you have little to no energy at all and rely on that sugar fix to see you through the remainder of the day. This can last for a few weeks but eventually will go away. The effects on your sleeping patterns will also lead to increased feelings of fatigue.
Headaches – these are very popular among sugar addicts and definitely with sugar withdrawal. This is likely to be one of the first symptoms you experience along with that shaking feeling, a headache which can’t be pin-pointed to one place but just in general, often not going away until you have eaten sugar. Pain killers can help but you may find that you need to repeatedly take them so that the headaches do not come back.
Weight changes – all of the above has a serious impact on your health. The change to your appetite, mood and sleep patterns can have an effect on your overall general health and one reported side effect of sugar withdrawal is weight loss.
Negative side effects of sugar
There are so many reported negative benefits of eating lots of sugar, and as well as increased blood pressure, weight gain, higher cholesterol levels, diabetes, various cancers, heart disease, and more.
If you experience the above changes to you or your body after cutting out sugar from your life, or by trying to reduce the amount of sugar you consume, you could very much be addicted to sugar. It might be a good idea to have a chat with your doctor to put in the direction of a nutritionist. Alternatively, there are a number of ways you can help yourself to cut down your sugar content…
How to beat a sugar addiction
There are a number of tips and tricks you can use to make your sugar withdrawal a lot easier.
The first place to start is with the drinks you’re consuming. That bottle of fizzy pop is nice for a mid-afternoon boost but could be packed with sugar – just look at the label. Instead of having this energy boosting sugar-filled beverage, opt for an ice cold glass of water instead.
Your body will need to heat the water up to body temperature before it can be absorbed and this, in turn, will actually burn calories. The water will also help to fill you up, meaning you’ll eat fewer calories, and you’ll be rehydrating your body from the inside out, giving your hair, skin, nails, bones and other vital organs the added boost of hydration they desperately need. Water is also good for the muscles and if you don’t get enough of it, your exercise workouts are gong to leave you in great pain.
If you’re having a hard time skipping the fizzy pops completely, opt for the sugar free versions but again, make sure you the check the labels first. Some of them can be incredibly misleading. You could also try diluting some of your favourite juice / squash with sparkling water rather than still water. Again, opt for a low-sugar fruit squash too.
Sticking with the fizzy drinks theme for just one more point, certain drinks also contain high levels of caffeine as well as sugar so alongside your sugar withdrawal, you may have caffeine withdrawals to deal with too.
Although you can buy sugar substitutes, they can often be just as unhealthy for you as the sugar in the first place so although some people would tell you to switch one for another, it’s not always a great idea. If you can cut sugar and substitutes out of your hot drinks, weaning the sugar content down gradually over time, you’ll have a much better time of things.
Start by having one and a half sugars instead of two and then when you have gotten used to it, go for one sugar instead. It takes about ten times to taste something before you can train your body to like it, so give it a go and keep trying. Don’t give up after the first cup just because you don’t like the taste of it.
Look at the labels of everything you’re eating. Just one squirt of ketchup on your plate could be adding as much as one teaspoon of sugar, something you’re probably not accounting for when you try to tally up your daily totals.
Try to encourage the entire family to join in and you’ll have much better luck. If you can blitz your home and take sure you don’t have loads of sweet temptations lying around, you will be less likely to eat them. Also, that cleaning gives you something to do when you’re distracted and desperately craving the sweet treat you’re trying to live without.
When you feel the need to eat a piece of sugar and you don’t feel you can overcome the urge, always opt for a more natural form of sugar such as a sweet piece of fruit. The average apple contains a cube and a half of sugar but despite that, it’s a healthy alternative and one that is less likely to have an adverse reaction on your body or overall general health.
Finally, look at upping your magnesium intake by taking a daily supplement. You could even look at easting magnesium-rich foods such as tofu, legumes and green, leafy vegetables.
How long does sugar withdrawal take?
Sadly, there is no set amount of time that sugar withdrawal lasts. It will vary from person to person, dependant on a range of different factors. Age will have a massive factor as well current medical health conditions and the state of your general health. Your current sugar consumption will also play a big part, as will the length of time you think you’ve had your sugar addiction for.
Just like most things in life, the more you have of it, or the longer you have been consuming it, the harder it will be to give up. Your body will be used to the sugar consumption, and so will you – almost like a daily habit or ritual.