Kick The Sugar Habit

SugarJacquie Eubanks RN BSN

How long do you think it would take to kick your sugar habit, recalibrate your palate, and reset your hunger and satiety hormones? Read on, as perhaps the answer is not what you’d expect. The truth is that it’s difficult to determine how much sugar we are consuming, as hidden sugars are ubiquitous in the standard American diet, which well exceeds the recommended daily amount of nine teaspoons of sugar, or 150 calories daily for men, and six teaspoons, or 100 calories for women. It’s generally accepted in the medical community that sugar has addictive properties, lighting up the dopamine reward centers in the brain, generating a spark of energy and even creating a short-term “high,” making it challenging, but not impossible to eliminate from the daily diet.

Many are aware that excess sugar consumption is linked to many negative long-term chronic health effects, including obesity, systemic inflammation, atherosclerosis, cellular aging, diabetes, cognitive decline and fatty liver disease. Excess sugar consumption leads to higher blood sugar, triglyceride and blood pressure levels, known risk factors for heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Cutting refined and added sugars from the diet is actually a kind of sustainable dietary detox that can help reduce weight, improve markers of health and result in stabilized energy and a more radiant complexion, as well as reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases. The good news is that when one is committed to kicking the sugar habit, it can be done successfully in only four weeks by going cold turkey.

Brooke Alpert, registered dietitian and co-author of the book, The Sugar Detox: Lose the Sugar, Lose Weight—Look and Feel Great, suggests that everyone, even those with a healthy weight, can benefit from eliminating sugar, as all aspects of metabolic health improve. Replacing processed and packaged food with whole foods naturally and seamlessly eliminates added sugars. Some health professionals advocate for taking baby steps to slowly eliminate sugar consumption and avoid common withdrawal symptoms of headaches, fatigue, anxiety and irritability. Others, like Alpert, say that similar to conquering alcohol addition, initially its best to cut all sources of sugar, even whole foods that contain natural sugar.

In the beginning, this means no sugar laden foods and drinks, added sugars, fruit, starchy vegetables, grains, alcohol, dairy or artificial sweeteners. Yes, the struggle is real but short term. After only three days, your palate resets and you begin to taste natural sugar again. By the fourth day, senses long dulled from sugar overconsumption come alive. Fruit, vegetables and dairy, which contain natural sugar, as well as fiber and beneficial phytonutrients, literally taste as sweet as candy. At this point, one can add one piece of fruit and one dairy food, such as full fat, unsweetened yogurt or cheese, as well as higher-sugar vegetables like carrots or beets and a serving of high-fiber whole grain crackers. Even better, three glasses of red wine can be added during the week one but after day three.

During week two, a serving of antioxidant-rich berries and an extra serving of dairy can be added daily, as well as some starchy vegetables, such as sweet potatoes or winter squash. By week three, the diet becomes quite livable, as one can also add whole grains such as oatmeal, barley and quinoa, as well as another glass of red wine during the week and an ounce of dark chocolate daily. By week four, one is in the home stretch, having conquered the sugar addiction. Week four and onward defines the maintenance part of the no sugar diet plan. One can enjoy up to five glasses of wine each week, plus two servings of starches daily, including whole grain bread or brown rice. As well, after 31 days, no fruit is off-limits, so feel free to enjoy.

The really good news about eliminating sugar is that you not only lose weight quickly, weight is lost from the midsection, where unhealthy, metabolically active visceral fat resides. Those who adopt a sugar free diet as a lifestyle choice will reap of the benefits of increased energy, reduced cravings, more stable mood, and much healthier bodily functions, including improvements in cardiac health and cognitive function. As well, weight loss can result in lowered cholesterol and blood pressure levels, as well as reduced inflammation believed to be a major risk factor in the development of many chronic conditions.

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14 Simple Ways to Stop Eating Lots of Sugar.
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