Sugar, Part 4 – How to give up sugar
Australians have a sugar problem. On average we eat over 27 teaspoons of total sugars a day, nearly 1 kg per week, including natural sugars. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends we eat 6 teaspoons per day, 4.5 times less.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, most of this is added sugar. Worryingly, over half of all Australians aged 2 years and over exceed the above WHO recommendations. Over 80 per cent of this added sugar come from energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and beverages such as soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices, confectionary, cakes and muffins.
Research shows that sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine, so you need to be prepared for some possible reactions like cravings, the sweats, sleep disturbances, and aches and pains. Usually these disappear after 1-2 weeks but can last up to 6 weeks.
Below you’ll find some strategies to make you more likely to succeed and ease your journey.
What' Is sugar again?
When talking about sugar, this mean all forms of added sugar, including from sweet drinks such as soft drinks, energy drinks and fruit juices, as well as refined carbohydrates like grain flours. Check this list in Sugar Part 1.
Make a decision to give up sugar and commit. Whether you decide to wean yourself off slowly or go cold turkey, make a plan and stick to it. The advantages of going cold turkey are that you will feel better quicker, but the ride can be bumpy at first. Consider what’s realistic for you and your current health level.
Drink plenty of clean water as your body adjusts and cleans toxins from your fat cells. This means 2-3 litres per day.
3. Eat complex carbs
Crowd out the bad stuff with the good. This means eating plenty of vegetables both raw and cooked, including root vegetables, and some whole grains and legumes. Fill up on non-starchy vegetables first, which are high in satisfying and gut-healthy fibre. Limit your root vegetables, whole grains and legumes to 1 cup per day otherwise you risk ongoing blood sugar spikes.
4. Combat sugar with healthy fats and protein
One of the reasons we got into this sugar mess is because manufacturers took tasty fats out of our foods and replaced it with sugar, and then we were told that meat is bad for us. But healthy fats like grass-fed butter, olive oil and coconut oil, and naturally occurring fats and protein found in grass fed meats and wild-caught fish are satiating and delicious. While fat is higher in calories, it slows down digestion and absorption, making your meal last longer and avoiding blood sugar spikes. They’re also the building blocks for our cell membranes and hormones, and Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory. Proteins are important too because they are the fundamental building blocks for our cells, which make up our organs and systems.
5. Foods and supplements to get you through the rough patches
Add a pinch of unrefined salt like Celtic Sea Salt or Himalayan Salt to each large glass of water. Electrolyte imbalances are common in people with elevated blood glucose, and adding in these natural occurring ones will help your cells to stabilise and reduce symptoms like fatigue, aches and muscle pain
Chromium Picolinate supports your blood sugar organs by regulating insulin. It’s found naturally in brewer’s yeast, grass-fed meats, whole grains, eggs, broccoli and sweet potato
Herbs such as Cinnamon, Gymnema and Jambal also support your blood sugar organs and help regulate insulin. Cinnamon is easy to add to a hot milky (sugar-free) drink
Magnesium Citrate together with Calcium support your adrenals (involved in blood sugar) and help curb sugar cravings
Liquorice Root Tea supports your adrenals and reduces stress
Green Tea reduces the impact of sugar on your body and is also filled with health-filling anti-oxidants
Get enough sleep
Try and get sufficient quality sleep. Science shows that when we’re tired, we eat more sugar. This is because our body puts out more grehlin, a hormone that stimulates hunger. We especially crave sugar at this time because our body is searching for quick energy to make us feel better. Also, sugar stimulates our feel-good hormone, serotonin.
Cut or reduce alcohol
Alcohol is sugar, and it’s best to give it up while you’re transitioning. Also, it can lower your defence mechanisms and lead to possible sugar benders
If you decide to drink, limit this to 2 drinks per week. Lower sugar and fructose alcohols include dry wine and clear spirits (e.g. vodka, tequila, gin)
Create a Cravings Plan
Be prepared by writing up a cravings plan and carry it with you always to look at in difficult moments.
For example, you might decide to simply wait 15 minutes, eat a handful of nuts, take a supplement, go for a 5 minute walk and/or make a cup of calming herb tea or drink mineral water with a squeeze of fresh lime/lemon juice.
Develop other support strategies
Remove all temptation from your environment if possible. If it isn’t there, you won’t be tempted. You might need to avoid certain social gatherings, especially involving alcohol
Join a support group or give up sugar with a group of friends/family. You can keep each other going
Reduce chronic stress, which leads to too high cortisol which again increases your appetite for quick energy foods like sugar and refined carbs
Keep a sugar journal to track progress, acknowledging how far you’ve come
Move regularly because it’s how we’re built and makes us feel better. It can also be a good distraction, taking us away from triggers and usual environment, and out of ourselves. If you move enough to sweat, you’ll be helping your body to detox
Take Epsom salts baths or have saunas to help you detox and relax
Carry healthy emergency snacks with you like nuts or a piece of fruit