Arguably as addictive as cocaine and responsible for soaring levels of obesity, sugar it’s everywhere which means we’re in trouble.
Even if you cut out sweets, the sheer pervasiveness of added sugar to processed foods – from bread to salad dressing – makes it hard to give it up without a fight. And all of that sucrose, fructose and glucose that adds up in your diet is addictive.
Clare Collins, a professor in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Newcastle, says sugar has no nutrients that offer protection from disease.
“If people could have some sense that the food you put in your body is the only fuel and nutrients that body can use to feel better, help perform better and protect you from disease, they would look at some of the energy-dense, nutrient-poor, high-fat, high-sugar foods in a different light. You can’t help but start to see them as the enemy.”
Here’s how to quit sugar
Unlike with some other ‘addictions’, trying to go cold turkey on sugar is a tall challenge — the habit is hard to break. Manufacturers know this, which is why, when they reformulate products to have less fat, sugar or salt, they do so gradually to avoid losing customer loyalty. Quite simply, sweeter food sells more.
The key is to give your palate time to adjust, which means weaning yourself off the white stuff slowly. Work on reducing your intake a little at a time. If you take two sugars in your tea, reduce by half a teaspoon until one becomes normal, and then cut down again. Taste researchers suggest it can take up to five months for taste preferences to change, so allow yourself time to adjust.
Ditch sugar-laced drinks. Not only are sugary drinks a source of empty calories, they also show the strongest relationship with obesity. Swap sugary drinks such as cola, ginger beer and sugar-laden squash, for water, sugar-free squash or unsweetened teas.
Wipe out refined carbohydrates. Part of the reason sugars are so addictive is that they stimulate reward and pleasure centres in the brain, but similar effects are seen with rapidly absorbed carbohydrates such as white bread, refined cereals and grains. These foods cause a rapid rise in blood sugar followed by a ‘crash’, which leaves you craving more.
Refined foods also stimulate hunger and make it harder to control appetite and body weight. Switch bagels, white bread, pastries and other refined grains for moderate portions of whole rolled oats, rye bread, sweet potatoes, quinoa, and basmati or brown rice.