Unless you’ve been in solitary confinement, in outer space, or in denial, you’ll know by now that sugar (at least the refined variety) is pretty bad for you. You may be one step ahead and actively reducing sugar in your life, in which case you’ll know first-hand how tricky this is. Sugar is everywhere! In your cereal, in your sandwich, in the passenger seat of your car, in your salad, in the eyes of your lover – everywhere. Keeping away from your (not so) sweet little friend is hard – it takes knowledge, work and probably some swearing.
Recent campaigns and calls for a sugar tax have helped highlight our sugar plight and expose just how much refined sugar we have to contend with. Despite Jamie’s efforts, obesity is still rife, bringing with it life-threatening risks such as heart disease and diabetes. For those who spend a lot of time at work, there are extra barriers, such as access to healthy foods, higher costs and the perception that we ‘don’t have time’ to seek out healthy alternatives to a quick snack or sandwich for scoffing on the hoof.
Add to this a couple of natural energy slumps in the course of the day which tempt us towards quick fixes such as coffee or a chocolate bar and we have a dirty fight on our hands.
Put your fizzy drink down, and back out of the room, slowly
Sugar is not your friend. Far from it. Think of it as the kind of character Christopher Walken plays in most of his films – smooth talking, sinister and surprisingly excellent at tap dancing. Sugar is fiendish. As well as exposing you to a long line-up of diseases that are too depressing to list here, it also affects you psychologically. Did you know, for example, that it can put your mental health in danger? UCLA studies found that a diet high in sugar can negatively affect your cognitive abilities. In layman’s terms, it can potentially make you a moron.
Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA is firmly of the opinion that what you eat affects what you think, and that a high-fructose diet alters your brain’s ability to learn and remember information. Also, sugar rushes leading to sugar crashes can accentuate mood disorders such as depression and anxiety as they impact the immune system and the brain. In essence, don’t trust sugar with your treasured possessions – like your body, for example.
So why is it SO HARD to quit sugar?
Drugs and, to a lesser extent, sugar and processed junk foods flood the brain with blissful dopamine. Studies at Yale University revealed that the simple sight of a milkshake activated the same reward centres of the brain as cocaine among people with addictive eating habits.
Oh and get this – a 2007 study showed that rats actually prefer sugar water to cocaine. Rats given fatty and sugary products demonstrated classic symptoms of addiction – and withdrawal symptoms when they were taken away.
The two ways to kick the habit
- Alter your taste buds
Altering your taste buds is a great way to relieve your reliance on sugar, but it takes around 3 days for your palate to ‘re-calibrate’. If you drink sweet tea or coffee, reduce sugar slowly. Try exchanging milk for coconut oil (don’t knock it before you try it). Interestingly, adding fat will reduce your need for sugar. Good fats (like coconut) are much better for you AND, by suppressing your need for crisps and Yorkie bars, will actively stop you attempting to snog the vending machine.
- Find alternatives to sugar
Swap your sugary treats for fresh berries or an occasional bar of dark chocolate that hasn’t been processed with extra sweeteners. If you tend to prepare your own treats – use alternatives to sugar, such as coconut blossom nectar or agave. Please don’t cry – the more you do it, the nicer it gets. Fact.
Help yourself even more by identifying times of day when you crave sugar, and have your healthy treats at hand when your sugar demons need pulverising.
Want to become super sugar smart? Watch the amazing, informative and very compelling “That Sugar Film”