Sugar is an amazing substance which is part of our every day life. It brings us joy and energy... but there is a downside to this wonder.
Simple sugars are already present in various foods in the form of complexe and simple carbohydrates. However, with the way that sugar is used in the food industry, a lot of us have grown dependent on it in far greater levels than the body needs!
This realisation has inspired me to write this article about our addiction to sugar and tips on how to reduce our dependence on its excess.
Is sugar addictive?
Yes! Coca-Cola, industrial chocolates, sweets, ice cream... we all know people in our lives who are addicted to these products all year round.
Sugar is indeed like a drug. Think about the symptoms when you are without it after consuming it in excess every day... we are left with sugar cravings or “withdrawal symptoms”. Try eating a dessert after every meal for a few days then suddenly stop... enough said :p Furthermore, if you are hungry, we may even give in and go overboard to satisfy our craving!
With the crazy availability and accessibility we have to these industrial snacks, a lot of us have fallen victim to them at one point in our lives.
How much sugar do we need?
Simple sugars (i.e. sucrose: white sugar, honey, jam, sweets, chocolate, etc.) normally account for 10% of our daily energy needs to avoid obesity, diabetes, cavities and worse.
The average daily energy needs are set at 2100 kcal for women and 2600 kcal for men with basic physical activities. Which means that we should limit our simple sugars to 240 kcal per day, which is equivalent to: 1 milk chocolate bar, 2 scoop of ice cream, 1.5 can of Coca Cola, 5 Oreos, 1 large cookie, 7 Petit Beurre, etc.
But remember: we also have simple sugars in our cooking, certain fruits, tea/coffee, etc... so we also have to include that in our daily amount!
How to reduce our sugar dependence
- Progressive reduction: like all lifestyle changes, you should favour gradual changes to your diet rather than abruptly cutting out sugar products. Most of my friends who abruptly stop eating sweets, starts going to the gym everyday, cuts out all fatty foods, removes soft drinks from their diets, etc. often end up relapsing/giving up after 1-2 weeks.
- Eat more fruits, dried fruits & nuts: if you are hooked on M&M’s, Speculoos, cookies, sweets, etc. try to gradually wean yourself off of it and replace it with your favourite fruits, dried fruits & nuts.
- Make your own cakes, biscuits and sweets: have you ever said the following phrase “this dessert is too sweet”? This tip allows you to control what goes into your desserts and make sure only natural ingredients and the right amount of sugar is used.
- Opt for a salty breakfast or a sweet breakfast derived from fruits: a lot of people are content with some sort of Kellogg’s/Nestle cereal in the morning or a pain au chocolat & coffee... although these are unfortunately tasty, they are not very nutritious at all, give you a quick sugar high & subsequent crash, and do not keep you full for very long. Try taking a salty breakfast such as whole wheat bread, cheese and hard boiled eggs which are much more nutritious and filling.
- Cook with less sugar and use more spices (also valid for salt): some cuisines such as certain Asian dishes uses quite a lot of sugar. Try to favour other dishes which uses plenty of spices instead and reserve the sugar for desserts!
- Use natural sugar alternatives: if you are to use white sugar in your diet/dishes, try to use alternatives in order to “teach” your body to accept alternative sweet energy sources such as honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, coconut sugar, raw organic sugar, panela sugar, etc.
- Reserve “treats” as a pre-workout snack: since simple sugars provide us with an important boost in energy, put it to good use and consume it around 45 minutes before your workout for increased performance!
- Only consume quality sugars and desserts: the ultimate goal of this tip is to not “waste your sugar quota and calories” on industrial chocolates or cheap biscuits... instead spend it on much more special products such as a chocolate eclairs, fruit mousses, premium chocolates, panela sugar, etc.
- Understand the reasons for your excessive sugar consumption: instead of saying “I need my sugar” like a drug addict, one needs to better understand the reason behind such levels of consumption which may include: stress, love life trouble, insecurity, lack of energy, boredom, etc. If it is a psychological issue/trauma, make sure that you seek help from the right people in order to help you get past this difficult period. If not, then the above tips may help you out!
I hope that this list helps you to reduce your excessive sugar consumption for a healthier diet. If you have your additional tips, please share in the comments below with the community!