It’s 3pm, and all you can think about is that sugar-glazed doughnut and ice cold Java Chip frappucino. Your world starts spinning and you barely make it to the vending machine to settle for a candy bar and soda instead. You might joke about having a permanent sweet tooth, but deep down you know you’re in trouble.
It’s hard to associate sugar with the likes of meth and heroin, but the addiction is just as real. The only difference — to put it bluntly — is it kills you at at a slower rate. Scientists have found that consuming sugar stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain as Class A drugs like cocaine and heroin. Not getting your fix usually leads to withdrawal symptoms and overwhelming cravings, and the weaning off process requires an actual detox program that’s just as frustrating to go through.
To back this seemingly ridiculous claim with some statistics, people who consumed between 10 to 25 percent of their calories from added sugar are almost three times more likely to die from heart problems than those who didn’t. Besides higher levels of bad cholesterol, sugar also causes inflammation, heart diseases, obesity, type 2 diabetes and, sometimes, cancer. It also confuses fat-burning enzymes, encouraging fat storage. Sadly, your brain won’t be able to hear your stomach’s satiety signal over that sugar high, so you won’t know when to really stop.
Fortunately, there are several simple ways to cut your sugar intake — but you’re going to need discipline. A lot of our modern food supply has been infiltrated with sugar, including those marketed as health foods, so always be sure to read labels for an informed decision. If you’re wondering how you can get an easy head start into going sugar-free, here are 5 easy ways to reducing your daily sugar consumption.
Juices may seem like a great after-meal thirst quencher, but they’re actually deceivingly packed with sugar you don’t need. Still a mentionable source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, we agree, but without all the naturally-occurring fibre, your body absorbs it much quicker than whole fruits and vegetables, resulting in spikes in blood sugar levels instead of a more recommended sustained release of energy. The next time you want a sweet treat after lunch, opt for whole fruits instead, which will keep you satiated for longer too.
Yogurt’s a great way to start your day, but if your breakfast of choice is a convenient little tub of strawberry-flavoured yogurt with a side of granola, you need to put that spoon down. Often containing between 20 grams and 30 grams of sugar per serving, these flavoured yogurts spike your sugar levels in the morning, crashing you into a terrible state of fatigue before lunch even comes by. Replace this with unflavoured Greek yogurt — which has more protein — and add a serving of fresh fruits or a dash of honey.
Not all chocolates are created equal. While we agree milk chocolate’s the better tasting option, its nutritional value is nowhere near its darker cousin. Thanks to a high cocoa solids content, dark chocolate is a good source of flavonoids, an antioxidant that reduces cell damage and lowers blood pressure. Besides, dark chocolate often has less added sugar and fat — just be sure to select options that contain at least 65 percent cacao (and eat in moderation).
It’s hard to say no to a nice frothy cup of frappucino, but that stuff is a death trap for sugar-infused highs and diabetes. Ranging from between 45 grams and 60 grams of sugar per medium cup, they pretty much bust out your recommended daily intake of sugar in an instant. A vanilla latte also averages about 35 grams of sugar, the equivalent of slightly more than two tablespoons. If you need your daily fuel, opt for a refreshing cup of cold brew or a latte instead.
Using low-fat salad dressings may make you feel like you’re doing something right with your life, but unfortunately the fat is often replaced with more sugar and salt to make it taste equally good. Chuck your favourite Long Island topper and keep the calories and sugar in check by making your own. Olive oil-based dressings are good alternatives, but steer clear of adding honey, sugar or concentrated juices — or you’ll be back to square one.