Beat Sugar Addiction
Have you ever noticed how foods might affect how you feel during the day? Increasingly research is showing how influential the nutrition that we put into our bodies is including how it changes how our bodies respond to what we eat. This includes the way we feel after we’ve eaten, or how we cope during the day. One food in particular that has a significant effect on us is sugar.
Now you might not think sugar has much to do with how we feel, but research is finding how it has a direct link and effect on our brains which in turn affects how we feel.
Lets have a look at how to beat sugar addiction.
The Sugar Effect
Lets look at sugar…when we eat something sweet that contains sugar for example, what effect does it have on you? It tastes great, which makes you feel good for a short burst…then crash.
The post sugar slump hits. You feel tired, drained and a range of other feelings. And then when you don’t get sugar, your body craves it again, so we get ‘hangry’ or go looking for our next sugary hit.
So what if you changed what you eat on a consistent basis, do you think it could change how you feel and improve your mood? Having experienced the highs and lows of sugar addiction, then changed to a keto way of eating (woe), I’ve become more in tune with how foods affect me.
In my pre-ketogenic life, I used think of myself as having a sweet tooth. I just thought it was something I was born with – in my mind you had either a sweet tooth or a savory tooth which would never change.
But when we overcome sugar addiction, instead eating low carbs and real foods, you can change your taste buds and no longer crave sugar.
Stress has been challenging to manage at times, and I used to be quite sensitive to things around me. Occasionally my anxiety levels would be higher than other times. But since I discovered the keto woe, I feel calmer and manage stress better than when I was nutrient deficient filling up on empty carbs and sugars.
How Sugar Affects the Brain…
The reason sugar is so appealing and socially accepted by so many is that it has a powerful effect on our brains.
Firstly, our tongue is stimulated by the pleasant tasting sugar which sends messages to our brains to release the neurotransmitter called dopamine creating a reward pathway in our brains which if stimulated over a long period of time, becomes a very strong reward pattern, thus having a strong effect on our tastes and preferences.
Too much sugar and over stimulation of the neural pathways leads to a vicious cycle increasing tolerance of sugar and reduced control.
Memory and learning become affected because it literally slows down communication between the cells and the brain’s ability to function as effectively.
Hormones such as insulin is also regulated by our brains is also affected by too much sugar. Over time, our bodies simply can’t keep up managing a high intake of sugar for our bodies to regularly release insulin.
Insulin is essential to help our bodies regulate and process sugar. However, over time insulin becomes resistant and can’t lower it as effectively.
Insulin also improves the way the brain communicates and helps create stronger memories. So when insulin isn’t working efficiently, it also affects the way the brain responds.
Here’s a study showing a link between sugar and memory.
And so the cycle continues unless you interrupt it somehow, like making the decision to quit sugar.
How to Beat Sugar Addiction
When you quit sugar, it’s possible to experience cravings for a few days or weeks, similar to a drug addict during the quitting process. Sugar has been added to so many foods on the shelves these days, it’s become hard to avoid it. You need to be a sugar detective trying to detect it’s whereabouts.
Once you’ve made the conscious decision to stop putting sugar into your system, it’s important you prepare yourself for those times when you feel like wanting to cave in and relinquish your resolve.
Find an Alternative
The easiest way to do this is to make sure you have a number of alternatives to prevent you from caving in to those cravings. Things like your favorite nut like macadamia or peacans will make a good start. Take some nuts with you where ever you go, for when you get a bit peckish. This will help if you get a craving or if you feel tempted to get something with sugar.
Also if you love cheese like so many do, myself included, make sure you have some ready and waiting for when a sugar craving hits.
Try putting together any number of low carb nibblies such as cheese, brie, swiss cheese, olives, sundried tomatoes, ham, cabana, pastrami, turkey, or other antipasto goodies that you prefer.
Just be sure keep the crackers away, cos they have carbs and will throw you out of ketosis. Instead use cucumber slices as your base then your antipasto, meats and cheeses or simply use a toothpick.
Be sure the dip you choose hasn’t had sugar added to it.
Try olive dip, spreadable cream cheese or tzaziki.
Cottage cheese is also helpful as it has good protein content. I also recently discovered that you can slice hard cheeses into the desired shape to use for dipping as an alternative to crackers too.
Another favorite of mine is to use a slice of cheese instead of a cracker and spread grass-fed butter and Vegemite (or Promite or Marmite) for a salty, cheesy treat.
Greek yogurt or coconut yogurt are also helpful when a sugar craving hits, be sure to check the label and it doesn’t have any added sugar which so many yogurts have.
3 A bit naughty but it could help
Some people say it’s okay to have something like potato chips. If you decide to have potato chips, be aware of how many you’re having and consider this a temporary option, especially while you’re trying to quit sugar. The main goal of going keto or low carb is to reduce inflammation, lose weight and improve your health.
Potato chips are a processed food that contains bad fats as well as high carbs.
4 Bliss Balls
Other options might be making your own bliss balls. My found and made a recipe that was low carb, sugar free and contained yummy AND healthy ingredients that the whole family could eat without the sugar. I’ve adapted it to include my own nutritious ingredients such as flaxseed, almonds and sunflower seeds, and a powdered probiotic. You can find the recipe here.
Keep Up Your Fluids
Drink water whenever you have a sugar craving. You can add a slice of lemon or a lime to give it a refreshing taste.
Green Tea is an extremely beneficial liquid. It’s taken me a while to get my head around the value of this unspoken hero of the brain. Yes green tea does have some caffeine, but did you know that caffeine boosts your brain function too?
Green tea also contains L-theanine which helps reduce anxiety and helps change brain waves that help you relax without feeling sleepy.
Coffee…By stimulating neuroreceptors it can block the ones that make you sleepy, called adenosine, so when you have a coffee in the morning it helps you wake up. So that’s why it gets us up and moving in the mornings!
It also stimulates serotonin which helps you feel less anxious and less moody. Don’t overdo the caffeine, it will over-stimulate your brain and make you feel on edge. Not the goal when trying to reduce your sugar intake.
Find more information on keto-friendly drinks on this page.
Move a Bit
Consider doing some kind of exercise or movement. Going keto means you can lose weight without needing to exercise, but exercise can help with other aspects including we feel. It can also release happy hormones. Actually they’re neurotransmitters called endorphins, seratonin, dopamine and oxytocin. So without going too hard, choose an activity that you enjoy and can fit into your life and get moving.
Movement can also help with burning excess sugars that might be caught in your body and muscles. Especially if you have been having trouble with your insulin levels being less responsive.
Ideas to get you moving might be
- Enrol in a pilates or yoga class or go on youtbube and work out at home
- Get on your bike and go for a ride
- Go for a walk and explore your local neighbourhood
- Get a friend onboard and ask them to go for a walk with you
- Enrol in a martial arts class like Taekwondo, Karate or Jujitsu etc
- Get out on the weekend and go paddleboarding, body surfing or real surfing (depending on location obviously)
- Crank up your favourite music, bust some moves and get that heart pumping. Dance like there’s no one watching!
There’s so may activities you can get involved in and if you have budget restraints, find something that doesn’t require a class. Youtube has lots of ideas for activities from the comfort of your own home – grab a friend, kick a ball around or go for a walk.
Happy keto’ing my friends