It’s Time to Break Up with Sugar
By Anne Grier, RN, BSN & Functional Nutrition Health Coach
There is no better time to break up with sugar. Why now? Because we are in a pandemic and sugar wreaks havoc on our immune system. Because we are seeing that those with the worst outcomes have metabolic disorders, which means, among other issues, their consumption of sugar was too high for many years. We are feeling stressed and anxious, again sugar will increase the intensity of these feelings, the highs and lows of blood sugar enhances anxiety and depression. Sugar is highly inflammatory to the body and it’s just plain toxic.
Sugar brings you up and then down
Sugar is addicting. It’s actually more addicting than cocaine, according to the results of a well known study called “Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward”! (1) We crave sugar because it gives us a massive dopamine spike, a feel good brain chemical. When we consume sugar, our blood sugar goes up, which causes the hormone insulin to be released to bring the blood sugar back down. When the blood sugar comes back down we often feel irritable, have low energy, headaches, even jittery and often hungry. Our body prefers homeostasis and stability and this is the exact opposite.
Sugar cravings are real!
Is giving up sugar easy? Hell no! I have been a self proclaimed “sugar queen” since I was a child. We went to the pool in the summer, I got M&M’s from the snack bar or a popsicle from the neighborhood ice cream truck. In college, my roommates and I stayed up late most nights snacking on sugary treats. At the time, I thought fat was the enemy. I remember vividly in my nutrition class in college, my professor said “the only problem with sugar is tooth decay”. As I moved beyond college and became increasingly interested in nutrition and holistic health I certainly was shocked to see the complete devastation caused by high sugar consumption. The more sugar you consume, the more sugar you crave it and the more you tend to consume. I knew I needed to break up with sugar and it wasn’t easy, it took me many years.
Our palates must be recalibrated for experiencing natural sweetness. Historically, a sweet treat was ripe fruit in the summer. Now, however, with the invention of high fructose corn syrup, sweetness is added into most of our foods. Our coffee, which naturally has no sugar is now a Starbucks fancy coffee drink with loads of sugar or our black coffee now must have cream and sugar to taste palatable to us. Fruit doesn’t even taste that sweet anymore to many of us. As we break up with sugar, the natural sweetness of fruit will be rediscovered.
Sugar cripples the immune system
Sugar is devastating to the immune system. Indulging in sugar lowers the efficacy of the mighty immune system for hours afterwards. Your white blood cells (neutrophils) are unable to gobble up bacteria at the rate they normally would be able to. Eating high amounts of sugar several times a day can result in a chronically depressed immune function, something none of us want. In addition to making you more susceptible to a cold or flu virus, it makes cancer more likely as well.
Sugar makes us age faster
Sometimes vanity is the only way to motivate. And sugar makes us age faster. Not only does it enlarge our waistlines and causes inflammation, it contributes to wrinkles, age spots, acne, and cellulite. It curbs the production of anti-aging hormones in the body and leads to the breakdown of collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin are responsible for keeping the skin smooth and taught.
Craving sugar is real and it’s a hard cycle to break but here are 6 steps to help you finally break up with sugar addiction.
6 Steps to Quit Sugar
Make the decision
to quit sugar and commit to that decision. Commit to your health. Write it down. Tell anyone who will support you.
Add protein to every meal
Grass fed beef, organic poultry, wild fish, pastured eggs would all be excellent choices. Protein is the most satiating of the macro nutrients so make sure you are fueling your body at each meal in a way that supports your satiety.
Eat whole, real foods
Eating a whole foods diet sends messages to your brain that you are well fed and nourished and you are less likely to crave the sweet stuff. Eliminating flour, baked goods and artificial sweeteners can reduce sugar cravings. “Crowding out” with healthy food works well for any type of elimination.
Eat good, healthy fats at every meal
Nuts, nut butters, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee or grass fed butter to name a few are great fats to add to each meal. Fat is very satiating. When you feel more satiated after a meal, you are less likely to reach for dessert.
Manage your stress
The stress hormone, cortisol is high in times of stress and this increases our appetite and desire for sugar and to make healthy food choices.
Get a good night’s sleep
A night of poor sleep causes us to have more cravings for sugar as it disrupts the important hormones that control appetite and satiety.
Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shanahan, MD