We now know that sugar – if it is not burnt off quickly as a source of energy – is metabolised in the liver and turned into fat. In terms of our weight, the main problem with sugar is that it causes our body to crave more sugar, by programming our hormones and our brains in an unhelpful way. In fact, when we eat sugar, the hormone leptin (which basically tells our body that we’ve had enough and to stop eating) is not elevated, meaning we want more.
The Truth About Sugar
How to Go Sugar Free
1) Go cold turkey: cut it out completely for three days. You may suffer common withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches or irritability, but it’s the only way. Like any drug, in order to be free from it, you need to cut it out.
2) Engage The ‘STOP’ Button: particularly for the first 10 days. Being around other people who are consuming sugar can be a huge source of temptation so steer clear for the first ten days. After this, it will get easier. In fact, you may well be surprised how much easier it is than you originally thought.
3) Sugar is sugar: many people make the mistake of replacing sugar with healthier alter natives, but these are still sugar! Things like maple syrup, coconut sugar and honey. Although these products contain certain vitamins and minerals, they still have the same effect on our blood glucose and can be just as addictive, so it’s best to steer clear of them for a while, under cravings are under control
4) Be wary of hidden sugars: with sugar lurking in many shop-bought products, it’s cru-cial to be food label savvy. Aim for products that are 5 grams or less of sugar per 100 grams of product (this is low sugar). For medium sugar items, it’s anything up to 15 grams. Anything over this is high sugar and should not be consumed if possible.
5) Prioritise sleep: low blood sugar could be the reason for your morning sugar cravings, which is why it’s particularly important now to prioritise sleep. Rather than reaching for sugary cereals or even for porridge with honey, opt instead for a protein-based breakfast such as a poached egg on one slice of wholemeal toast and add some avocado and tomatoes/mush-rooms for added fibre and a dose of healthy fats.
6) Be wary of dressings: you might think you’re doing great by eating healthy salads, but your salad dressing could be ruining it all. Did you know that some French dressings and vinaigrettes can contain as much as 7 grams of sugar in just one serving, while oil-based dress ings claiming to be low fat are often pumped full of sugar to compensate and to enhance the flavour? Use balsamic vinegar instead or a dressing with a tablespoon of good quality olive oil.
7) Go back to basics: the easiest way to cut out sugar is to cook from scratch using good quality protein foods, like fish or meat, and lots of vegetables (for now, limit ‘sweet’ tasting veg-gies like carrots and peas and, instead, rely on vegetables that don’t have a sweet taste such as broccoli, cauliflower, celery and salad veggies like rocket and tomatoes). You don’t have to be making elaborate dinners – a simple dinner of grilled fish with veggies is perfect and quick to make.
8) Eat little and often: when going sugar-free, it’s crucial to avoid deprivation. Sugar crav-ings can be a sign that your blood sugar levels are unbalanced. If you want a healthy snack that gives you a lift, try some apple with peanut butter, a handful of nuts or a serving of Greek yoghurt with a handful of blueberries. Protein foods keep you feeling full for longer, which can help avoid sugar cravings.
9) Cut out alcohol: because it’s like drinking sugar! Also, it will wreak havoc on your appe tite as it increases the ‘hunger hormone’, ghrelin. Ghrelin stimulates the appetite so higher levels will bring about an increase in appetite and cravings.
10)Get moving: even if it feels like the last thing you want to do, exercise is a good idea. One reason you may be craving sugar is because you’re lacking in energy and regular exercise is known to actually boost energy. It can also provide a great distraction from your cravings and encourages you to look after your body and to think twice about what you’re putting into it. Also, studies have shown that short bouts of HIIT can actually help you to reduce sugar crav-ings, due to the impact it has on ghrelin (HIIT lowers levels).
11)Choose ‘treats’ wisely: opt for treats that are low sugar (5 grams or less) such as the Motivation protein bars.
12)Start again: it’s normal to go through periods of being sugar-free, followed by a period when you’re back ‘on’ sugar again. Just start again – cut it out completely and monitor how much better you feel in order to regain the original motivation you once had.