It’s safe to say that most of us are seriously addicted to sugar. In recent studies, it was proven that sugar is 4 times more addictive that cocaine. According to USDA figures, we are currently consuming over 158lbs of sugar per person per year!1 Below are the to 10 tricks for combatting a sugar addiction, and the best and most common natural sweeteners, all of which are available on the shelves of most health-food stores and many supermarkets.
10 Steps for Dealing with Sugar Addiction
1. Reduce or eliminate caffeine. The ups and downs of caffeine include dehydration and blood sugar swings, causing sugar cravings to be more frequent.
2. Drink water. Sometimes sweet cravings are a sign of dehydration. Before you go for the sugar, have a glass of water and then wait a few minutes to see what happens. Caution: soft drinks are now America’s number one source of added sugar.
3. Eat sweet vegetables and fruit. They are sweet, healthy and delicious. The more you eat, the less you’ll crave sugar.
4. Use gentle sweets. Avoid chemicalized, artificial sweeteners and foods with added sugar. Use gentle sweeteners like maple syrup, brown rice syrup, dried fruit, stevia, barley malt and agave nectar.
5. Get physically active. Start with simple activities, like walking or yoga. Start with 10 minutes a day and gradually increase. It will help balance your blood sugar levels, boost your energy, and reduce tension without medicating yourself with sugar!
6. Get more sleep, rest and relaxation. When you are tired or stressed, your body will crave energy—in the form of sugar. These cravings are often a result of being sleep-deprived, going to bed late or waking up early, sometimes for months and years on end.
7. Evaluate the amount of animal food you eat. Eating too much can lead to cravings for sweets. So can eating too little! A good health coach will help you sort this out. Experiment. Respect your body’s individuality.
8. Eliminate fat-free or low-fat packaged snack-foods. These foods contain high quantities of sugar to compensate for lack of flavor and fat, which will send you on the roller-coaster ride of sugar highs and lows.
9. Experiment with spices. Coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom will naturally sweeten your foods and reduce cravings.
10. Slow down and find sweetness in non-food ways! You body does not biologically need sugar, but it does long for hugs, time with friends, outside time, workouts, massages, etc. When life becomes sweet enough itself, no additives are needed!
Adapted From Get the Sugar Out: 501 Simple Ways to Cut the Sugar Out of Any Diet by Ann Louise Gittleman.
Best Natural Sweeteners
Honey: One of the oldest natural sweeteners, honey is sweeter than sugar, with different flavors depending on the plant source. Some honeys are very dark and strongly flavored. Raw honey contains small amounts of enzymes, minerals, and vitamins. 1/2-2/3 cup to replace 1 cup of sugar.
Maple Syrup: Maple syrup adds a nice flavor to foods. Make sure you buy 100% pure maple syrup, not maple-flavored corn syrup. Organic varieties are best. 1/2-2/3 cup to replace 1 cup of sugar.
Coconut Sugar: This is a natural brown sugar substitute. Try putting this in your sugar bowl at home. Coconut sugar has a glycemic index of 35. 1 cup to replace 1 cup of sugar.
Brown Rice Syrup: This product has a molasses consistency and is very sweet. It is made from brown rice that has been ground, cooked, and mixed with enzymes that change the starch into maltose. 1 and 1/3 cups to replace 1 cup of sugar.
Stevia: Stevia is an herb from the rainforests of the Amazon and is 100 times sweeter than white sugar. This is a great sweetener because it has no effect on blood sugar or the pancrease. Stevia is available in a powder or liquid in most natural food stores. The dark liquids are best. Just a drop or two will sweetened a cup of tea.
Xylitol: It may sound like a chemical artificial sweetener, however it occurs naturally in fruits and certain plants and is most commonly sold for consumption after being extracted from birch bark. Xylitol is all natural, and looks just like sugar, and can be used cup for cup to replace sugar in recipes. Slowly incorporate xylitol into your food as to much at one time can cause GI distress. Use 1 cup to replace 1 cup of sugar.
Date Sugar: Date Sugar is made from dehydrated, ground dates and is used as you would brown sugar. It’s considered a natural and non-processed wholesome food with high fiber, vitamins, and minerals. While it can substitute an equal amount of granulated or brown sugar, it doesn’t dissolve in liquids, doesn’t melt, and can clump, making it impractical for some types of baking. Use 2/3 cup to replace 1 cup of sugar.
Molasses: Organic molasses is probably the most nutritious sweetener derived from sugar cane. Sucanat is a brand name for an organic evaporated cane juice product that has been blended with organic molasses, and is 88% sucrose, with fructose and dextrose. It can be used like white sugar, but retains more of the vitamins and minerals of sugar cane. Use 1 and 1/3 cups to replace 1 cup of sugar.
Adapted from “The Cane Mutiny,” New Age Magazine, March/April 1999.
1. USDA Sugar and Sweeteners Situation and Outlook Yearbook, Economic Research Service, July 2004, www.ers.usda.gov.