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Nutrition Articles  ›  Healthy Habits

Breaking Your Sugar Addiction

The 4-Week Plan to Stop Sugar Cravings

-- By Lauri Watson, Registered Dietitian
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That white, powdery substance just makes you feel good. You can't get it off your mind, and you keep coming back for more. The more you have it, the more you want it! But even when you try to stay away from it, it finds ways to sneak into your life almost daily. What can you do?

We're not talking about some dangerous or illegal drug here; we're talking about sugar. Although it's considered harmless in comparison, sugar, in excess, can cause a host of problems for a lot of us: cravings, binge eating, weight gain and heart disease among them. According to the USDA, the average American consumed 151 pounds of sugar in 1999—an all time high. Since then, consumption has dropped slightly and in 2010 the average American consumed 132 pounds. (To put that into perspective, consider that the number was just 4 pounds in the year 1700.) At least half of the sugar we consume comes from soft drinks, fruit drinks, and sports drinks. The rest sneaks into our diets in the form of ketchup, teriyaki sauce, chocolate milk and the obvious sweets like cookies, cakes, ice cream and even breakfast cereal. Surprisingly, some "healthy foods" such as yogurt and instant flavored oatmeal can pack in 20-30 grams (5-7 teaspoons) of unnecessary added sugar! It seems like we're drowning in sugar, and nobody is wearing a life vest.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that we limit our daily sugar consumption to 7% or less of our daily calorie intake—that's about 6 teaspoons (100 calories) for women and 9 teaspoons (150 calories) for men. But that adds up fast. Just one 12-ounce can of regular soda contains 8-10 teaspoons of sugar and 130-150 calories. One glazed donut contains 6 teaspoons, and a half cup ice cream (the standard serving size, although most portions are much, much larger) contains 4 grams of added sugar!

Why Should You Care? Is Sugar Actually Bad for You?
Well, aside from the increased bulge around the waistline, diets high in sugar are strongly linked to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, elevated triglycerides, low HDL (good) cholesterol levels, and heart disease. Sugar intake has also been linked to depression, migraines, poor eyesight, autoimmune diseases (such as arthritis, and multiple sclerosis), gout and osteoporosis.

Recent research has shown that a high intake of carbohydrates, including sugar, releases a feel good chemical in the brain called serotonin. Think of how you feel after indulging in a high sugar meal or treat—almost euphoric, right? The high of a sugar rush is temporary though. After a few hours—or even a few minutes—you start to crash and you become tired, fatigued and lethargic.

Although sweet foods are tempting and delicious to most people (blame Mother Nature for that!), the more sugar you eat, the higher your tolerance becomes. So if you have a strong sweet tooth or intense cravings for sugar, chances are not that you were born that way, but that your dietary habits and food choices created the sugar monster you may have become.

Fortunately, we can reverse this tolerance in just a couple of weeks by cutting out sugar. Once you have decreased your threshold, something that tasted perfectly sweet a few weeks ago, will begin to taste too sweet to eat, and that can help you reduce your intake of the sweet stuff.

Cutting Out Sugar: A 4-Week Action Plan
While the occasional sweet treat won't make or break your weight loss or your health, many people have trouble stopping after a sensible portion or saying no to sugar when it's available. If you feel out of control around sugar, then a sugar "detox" is a great way to reduce your cravings, eat better, and bring sugar back to where it belongs: as an occasional treat that you consciously choose to eat in a mindful manner, not a daily treat occurrence that controls you.

Follow this month-long plan to break your sugar addiction!
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About The Author

Lauri Watson Lauri Watson
is a Registered Dietitian with a bachelor's degree in psychology. She eats her way through life's tasty treats and documents her culinary journeys at RedHeadRecipes.com, which provides recipes and ideas for a balanced lifestyle.

Member Comments

  • Health authorities agree that Americans' habit of consuming an average of 22 teaspoons, or 110 grams, of sugar per day is too much. The American Heart Association suggests that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (30 grams) a day, and men limit themselves to 9 teaspoons (45 grams) a day. You can know the recovery tips here http://forum.inte
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    ddiction-how-overcome-t5311.html - 3/4/2014 12:35:32 AM
  • BALANCE in all things.

    low carb high fiber whole grains, for people who do NOT have Gluten allergies, in Moderation, is a good thing.

    Yes many grains are just as harmful as sugar because the body breaks them down into sugar.. so without fiber to bind and slow that conversion down, or without exercise enough to use it in the rate the body BURNS it off, the carbs from whole grains are converted into FAT cells just like sugar anyway, and we all already read how bad sugar is.

    So just because its "whole" grain or "low carb" grain doesn't make it SAFE.

    The body doesn't need more than 40g of carbs to function for anything... (which it can get from green vegetables) unless of course one is exercising all the glucose from that out already.
    - 1/25/2014 4:31:40 PM
  • FUNCTIONALMEDNP
    If you don't know that whole grains are just as harmful as regular sugar and that they also elevate blood sugar, then you should't be writing dietary advice. You're harming people. - 1/5/2014 11:25:27 AM
  • Avoiding added sugar is great. Avoiding carbs entirely, as some users are suggesting, is not. Your body needs them to function properly, just like it needs fat. Yes, fat. It's not a dirty word, it's a dietary necessity.

    Like the article says, moderation is key in all things. Just don't forget to give your body what it needs in your effort to avoid what it doesn't. As someone with insulin resistance, I have to be careful with my carbs, so rather than avoid them like the plague I just spend 'em where they count - whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, plenty of fiber, and the occasional indulgence. - 9/22/2013 1:41:40 AM
  • Thanks for the info. - 9/4/2013 9:41:29 AM
  • I finally broke out of my sugar addiction by realizing and accepting that all carbs = SUGAR. Now I avoid them and for the 1st time in my life my blood sugar is under control with NO CRAVINGS. - 7/24/2013 9:48:09 AM
  • I find it is not possible for me to suppress my sugar cravings and have to rely on natural pills by innoveat. They work well. - 7/12/2013 11:05:44 AM
  • DZAKRIA
    sugar addiction is really a bad problem which i was struggling from and i succeeded to quit sugar addiction and you can see my personal experience about how i succeeded to quit sugar addiction in my site http://quittingsu
    gar.org - 7/9/2013 3:07:19 PM
  • Thanks for the information... I am a migraine sufferer and believe sugar is a trigger for me. I haven't been able to break the habit, even for headaches. I am up for the challenge! - 7/3/2013 11:06:36 PM
  • Good info and great tips! - 6/23/2013 1:26:48 PM
  • The link to the USDA does not work anymore. - 6/17/2013 3:32:54 PM
  • Thanks for that tip @CONTRARYWISE I have tried over and over to eliminate sugar and by cravings get extreme to the point I'll go out a 12 am and buy a donut or find myself baking late at night. I try to use low fat recipes that call for stevia/truvia, sometimes I talk myself into having a double serving because I know it's low fat. Sugar cravings really make me feel like a drug addict sometimes...just pitiful. - 6/14/2013 3:00:18 PM
  • CONTRARYWISE
    I know the article says to avoid ANY sugar to break the habit, but sometimes my sugar craving is so bad, I would once have baked from scratch a whole batch of cookies and eaten several to satisfy it. Now I find that if I just eat a tiny spoonful of honey or put a spoonful of sugar in a couple inches of tea or coffee, it satisfies my craving. Plus it doesn't take up a whole bunch of time! - 6/9/2013 2:35:56 PM
  • My gosh, I really prided myself in checking for hidden sugar in foods and the list in this article shocked me. I'll print out that list and keep it with me. Another thing I always check on the food label is sugar grams. My graving for sweets is far less than I can ever remember it being in my entire life and I feel and look so much better. - 6/9/2013 11:51:35 AM
  • Thanks for sharing - 6/9/2013 7:02:49 AM