Think you'll never be able to pass on the birthday cake, or indulge in the proper half-cup-serving-size of ice cream? Actually, there's reason to be positive about kicking your sugar addiction. Doing so is not nearly as daunting as it may seem. First, it's important to know that you're not alone. People around the world are eating more sugar than ever before. That's because the food industry has been adding more of it to various products over the years. So even if you eat a relatively healthy diet with limited desserts, you're still likely eating more sugar than in the past -- and therefore your palate has become conditioned to prefer sweeter foods and beverages. But this also means you can also retrain your palate to prefer less-sweet foods by removing sugar from your diet, little by little [source: Pagoto].
How? Do you add three packets of sugar to your coffee? Switch to two. Once two starts to taste good, drop down to one. Next time dessert is served, split yours with someone at the table. If you guzzle a soda every day at noon, swap it out with water one of those days. Next time you're at the grocery store, buy a granola bar that has fewer grams of sugar per serving than your current favorite.
It's not just about eating less sugar, though. Exercise, for example, often erases food cravings across the board. A 2013 study found that if you regularly keep moving, your brain gets less excited by images of ooey, gooey, highly-caloric foods. Eating more protein- and fiber-rich foods also helps you kick the sugar habit, as these foods keep you fuller longer. They also don't make your blood-sugar levels spike and then crash as sugary foods do; when such spikes and crashes happen, you're more likely to crave even more sugar. You can also try swapping out a sugary snack for a non-sugary one -- say, a handful of nuts instead of a candy bar -- or simply wait five or 10 minutes when your sweet tooth starts wailing to see if it will stop [sources: Barclay, Killgore, Smith]. Now, was that so bad?
Author's Note: How Sugar Addiction Works
Thankfully, I'm not addicted to sugar, although I do love a good piece of chocolate. But salt? That's another story. Pass the chips, please.
More Great Links
- American Heart Association. "By Any Other Name It's Still Sweetener." June 16, 2014. (April 9, 2015) http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/By-Any-Other-Name-Its-Still-Sweetener_UCM_437368_Article.jsp
- American Heart Association. "Sugar 101." Nov. 19, 2014. (April 9, 2015) http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Sugar-101_UCM_306024_Article.jsp
- Avena, Nicole and Pedro Rada and Bartley Hoebel. "Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake." Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Review. 2008. (April 7, 2015) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149763407000589
- Barclay, Eliza. "Is Sugar Addiction Why So Many January Diets Fail?" National Public Radio. Jan. 9, 2014. (April 7, 2015) http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/01/08/260781785/is-sugar-addiction-why-so-many-january-diets-fail
- Eliaz, Isaac. "Dangerously Sweet: The True Impacts of Sugar on Your Health." Rodale News. Oct. 10, 2013. (April 7, 2015) http://www.rodalenews.com/sugar-and-health
- Food and Drug Administration. "Proposed Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label." Aug. 1, 2014. (April 10, 2015) http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm#Summary
- FDA. "Proposed Nutrition Facts Label Changes Are Based on Science and Research." Feb. 27, 2014. (April 7, 2015) http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm387164.htm
- Gunnars, Kris. "Added Sugar is The Single Worst Ingredient in The Diet. Period." Authority Nutrition. (April 9, 2015) http://authoritynutrition.com/sugar-the-worst-ingredient-in-the-diet/
- Killgore, William and Maia Kipman, Zachary Schwab, Olga Tkachenko, Lily Preer and Hannah Gogel. "Physical exercise and brain responses to images of high-calorie food." Research Gate. September 2013. (April 9, 2015) http://www.researchgate.net/publication/257249390_Physical_exercise_and_brain_responses_to_images_of_high-calorie_food
- Obesity Society. "Eating is addictive but sugar, fat are not like drugs, study says." Science Daily. Sept. 9, 2014 (April 15, 2015). http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140909093617.htm
- Pagoto, Sherry. "How To Get Over Your Sugar Addiction." Psychology Today. Sept. 10, 2012. (April 7, 2015) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shrink/201209/how-get-over-your-sugar-addiction
- Rettner, Rachael. "Is Sugar a Drug? Addiction Explained." Live Science. Oct. 28, 2013. (April 7, 2015) http://www.livescience.com/40749-addiction-drugs-sugar.html
- ScienceDaily. "U.S. adult consumption of added sugars increased by more than 30 percent over three decades." Nov. 4, 2014. (April 10, 2015) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141104141731.htm
- Smith, Michael. "Slideshow: The Truth About Sugar Addiction." WebMD. March 3, 2014. (April 7, 2015) http://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-sugar-addiction
- Thompson, Rob. "8 Ways To Beat Your Sugar Addiction." Prevention. Jan. 31, 2012. (April 7, 2015) http://www.prevention.com/health/diabetes/beat-your-sugar-and-starch-addiction
- United Nations. "UN health agency points to 'solid evidence' backing its call to reduce sugar intake." March 4, 2015. (April 7, 2015) http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=50236#.VSRQWPCGNCA