You might laugh if I compared sugar to a hard drug like cocaine. But what if I told you the refined sugar Americans are consuming at an average of 160 pounds – per person – a year is actually considered by some cardiovascular researchers to be similar to cocaine?
“When you look at animal studies comparing sugar to cocaine, even when you get the rats hooked on IV cocaine, once you introduce sugar, almost all of them switch to the sugar,” research scientist at St. Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute in Kansas told Here & Now.
A 2012 study in the journal Nature has even called for sugar to be regulated like tobacco.
And it’s not just the way your brain reacts to sugar when you’re “on” the substance that mimics drug use, either. The withdrawal effects of sugar are just as bad.
I’m not kidding.
One study reports sugar to be 8 times as addictive as cocaine. Participants in the study reported experiencing behavioral traits similar to those experienced by people withdrawing from opiates. These traits included withdrawals, depression and anxiety.
Despite sugar wreaking havoc on our livers, metabolism, brains and hearts, it still seems to be a very “acceptable” thing to be addicted to in American culture, where as much as 80 percent of our food choices contain sugar according to Laura Schmidt, Ph.D. of the University of California, San Francisco.
So is that it, end of story? Do we just have to keep eating our way to the grave due to the lack of refined sugar-free food choices out there?
Dr. Mark Hyman certainly doesn’t think so.
In his book The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, Dr. Hyman lists 10 ideas to help you curb your sugar habit. I’ll run through 8 of them below.
1. Make The Decision.
No matter how many shocking studies you read about excessive sugar consumption and what it does to your body, it all means diddlysquat unless you hunker down and decide to make some real changes in your life.
As with any other goal you may have, you have to decide it’s right for you and then hit the ground running.
Dr. Hyman recommends to “Stop all forms of sugar, all flour products and all artificial sweeteners – which cause increased cravings and slow metabolism, and lead to fat storage. Also get rid of anything with trans or hydrogenated fats and MSG.”
While the goal isn’t to stop eating sugar completely and forever, it’s important to reduce the opportunity for cravings when you’re starting your detox and until you have the steps in place to limit yourself.
3. Don’t Drink Your Calories.
Sugary beverages are some of the largest contributors to our overall sugar intake. Things like juice, soda, energy drinks and coffees can contain several more teaspoons of sugar than your body really needs.
“One can of soda a day increases a kid’s chance of being obese by 60% and a woman’s chance of type 2 diabetes by 80%,” according to Dr. Hyman.
4. Begin Your Day With Protein.
According to Dr. Hyman, incorporating protein in all your meals is the best way to abolish cravings and balance blood sugar/insulin levels in your body. It’s particularly important to include a healthy amount of protein in the first meal of your day. Dr. Hyman recommends farm fresh eggs for breakfast to start your day right.
5. Eat A Lot Of The Right Carbs.
If you avoid the starchy ones, carbs can actually be quite good for you. You can accomplish this by eating lots of veggies, particularly greens, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, collards and mushrooms for detoxing. Avoid potatoes, squash and beets.
6. Eat Good Fat.
Despite common belief to the contrary, fat in food does not actually make you fat. Sugar does. Fat actually makes you feel full and balances your blood sugar. Healthy fats, as found in extra virgin olive oil, avocados, coconut oil and fish with high Omega 3 content will help you accomplish this.
7. Be Prepared For Cravings.
When you’re full and feeling healthy isn’t when you’ll experience the most difficulty. Rather, you’ll find yourself most in trouble when you’re stranded at the airport or craving a snack halfway through your workday as the vending machine looms beside your cubicle.
You need to prepare for moments like this, and you can do so by keeping healthy snack options with you, like turkey or salmon jerky, walnuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds.
When you’re stressed out, your hormones go crazy and your body releases cortisol, which makes you feel hungry. But luckily, there are natural ways to combat this such as taking deep breaths, which has been shown to activate the vagus nerve. Dr. Hyman recommends taking deep breaths before mealtime to see good results.
You can also do your best to contribute to a healthy, relaxing environment using these tips.