March is National Nutrition Month, so what better time to talk about one of the most common barriers to nutrition that I see in my health coaching practice—sugar!
If there is one move you should try this month, it’s quitting your sugar addiction. Research shows sugar causes an increased risk of numerous health problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and tooth decay. Studies have even linked too much sugar to anxiety and depression. I can tell you this: my clients who ditch sugar report sleeping better, thinking more clearly, having more energy and losing weight, too.
Reasons Why It’s Hard to Control a Sweet Tooth
Many of us reach for sugar when we are feeling stressed. Why? Because foods loaded with sugar can temporarily improve our mood and energize us. Sugar has been shown to reduce the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Unfortunately, when that sugar “high” passes, we crave it again.
As a society, we have too much sugar in our daily lives. Much of it is hidden in foods that are seemingly healthy. Yogurt is one example. A 2014 finding from researchers at the University of North Carolina showed a startling increase in sugar consumed by American adults. It went from 228 calories per day in 1977 to 300 calories per day in 2009-2010.
As a result, we have a bigger tolerance and crave more sugar.
For many of us, sugar is also tied to our happy times from childhood. For example, did your mom have cookies for you after school and on holidays? Did fun family movie nights always include ice cream? Did you enjoy pie on the holidays? If the taste of sugar takes you back to those days, it may be a reason you can’t stay away from it.
Sugar can also feel like it soothes emotional pain because the pleasure it delivers is the opposite of pain.
How to Kick the Too-Much Sugar Habit
Every accomplishment starts with the decision to TRY!
Start lessening your sugar addiction with your first meal of the day: breakfast!
I recently discovered that Maypo (also known as Homestat Farm) has updated its classic oatmeals with some great whole grains, like organic chia and quinoa, that leave you surprisingly full. The instant varieties, that do have sweeteners—like the maple flavor— have 2/3 less sugar than regular brands. You can find it at your local store, or lots of sites online with a Google search.
With just 4 grams of sugar, 170 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 75 mg sodium, and 5 grams of protein, you can ease your way into less sugar at breakfast, then switch to the unsweetened varieties once your taste buds adjust. You can always add berries to the wholesome wakeup meal for antioxidants.
Now that’s a “sweet” way to start your sugar detox!