Evergreen Lifestyle: Seven Tips to Help Kick the Sugar Habit by Freya Farley

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Spring and summer are often times that inspire us to make healthier choices. Whether the goal is to lose weight, gain more energy, sleep better, or make a change, reducing sugar intake is often a top priority. The benefits of diminishing its consumption are plenty, as 80% of processed American food is laced with some form of sugar. Frequently, they masquerade under a variety of names including anhydrous dextrose, crystalline fructose, and evaporated cane juice, to name just a few.

High sugar content in processed food has been shown to contribute to common diseases such as high cholesterol, heart disease, fatty liver disease or cirrhosis, hypertension, hepatic insulin resistance, slower metabolism, and obesity. Increased appetite, insomnia, brain fog, mental chatter, depression, and various other symptoms have been shown to generate from excessive sugar consumption.

Sugar itself is a refined carbohydrate and a source of calories that our bodies either use as energy or store as fat. Keep in mind that not all sugar is bad; it naturally occurs in fruits and other foods that, along with their healthy fiber content, provide our body with necessary nourishment. The problem is that sugar is addictive and alters biochemical pathways in our brain by tampering with our dopamine receptors; the same ones that make us feel good. To get the next dopamine spike, we need a higher dose of sugar.

That’s why it’s essential that when contemplating a sugar cleanse psychological preparedness and a plan that you can stick to is important. Here are some useful tips I use to help clients kick the sugar habit:

1. Find the sweetness in your life

It is vitally important to invest in our well-being through self-nurturing. Creating space for ourselves, and finding time to do things that bring joy are necessary to our health and wellness. Often, the people who are most susceptible to sugar cravings are working stressful jobs, living stressful lives, and feel out of balance. In these cases, we may disconnect from what our passions are in life, to the point where life has become a series of obligations rather than enjoyment. Taking the time to invest in ourselves is a great long-term strategy to give up habits that do not serve us. Try mindfulness-based exercises like yoga, tai chi, and meditation. When we are at ease and feel satisfied with life, the impulse to reach for sweets when stressed is significantly reduced.

2. Drink apple cider vinegar

Raw apple cider vinegar helps to destroy candida yeast overgrowth in the body, which is often a contributing factor in sugar addiction. The body needs sugar to feed this yeast, which continues to grow and cause more cravings (as well as a host of other unpleasant symptoms). I have found people have fewer cravings when they sip apple cider vinegar throughout the day. Apple cider vinegar also helps to change taste buds, and after a while of supplementing with it, sugary foods often end up tasting too sweet. Use this vinegar to make a healthy salad dressing or in cooking. Be sure to buy only raw vinegar (apple cider or otherwise), as regular pasteurized vinegar can feed candida overgrowth and cause more sugar cravings. Try: Braggs Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

3. Properly fuel your body

In general, you want to get your calories from a balanced diet of the protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Protein helps your body feel full longer, so increasing it in your diet will help to curb sweet cravings, especially at that midday snack time. Try snacking on nuts, yogurt, or a hardboiled egg instead of processed and packaged snacks. Your body will thank you for it.

Carbs fall into three categories—sugars, starches, and fibers—but the body breaks down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars. Find yourself drawn to French fries, bread, and pasta? Your sugar fix originates in excess carbs. Avoid white and refined flour, rice, pasta, bread. Substitute nuts, seeds, and whole grains instead. If the carb is in its natural, unadulterated form, then it’s a good choice. When your cravings hit, try high-fiber foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, to fill your belly and keep your digestive system moving. And don’t get stuck in the meal-label game—switch it up! Have eggs for dinner, avocado for breakfast, or oatmeal for lunch.

4. Stay hydrated

Cravings, particularly for sweet foods are common when the body is dehydrated because it interferes with brain levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well-being and happiness. Dehydration also makes it more difficult for the body to produce glycogen, a significant source of fuel for our cells. A lack of fluids can cause difficulty in the production of energy output and can trigger sugar cravings. It’s also not uncommon for the body to confuse the feeling of thirst with hunger, meaning that you may feel hungry when what you need is water.

5. Train your taste buds to like bitter

Train your taste buds to like the taste of bitter—it really does a lot to suppress the cravings for sugar. Try plain unflavored yogurt and bitter greens like watercress, arugula, chicory, endive, and kale are a couple of tasty ways. Within 30 days, your taste buds will reset, and you’ll crave less sugar.

6. Take the “sugar destroyer” herb

Gymnema sylvestre, an herb in the milkweed family, is known as a “sugar destroyer” in Ayurvedic medicine since it desensitizes our taste buds to sweet items and helps deal with the cravings. We think we need sweets when: we’re low on energy (not enough insulin or cells are resistant), stressed (increased cortisol causes the body to use sugar, so we need to replenish), are eating poorly (causing spikes in blood sugar, or have trouble sleeping (also increases cortisol).

Gymnema promotes healthy blood sugar levels, reduces cholesterol, regenerates beta cells in the pancreas, and helps make cells more sensitive to receiving insulin. A few drops on your tongue before a meal can offset desiring sugar and last for about three hours, especially in conjunction with a nutritious diet and the desire to quit sugar. However, use caution if taking oral medication or insulin, as it can alter prescription dosages. Try: Himalayan Herbals Gymnema

7. Use peppermint essential oil

Many studies have shown that you can retrain your brain, curb the sugar cravings, and revitalize your life by using high-quality essential oils. A leading research by Dr. Alan Hirsch found that INHALING peppermint oil is amazingly effective at curbing cravings, while also awakening the senses and enabling the brain to focus. Other essential oils that may help to curb cravings include black pepper, bergamot, cassia, cinnamon, clove, fennel, grapefruit, lemon, marjoram, and wild orange.

8. Try amrita therapeutic essential oils

We all have things we can change in our diets, our lives, and our mindsets. Reducing sugar intake can be just the start of rebalancing your life. Don’t drastically cut out sugar from your diet and cause uncomfortable detox. Take it slow, let your body adjust, and use some of the tips discussed. Starting today become aware of labels, of what you put in your mouth, of your triggers, and of your wellness. You can make this change in your life by replacing sugar with a positive lifestyle that fuels your mind, body, and spirit!

Freya Farley is Evergreen’s Executive Director and an Acupuncturist at the Wellness Center at Evergreen. Her practice focuses on Women’s Health and Fertility. Along with acupuncture, and herbal medicine, Freya practices a food-as-medicine approach. She offers Open Studio morning yoga sessions, private consultations & treatments, as well as a weekly Community Acupuncture Clinic.

*The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.

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