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Cutting out the sweet stuff… Jumpstart to a healthier YOU with less sugar in your diet!


How sweet was your Valentine’s Day? And, we don’t mean the love poem kind of sweet – we’re talking about the 58 million pounds of chocolate that are given out each year on this holiday (and, I’ve got two boxes on my desk right now while I write). Binging on sugar isn’t healthy for our bodies so changing your sugar habit just might be the best thing you could put on your to-do list this month.

If the idea of a sugar detox makes you cringe we want to assure you the road isn’t a long one, just 10-days most experts say, to a healthier body and understanding how our brains respond to sugar is the first step towards our sugar-free or reduced sugar journey.


What do nicotine, cocaine, and morphine have in common with something as innocent as sugar? How about the fact that a number of studies have found that sugar affects the brain the same way as the notorious addictive substances listed above. How addictive is it? In some studies on rats, researchers observed sugar could be more addictive than cocaine and when the sugar was taken away the rats suffered symptoms that mimicked opioid withdrawal!

If the rat comparison has you skeptical, you aren’t wrong. That’s because humans don’t get the same opioid-like withdrawal symptoms when sugar is reduced. The fact that sugar could be as addictive as drugs we think borders on alarmist. However, we do know our brains (and tongues) like a sweet taste. Sugar opens up the brain’s reward system by releasing endorphins (our natural opioids) and dopamine which plays a major role in habit formation. Our withdrawals from sugar may not be as acute as the rats’ but there is discomfort similar to when caffeine is pulled away from a coffee addict and why many nutritionists suggest not to quit cold turkey.


Americans love the taste of sugar so much that they eat about a hundred and fifty-two pounds a year (up from 123 pounds back in 1973). That’s equivalent to 6 cups a week! And, if you’re wondering what happens to all that sugar in our bodies, we just have to look down at our love handles. Obesity is one serious result of too much sugar (recent studies show the obesity rate in America at 40%!) as is bad dental health, diabetes, increased inflammation, heart disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and even cognitive decline. So what is the recommended daily intake of sugar? Just 6 teaspoons for women and 9 for men. When you compare that recommended intake to a can of soda which has on average 11 teaspoons of added sugar you can easily see the challenge.

HFG SweetLeaf Added Sugar Is Not So Sweet Infographic__5_14_19

So, what small steps can you take to reduce your dietary sugar intake? As mentioned above, do not go cold turkey. After a few hours or days, depending on how addicted to sugar your body is you could start to feel increased anxiety, sugar cravings, depression, and headaches. Your best bet is to avoid obvious sources of sugar like soda and desserts and then dive into labels to find hidden sugar that can be found in sauces like ketchup, BBQ sauce and jarred tomato sauces. Incidentally, you should definitely look for hidden sugars in healthy snacks as well as low-fat foods.  Low-fat foods are culprit by adding sugar to make up for the lack of fat.

What should you look for on labels?  Steer clear of:

  • Sugar
  • Dextrose
  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Corn Sweetener
  • Corn Syrup
  • Maltose
  • Honey
  • Sucrose
  • Sorbitol
  • Brown Sugar
  • Molasses
  • Syrups
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • High-fructose corn syrups
  • Lactose
  • Caramel


If you’re starting to worry that reducing sugar is too complicated, here are some substitution ideas to get you rolling:

  • Choose whole foods over processed ones.
  • Instead of a soda with your lunch try adding fresh fruit to seltzer or drink it plain. If you must have soda, drink diet.
  • If that candy bar is calling your name, grab a piece of fresh or dried fruit. Raw veggies are also a great alternative or try some dark chocolate or a bowl of unsweetened cereal with bananas or dried fruit!
  • A better choice than the cakes and cookies would be a piece of fruit or fruit salad, graham crackers or animal crackers, or a crunchy pear or apple to satisfy your urge for something sweet with a snap.
  • Replace ice-cream with a frozen ice pop or bowl of yogurt. Or try a healthy smoothie with some veggies blended in for added nutrition.
  • When you just have to snack, try a handful of nuts, trail mix (just nuts and dried fruits, no candy or sweetened coconut flakes!) or a hard-boiled egg.
  • Eating more protein and fat will reduce hunger and when you feel full you are less likely to crave a sugary quick filler fix.
  • If you are struggling on reducing your sugar intake there are natural sweeteners that are healthier than plain old sugar like Stevia (extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant and has almost no calories), Xylitol (naturally occurring sweetener found in many fruits and veggies and doesn’t cause blood sugar to spike), and Erythritol (a sweetener found in fruits much sweeter than sugar so you only need a little).

So, give it a try! You have nothing to lose (except maybe a few pounds) and your brain will thank you with increased focus and stabilized moods and more energy. There are so many benefits to your body when you curb sugar but what we really love about choosing to eat less of it? A healthier you!

Deb Fries is a freelance designer and writer and worked at Julianna Rae in Customer Service and Graphics, she writes all her blogs for in the Heavenly Spa Robe in Shale.