Breaking the Sugar Habit

With a New Year comes the promise of new beginnings and although I am not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions sometimes the idea of a clean slate can be appealing and a good catalyst for building new positive habits.


For years I have been learning about refined sugar and how it can contribute to many health problems, it is therefore refreshing to see the media picking this up and I welcome the amount of articles and news stories now available about it’s negative effects.


Many health conditions can be improved by cutting out or reducing refined sugar; in particular I find it works very well in PMT (premenstrual tension); mood swings; anxiety and depression; allergies/ hayfever, and in any chronic inflammatory condition, like arthritis, colitis or sinusitis.


Bloating and gut flora imbalance can be fed by refined sugars, in particular yeast overgrowth and recurrent thrush. There is also some research which shows refined sugars can feed cancer and tumour growth.


In addition, It is obviously important to avoid or significantly cut down on all refined sugars and carbohydrates in diabetes and pre-diabetic syndrome; as well as in high cholesterol.


Let’s not forget fruit sugars; fruit juices and dried fruits – which many people start to eat when they cut back on the refined sugars. This is just a substitution and it is not ideal to eat large amounts of fruit or juices. I would advise a maximum of 2 portions of fruit a day; and aim for the low sugar fruits like berries, apples or kiwis. Grapes, pineapples and mangos are very high in sugar and will have just the same effect on your blood sugar levels as eating sweets or cake.


I have many conversations with patients about reducing their sugar habit and I find it always inspiring and hopeful that so many people manage to kick it, even when they have a serious sweet tooth! From my own experience, I can vouch for how challenging it can be, as a former sugar addict I know that the first few weeks can be quite a struggle. Due to allergies, I had to cut out sugar for several months completely and I thought I would share some of my top tips if you are wanting to have a go!


Preparation is key – think about what you are going to reach for instead of your favourite chocolate biscuit. Get some of your favourite savoury snacks in and keep them handy in your bag or at work.


I found snacking on blueberries a really good substitute when I was desperate for a sugar hit – they are actually quite low in sugar but have a natural sweetness that can hit the spot, or if you are really struggling try a couple of dates or some dark chocolate. Be aware that it can take 1-2 weeks for your taste buds to begin changing, and so you do need strong will power for the initial phase; after that, you will begin to adjust to a less sweet palate and will usually find if you taste something very sweet you will find it sickly or actually unpleasant!