Curing the sugar blues

Why do you need to quit the sugar habit? For a start, it makes you old, fat and grumpy and that’s not all. Basma Saimua reveals why and how to ditch the white stuff. 

Do you frequently crave sugary foods? Do you gain weight quickly and lose it slowly?

Do you feel tired and low on energy in the afternoons? Do you suffer from insomnia? Does your mood constantly fluctuate? If yes, then you are probably addicted to sugar. You’re not alone, most people suffer from this addiction but aren’t aware of it, mainly because sugar is not only present in sweets and chocolate – where you’d expect it – but it’s also hidden in hundreds of food products that we consume every day that you might not expect to find large amounts of sugar, such as tomato sauce and mayonnaise.

Our bodies evolved to survive on small amounts of sugar derived mainly from fruits, vegetable, and grains. Constantly consuming refined sugar can lead to chronic diseases and conditions including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, hypoglycemia, aging skin, headaches, and migraines. Being free from sugar addiction can significantly improve overall health and wellbeing.

What is sugar and when is it bad for us?
Natural and unprocessed sugar is a simple carbohydrate that is digested and absorbed by the body slowly. It is found in whole foods such as fruit, vegetables and beans. In this natural form, sugar is rich in vitamins, minerals and enzymes that also aid in its digestion.

Glucose, which is our body’s main source of energy, enters the blood stream at a steady rate providing the body with the ability to sustain itself on this gradual release of energy for a long period of time. In response to the glucose, insulin, which is responsible for carrying the glucose molecules to cells for use as energy, is secreted by the pancreas at a steady rate, allowing the body to use up all the glucose as energy.

However, when we consume sugar that has been refined and stripped of all the healthy vitamins, minerals  and enzymes, we cause havoc in our bodies. The sugar is broken down very quickly not only using the body’s reserves of minerals, vitamins and enzymes to aid in its digestion but also causing a rush of glucose to enter the blood stream; this in turn causes the pancreas to produce a surge of insulin, to take the glucose into cells where

it will be used for energy – in other words, stored as fat. The fast release of sugar causes stress on the body and in the long run can lead to chronic disease. Refined sugar is known to most in the form of chocolate, biscuits, cake and sweets but it is also present in breads, ketchup, processed baby food, cereals, fruit drinks, milk products, soda drinks and much more.

A 2013 study (1) on the effects of sugar on weight gain, conclude that reducing sugar can have a small but significant impact on weight loss. Walter Willet MD. DR. P.H Nutrition Chair of the department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health commented on the research stating, “It’s clear that sugar does have adverse effects, particularly in liquid form as sugar-sweetened drink.

“There is also a strong body of evidence showing that sugar-sweetened beverages are related to type 2 diabetes. And sugar is not the only issue; there is the bigger problem of carbohydrate quality. Large amounts of refined carbohydrates are also a problem.”

Another factor said Willet is the way we consume things, because that affects the physiologic response. “For example, eating a whole fruit is much preferable to drinking fruit juice. The sugar in fruit is balanced out by the

ibre and other nutrients and it takes time to be released. When we eat a whole apple or orange, we limit our intake. If you are drinking fruit juice, you might have three or four servings, but you would almost never eat three apples or oranges in a row.”

Why sugar is addictive

Just like an opiate, sugar stimulates the reward centre in our brain so, once we have a taste of it, we unconsciously go back for more. It works on the same pleasure centres that are influenced by taking certain drugs, and quitting the habit causes withdrawal symptoms such as cravings and headaches. A study (2) conducted by the Connecticut College resulted in the conclusion that Oreos, a biscuit full of refined sugars, are as addictive as, and might even be more addictive, than drugs such as cocaine. Joseph Schroeder, the college’s Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Behavioral Neuroscience Programme, and his students, found that eating Oreo cookies activated more neurons in the brain’s “pleasure center” than exposure to drugs of abuse. The results are preliminary and subject to further scientific review.

“Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” Schroeder said. “It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”

The study concluded that high sugar foods are to be considered as an addictive substance. Bearing this in mind can help understand why it is so difficult for people to kick the habit.

Sources: 1. ‘Sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain in children and adults’



There are hundreds of different names of sugar. Food manufacturers can be sneaky, they’ll disguise the fact they’ve stuffed a product with sugar by giving it several different names on the label, here are some of the common ones but for over 300 different names for sugar, go to Singlemanskitchen

Evaporated cane juice
High Fructose Corn Syrup or HFCS Hydrogenated starch

Healthier alternatives to refined sugar:

Brown Rice Syrup Date Syrup
Raw Honey Maple syrup

Next time you have a craving for sugar try this recipe:

Date Walnut Cake


1 Cup Pure Pumpkin Puree
1 Cup walnuts
1 Cup Almond Butter
1⁄2 cup Date Syrup
1 whole Free Range Egg
1⁄2 Cup Free Range Egg whites
1⁄2 Tsp Salt
1⁄2 Tsp Baking Soda
2 Cups Chickpeas
1 1⁄2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Tbsp Cinnamon


1 Tbsp Cinnamon
1⁄2 Cup Chopped Dates


Preheat oven to 350 F. Place all ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth. Spread coconut oil onto a 12×12 baking dish, add the batter, sprinkle the cinnamon on top and add the chopped dates evenly. Place in
the oven and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit in the baking dish for 10 minutes. Cut into brownie size pieces and enjoy!

BASMA SAIMUA is a Holistic Health Coach certified by
the American Association for Drugless Practitioners. Also a yoga teacher, she offers private nutrition and lifestyle coaching to women on maintaining healthy hormonal balance, weight control,

sleep disorders, skin issues and appropriate physical activity. For an initial free health consultation, email her at 



Awareness is the first step to quitting the habit. Knowing what is considered ‘sugar’, reading food labels, knowing all the different names that sugar can take, are just small steps that, if practiced consistently, can yield great results in alleviating sugar cravings. Start with one of the suggestions listed below. Some people might find it takes some time to reduce the cravings, the first week can be the hardest but remember that you have been addicted to sugar for a very long time. Be patient and stick with it, you’ll start to feel better slowly. Here’s what to eat to detox from sugar while staying satisfied and sane:

Eat more whole grains and protein-rich foods
Why: They’re satisfying, keep you full longer and will lessen the sugar cravings. Good sources: Free range eggs, nuts, avocados, olive oil, hummus, salmon or organic chicken.

Eat less refined foods
Why: white pasta and white rice which are examples of refined foods, they have been stripped of all their fiber resulting in a very low glycemic index, this causes a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash that will only lead to your bodies need for a quick fix.

Eat less meat
Why: A diet rich in animal foods can cause an imbalance in our bodies leading to sugar cravings, according to the yin/yang principles of balance.

Don’t skip meals
Why: When your blood sugar gets too low you’re more likely to look for a quick, sweet fix.

Eat fermented or sour foods
Why: Because they’re a sugar-craving killer and they add good bacteria back into your intestinal system that can be depleted by a high sugar diet.
Good sources: Sauerkraut and kimchi

Add sweet vegetables to your meals Why: They are naturally sweet so by adding them to your meals you are giving your body a sweet fix that’s healthy.

Good sources: Sweet potatoes and carrots

Add more vegetables to your meals Why: Leafy greens like kale and spinach, vegetables are complex carbohydrates that will keep you satiated for hours. Plus, lack of nutrients causes imbalance in our bodies and since they’re nutrient-intense, adding a good amount of vegetables, will kill cravings.

Exercise and move your body
Why: Helps balance the sugar levels in the body. Exercise also reduces stress, and at those stressful moments we most likely will turn to a sweet fix to feel better.

Don’t go overboard on fruit
Why: One piece of fruit per day before or after meals is fine but over consumption (eating more than one piece at a time) will cause a spike of blood sugar. It might be better than a teaspoon of the white stuff but the body still uses it as sugar.
Good sources: Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc… berries are low sugar fruit


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