How to give up sugar and still feel good

Nutrition

By pH health care professionals

Love your sweets and just can’t get enough? Then you’ve probably been warned about the risks of too much sugar plenty of times (obesity, diabetes and heart disease, to name a few). But have you ever thought about the way your sugar habit affects your mood?

Like many types of addictions, high-sugar diets can cause mood disorders >> (click to tweet this). And it’s no wonder -- sugar is seriously addicting! One rat study showed greater neurological reward with intense sweetness (sugar or calorie-free sweetener) than the drug cocaine. Another study showed sugar withdrawal symptoms may be similar to that of alcohol, morphine or nicotine.

But, if you find you feel a little moody when trying to avoid sugar, there’s good news. The latest research seems to point toward regular exercise, at moderate intensity, as a natural solution to breaking the sugar addiction/mood disorder link. Sugar is addicting because it activates reward centers in your brain. Chemicals are released that say “Oh yeah, we feel good!” But exercise actually does this too! You’ve probably heard of endorphins, or the “runner’s high.” You can get your feel-good a healthy way -- and without the side effects.

Feel like you don’t have time to exercise?

Many of us live sedentary lifestyles, often sitting for most of the work day. It makes it hard to fit in exercise, and of course, workplaces often have plenty of sugary snacks lurking in the breakroom. However, standing up for just a few minutes every half hour, or going for a nice hour-long walk may help reduce that craving for sugar.  

Exercise also may help with your life expectancy. Being sedentary shortens it, and of course, so do the many serious diseases that sugar has been linked to. But even just a little bit of walking (20 minutes/day) may help improve your life expectancy.

If you’re still not convinced, think about it this way: It only takes 5 minutes to eat something sugary and worsen your heart health, and it only takes 5 minutes to go for a light run and improve your heart health (read about the 5-minute workout here!). How will you invest your 5 minutes? Invest in feeling your best!

But let’s look at this holistically. Another idea that can help is taking up more hobbies that help you feel happier.

If you find yourself eating sugar to “feel good,” consider adding other things to your life that make you “feel good” such as a hobby. Consider photography, painting or drawing, learning an instrument or gardening, to name a few.

Lastly, get in the kitchen. Cook to avoid too much sugar!

Studies show that those who cook their meals at home are healthier and live longer than those who regularly eat out. Nutritionist Kimberly Snyder indicates that when people pick out their own food at the grocery store, they buy less processed foods, less sugary foods, and less fat. Instead, they make healthier food choices.

Interested in more ways to manage your weight besides cutting down on the sugar? Check out our new book here.

Be healthier from now on. Stick with us. We are an ad-free, non-profit providing you with realistic health information. We write for humans, not algorithms (sorry, Google). Now share this with all the humans you love.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.

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