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Sugar Addiction (+ how quinoa can help)

Sugar addiction is real. Sugar affects those “feel-good” hormones in your brain and can have a serious effect on both your brain and body.

Sugar Addiction 101

It seems appropriate that my first post of 2014 be a confession of sorts. Of course, we'll have our goals/intentions post in a few days, but I had to get this off my chest.

I'm addicted…to sugar.

It feels strange saying that. The word addiction has such a stigma about it in our society. It's a word that people keep hush, hush and are extremely self-conscious about admitting.

For me, addiction usually means substance abuse – drugs, alcohol, etc. I know you can get addicted to other things – caffeine, video games, exercising and the like – but “addiction” is so severe. It's scary to think that something can take over your life like that. Your life can quickly spin out of control all because you're consumed with something.

But we're talking about something less serious in this post. It's just sugar, right? Just a little sprinkle here, a dash there. I mean it can't really be affecting us, right?

Wrong. Sugar addiction is real. Sugar affects those “feel-good” hormones in your brain and can have a serious effect on both your brain and body.

The Truth about Sugar Addiction

What is Sugar Addiction?

I've done a lot of reading on the subject and while many of the articles reference severe addictions, where people have withdrawals, get shaky, break into a cold sweat when they don't have a sugar treat, there are less severe signs that you're addicted.

Sugar addiction can compromise your immune system, send your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride, and cause insane cravings.

For me, it was the cravings that did me in. You see, I have a serious sweet tooth. I have since I was a little girl. You know that from all the recipes I share – cookies, brownies, cakes, ice cream. I thought since I stopped eating refined sugar, that I was in the clear and go for it as much as I wanted.

Well my friends, don't be like me. Sugar is sugar, no matter where it comes from.

Healthy Oatmeal Cookies with Banana and Chocolate

How Much Sugar are you really Eating?

So fine, I stop eating baked goods and I'll be good, right? Unfortunately, it wasn't that easy. I still would find myself hunting for something sweet.

I realized that even though I removed those sugary indulgences from my diet, most of my meals still contained a really high amount of sugar – bananas and stevia in my morning smoothies, pineapple in my green juices at lunch, apples with peanut butter again for a snack in the afternoon, dried fruit on my salads at night (or another green smoothie with fruit) accompanied by a glass of wine. Pretty much every meal I made had some sort of sweet component to it.

And my cravings were out of control.

But I couldn't figure out why…until I read this awesome post by my friend Hallie (Daily Bites) who shared that, “eating sugar—ANY form of sugar—regularly and in excess, will lead to the dreaded Sugar Cycle: craving upon craving upon craving upon craving.”

Aha! Sugar was the culprit. And the more I ate, the worse those cravings got. I knew what I had to do – I needed to go on a little sugar detox.

How to Overcome Sugar Addiction

How I'm Overcoming My Sugar Addiction

There are tons of plans out there that you can follow, and I looked into a few of them, but I just didn't feel like they fit with my lifestyle. I didn't want to be extremely strict with myself and follow a plan meal-by-meal, so I have decided to just cut a few things out of my diet for a little while and see how it makes me feel.

(Please note: I'm not a nutritionist or doctor, so this is just what I'm choosing to do for myself. I can't say that it will work for you too, but I welcome you to try and let me know how it goes!)

  • No fruit (seriously this is SOO hard)
  • No baked goods or chocolate
  • No wine/alcohol
  • No sweeteners: honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, dates, etc.
  • No stevia (except for the tiny amount in my protein powder)
  • Limited starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes, squash, etc.)
  • Limited flours (just whole-grains, coconut flour, chia & flaxseed meal, and teensy bits of quinoa flour)

It's only been a few days, but so far I really do feel better. I'm still craving sweets, but I swear, my belly is getting flatter, I don't feel gross in the afternoon anymore, I have more energy, the dark circles under my eyes aren't as pronounced, I'm sleeping better and feel like I have more focus.

Pretty amazing for just a few short days.

I'm also making sure that I drink lots of water – having a Soda Stream really helps!! – and exercising 5 times a week and eating quinoa at lunch and dinner. I'm loving experimenting with quinoa in new, sugar-free ways. Guess that means we'll be getting lots more savory dishes in the coming weeks!

Oh, and I'm also not being afraid of fat – the healthy fats that is (watch Hallie's video to see why). Instead of snacking on crackers or granola bars, I've been eating raw almonds, almond butter, sliced turkey and hummus, and avocado. Foods that help to fill me up and truly satisfy my hunger.


How can quinoa help in this journey?

Quinoa is a seed, although still many people refer to it as a grain. It also contains all 9 essential amino acids meaning it's a complete vegetable protein and digests slowly, giving your body ample time to absorb the nutrients.

But what makes quinoa great for a sugar detox is the high amounts of magnesium. It has been shown that magnesium can help control blood sugar spikes, which is one of sugar's leading side effects. And I can attest that it's working.

Since having quinoa for lunch every day this week, I have noticed that I'm not getting tired like I used to in the afternoon. Before, I wanted to curl up in bed and take a nap around 2:30, but now I'm still full of energy and raring to go.

What's next?

If you feel like you might be addicted to sugar, I highly recommend that you do a little research and then find a plan that works for your body. Remember, listening to your body is the most important part of healing yourself, so if you try something and it doesn't feel right, don't be afraid to change course.

To help you get started, I've put together a little resource guide:

And what would this be without a little quinoa recipe inspiration as well? Here are 10 of favorite, sugar-free / low-sugar recipes!

10 Low-Sugar Recipes using Quinoa

1. Goat Cheese & Quinoa Stuffed Chicken
2. Porcini Mushroom Quinoa Risotto
3. Grilled Vegetable Quinoa Salad
4. Sausage & Quinoa Stew
5. Cilantro Quinoa Turkey Burgers (just not the bun!)
6. Green Bean & Almond Quinoa Salad
7. Quinoa Greek Salad with Chickpeas
8. Quinoa Buddha Bowl
9. Chicken & Sausage Cassoulet
10. Chicken & Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash