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January 3, 2014

by Alyssa

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


share what you make

Tag #simplyquinoa on Instagram with your creations! We love sharing what you make with the community. We can’t wait to see!

About Alyssa

Hey there, I’m Alyssa Rimmer, a certified Holistic Nutritionist, yoga-lover, dog mom, and founder of Simply Quinoa. It’s nice to meet you! I created SQ as a way to provide solutions for women just like me, who were struggling to find helpful information about how to live a healthy and fulfilled life. My hope is that you will find inspiration here on SQ – in my story, in my recipes, in the hundreds of wellness articles, and in our amazing community. Welcome!

Interested in Healthy Eating? Grab our 7-Day Vegan Meal Plan!

With a week’s worth of simple and healthy meals, Eat Clean will help you see just how easy living a life full of whole foods can be. Recipe are 100% gluten-free and vegan!


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  1. […] 3. Pick one day a week without any sugar, sweetener (real or artificial), fruit, pasta, or bread to give my body a chance to process what I put into it without going into overload. Eventually I will increase the number of days per week. Til then, check this out: […]

  2. You should check out sarahwilson.com.au she’s brilliant and outlines all the horrible things about sugar she also has a i quit sugar blog….she has recipes that are decadent and delicious sans sugar!!!!

  3. Hi Alyssa,

    After a bit of research in the last few days I’ve realised I have EXACTLY the same problem as you, as well as a slight intolerance to gluten and dairy I’ve found that I still feel rubbish following a (mostly) whole food, low gluten, low dairy diet and I’m sure sugar is to blame as I’ve gone from craving cakes and chocolate to sweet potato and fruit. My main problem is that I’m also a vegetarian. Can you suggest how to tackle cutting out sugar completely as a veggie?

    Thanks so much! Your website is fantastic.

    • Hi Helgh,

      I don’t think it would be too much of a problem as a vegetarian, unless you’re not letting yourself have beans or tofu. Truthfully, I’m not a vegetarian and am not super comfortable with the diet, but I think if you are eating beans and / or tofu for your protein sources, you should be okay. Just skip out on the sugar, fruits and starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes, squash and pumpkin included). Also, no alcohol!

      Does that help? xo Alyssa

  4. Alyssa, it sounds like you’re describing the anti-candida diet up there! Good for you for figuring out what works/doesn’t work. I found it incredibly hard to give up sugar, and felt cravings for several months (even though most experts say cravings will dissipate in about a week). It’s still tough, but I’ve re-introduced some sweet things into my life (coconut sugar, etc) and most of the time, it’s okay. Good luck with the journey!! 🙂

  5. Totally agree. Once you start eating things that are a trigger or addicting, it’s so hard to stop. For me it’s bread. If I STOP eating bread entirely, I have the addiction kicked in a matter of days. I no longer crave it and can pass it up easily. But the second I eat it again, my body craves it.

  6. Great post, Alyssa! I’ve been trying to kick sugar out of my diet for months…it’s a roller coaster. I’m super sugar-free for about a month, then I crack a little. The most helpful thing for me has been to realize that I will eat some dark chocolate and that will be my sweetness fix, everything else I can keep away from. This is how I’ve been able to manage a mostly sugar free lifestyle since June 2013. Keep at it – it is so worth it! I have so much more energy!

  7. hey!

    I feel ya on the sugar addiction! I try to limit my carbs and avoid candies/dark chocolate but it’s so easy to get it!

    From what I understand, sugar cravings are really not even your own body wanting it. It’s actually the yeasts inside of us that crave the sugar and also give us the “bleh” afternoon feeling as they begin to die off due to lack of simple carbs for them to easily digest. That’s the freakiest aspect to me… it isn’t even my own self that wants the sugar! It’s these little microorganisms inside us! (O___O)

    • Oh man….that’s not very pleasant to think about 😉 But it’s nice to at least know what goes on in our bodies and how we react to sugar. Thank you so much for commenting!

  8. I have lost 20 lbs in 2 years just by remouving sugar and starch but not all fruits some veg. with high on starch. I also use a lot of quinoa .
    I like your post.

  9. Thank you for this!! I keep riding the roller coaster of sugar detox/sugar addiction, usually in 3-6 month cycles. For me, it’s harder to stay off of sugar in the winter.

    Question: do you think quinoa flakes help or harm the effort to break sugar addiction? I love mine (unsweetened) for breakfast, and would hate to give them up!

    Good luck, and thank you for compiling and sharing all these resources–just the help I need after the sugar-laced holidays!!

    🙂 Cora

    P. S. Check out pau d’arco herbal tea–tastes horribly bitter, but helps fight candida and sugar cravings.

  10. I’m so glad you made this post, and for stating that unrefined sugars are still in some form, sugar – I don’t think that can be said enough. Congrats on your sugar detox journey, so glad to hear it’s been going well for you!

  11. Great post! It definitely has me thinking because I have the same problem! The link foe the cilantro quinoa turkey burgers isn’t working. Is there another link?
    Thank you!

  12. This post is awesome. I can totally related. Like you, I’ve always had a sweet tooth and even though I adapted to a healthy lifestyle, I still ate some type of sweetness at every meal. I’ve been trying to remove as much sugar form my diet as I can, step by step – it’s definitely hard but the longer you do it, the easier it becomes. Like a new habit, but better. I’m looking forward to the savory recipes that are soon to come from you! Good luck! 🙂

    • Thanks for commenting, Kammie! It’s on and off for me, some times super challenging, sometimes easier than I expect, but overall I know it’s going to make me feel better. Good luck to you as well – let’s cheer each other on 🙂

  13. Great post! I’m so glad my sugar stuff has helped you a little. 🙂 It’s much easier said than done to detox from sugar, but kudos to you for giving it a go! xoxo

    • Soo helpful!! I hope this post can help others too 🙂 It wasn’t really something I thought about until I watched your videos. And I’m already feeling so much better!


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