A rabid sweet tooth can cause all sorts of cravings. And problems. According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, the average adult consumes around 58.8g of sugar every single day – almost twice the recommended daily amount.
This excess could give new meaning to the term ‘sickly sweet’, argues Dr Adam Simon, chief medical officer at online diagnosis service Push Doctor. “High sugar intake can induce insulin resistance, and studies have shown you’re up to 83 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with type II diabetes if regularly overindulging.”
The dangers aren’t just limited to the metabolic, either. “Other side effects include increased fructose that can lead to liver disease due to overload,” he adds. “Plus, it’s a leading contributor to heart disease – even more so than fat consumption.”
Those are the (big, scary) long-term worries. In the short-term, a high-sugar diet is the likely culprit behind everything from mood swings to energy crashes, not to mention your spare tyre. The sweet stuff is thought to play a bigger part in weight gain than certain fats because, as well as being high in calories, the insulin spike that sugary foods cause makes the body more likely to store fat.
So if you’re in need of some sweet relief, take note from the experts below.
A Mars bar is an obvious source of sugar. But there are other, more insidious hiding places for the white stuff.
“Sugar is hidden everywhere, and even packaged foods that appear healthy can often be packed full [of it],” says Dr Marilyn Glenville, a certified nutritionist and author of Natural Alternatives To Sugar. “Make meals from scratch as opposed to relying on ‘low sugar’ or ‘slim line’ foodstuffs, as they usually contain artificial sweeteners that are linked to mood swings, depression and weight gain.”
Sugar is smuggled into everything from canned veg to pasta sauce, salad dressing to wholemeal bread. So before you reach for that jar of bolognese, consider a healthy homemade option instead.
Mind Your Labels
And we don’t just mean the nutritional values on the back of a packet of Monster Munch. Be wary of viewing food through the lens of good and bad – it’ll only compound your cravings further.
“For a healthy relationship with food, don’t apply positive or negative terms to food,” says psychologist Corinne Sweet (and yes, that is her real name). “‘Good’ or ‘bad’ labels can create stress and complex feelings, which can actually accentuate and increase the cravings for sugar.”
Avoid Seeing Food As A Punishment Or Reward
On a basic (and very depressing) level, we eat food to subsist. Which means you shouldn’t indulge in sugar to celebrate or indeed, commiserate.
“People learn behaviours with a punishment and reward value, like a beer after a meeting or chocolate after submitting homework,” says Sweet. “Separate eating and drinking from this mindset, and be aware of situations when temptation will present itself to adjust your diet accordingly.”
Go For Quality
Once you’ve differentiated food from a punishment and reward system, opt for a better class of dessert if and when you indulge.
When you’re eating something sweet, go for natural options like dark chocolate, fruit or honey says Shona Wilkinson, a nutritionist at Superfood UK. “Products with a minimum of 75 per cent cocoa contains much less sugar, and they won’t affect your blood glucose as much as regular chocolate. Plus, there’s added antioxidants to enjoy.” Better than going all week with sweet FA.
The idea of three square meals a day is drilled into us from childhood, but it’s not necessarily the best way to reduce sugar intake.
“Ensure you eat little and often during the day to keep your blood sugar level steady,” says Glenville. “If you let yourself become hungry between meals, you’re more likely to suffer from energy slumps and reach for a quick sugar fix.”
Space your calories over four meals instead of three and you’ll cancel the 3pm siren call from the cookie jar.
Keep A Food Diary
Though it sounds a little WeightWatchers, recording meals is a surefire way to regulate a diet.
“If you’re struggling to keep track of your eating habits, try logging what you eat,” says Wilkinson. “This can help monitor food groups you may be overindulging in, and will aid portion control for anything potentially sugary.”
When All Else Fails, Clean Out The Cupboards
Sugar isn’t awful when you have it before a workout, or limit your intake to recommended levels. But if your sweet tooth is out of control, then you have to exorcise the demon.
“Out of sight, out of mind – eliminate all sugary snacks so you can’t feel tempted after the gym or work,” says Wilkinson. “If there are treats in the cupboard, it can be too easy to add indulgence into our daily routine without a second thought.”
Admit it, you’re sweet enough.