In case you were wondering, sugar is kind of addictive.

Did you know that sugar stimulates our brains to release dopamine and serotonin, which literally produces a euphoric effect in our bodies similar to the high one gets from doing cocaine?

Sounds crazy, right? Yet it’s completely true. It’s no wonder so many people feel they could have a true addiction to sugar!

And the worst part? Half of the time we don’t even know we are consuming sugar because it has been cleverly disguised as many other names on food labels. This means that despite our best intentions, cutting the sweet stuff can be a huge undertaking. Here are some examples:

Excessive intake of sugar can lead to many different side effects and complications in the body, including increased risk of diabetes & heart disease, weight gain, acne, mood disorders, and even cancer.

The average North American only consumes about 25 pounds of vegetables per year, yet they consume about 22 teaspoons of sugar daily. This is the equivalent of eating my entire body weight in sugar annually!

What’s even more shocking is that many health professionals actually believe this statistic is far too low. They suggest that the average North American may consume closer to 50 teaspoons of sugar per day.

For those of you following along, that’s nearly to DOUBLE my body weight in sugar each year!

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Many people attempt to combat their sugar addictions by substituting with artificial sweeteners, and I highly recommend NOT doing this. Diet pop, chewing gum and many different foods labelled as “sugar-free” are often laden in a chemical sweetener called aspartame.

I personally choose to avoid aspartame and other chemical sweeteners at all cost. If you just can’t imagine giving up the bubbly fizz of your daily sip of soda, perhaps try a sparkling water with natural flavours instead. (Just be sure to check the ingredients for added sweeteners!)

Why am I SO dead set against aspartame as a substitute for sugar? It has 92 potential known side effects in our bodies.

Yes my friends, I said NINETY TWO!

But alas, my sweet-toothed friends! There is a natural, plant-based sweetener that is 200 times the sweetness of sugar. A tiny bit goes a long way, and I personally believe it is a much better option! My friends, let me introduce you to STEVIA.

Put it in your coffee, use it in baking, or sprinkle it on grapefruit. The flavour isn’t exactly the same, but it definitely provides the sweetness we crave without the sharp spike and crash we feel from regular sugar! For anyone looking to get their sugar addiction in check, stevia can be an incredibly helpful tool.

Like anything, not all stevia is created equal. Many companies have created processed versions of stevia that have a very small percentage of the good stuff in them, so I would recommend seeking out a green stevia powder. Have a peek at the ingredients list to see if it includes anything other than stevia. This is a brand I personally like (I am not sponsored by them, I just love the quality of their products).

There are also other natural sweeteners you can use such as raw honey (my personal favourite!), maple syrup and coconut palm sugar, and I would absolutely recommend going for these over any refined or processed sweeteners, but remember that even natural sugars will have an effect on the blood sugar balance in your body. Yes, even maple syrup can be addictive! Moderation is key. It’s all about balance, right?

Do you consider yourself a sugar addict? What are some strategies you have found helpful in reducing your sugar intake?