30/04/2013 09:08 BST | Updated 29/06/2013 06:12 BST

Can We Curb Those Cravings for Sweets?

Like a lot of you guys out there, I've always had a sweet tooth - anything sweet, cakes, ice cream, chocolates, I used to gorge on them at the drop of a hat. Sugar was my vice like smoking is a vice for others. My system was full of the stuff. Now I know it partly contributed to creating the perfect breathing ground for toxins and disease in my body.

According to an article in the Guardian, in the last two decades, British sugar consumption has increased by 31%, to 1.25lb per person per week. Though fewer and fewer of us take sugar in our tea, and sprinkle less over our cereals and puddings, we are actually consuming more.

When you take into account all the sugar in cereals, fizzy drinks like Coke and all other foods and snacks, it all adds up. We can get addicted to sugar which is very dangerous to our health.

According to Joshua Rosenthal (founder and director of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition), in his book Integrative Nutrition, sugar qualifies as an addictive substance for two reasons:

1. Eating even a small amount creates a desire for more.

2. Suddenly quitting (cold turkey) causes withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, mood swings, cravings and fatigue.

Fortunately and unfortunately, there's sugar in almost every food and drink out there like fizzy drinks, juices, bread, cereals, wholefoods, vegetables and even dried fruits, which are supposedly healthy, but are infused with sugar (why that's done will always be a mystery to me). What we need to understand is the types of sugar we as individuals will allow into our bodies through our mouths.

Dangers of sugar

Sugar can contribute to cellular inflammation which compromises cell function which can cause a whole list of explosive eruptions in our body. Sugar feeds cancer cells, promotes weight gain, premature aging, heart disease, diabetes, candida and tooth decay. All these diseases develop progressively over several years of continuous sugar consumption. By no means am I trying to indicate that sugar is the only cause of these diseases, but when you add sugar into the mix of an already toxic, stressed out environment, it makes it much easier for diseases to form and progress.

As previously indicated, we can find sugar in almost every food and drink out there but it is the type of sugar we ingest that is very important and we need to be aware of. Unrefined sugar is a simple carbohydrate which occurs naturally in foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and brown rice. They contain many vitamins and minerals, and when eaten are broken down into glucose molecules which are then released and burned slowly into the blood stream, giving you a steady stream of energy and you don't feel hungry quickly.

On the other hand, processed/refined sugars have no vitamins or minerals which is why the digestive system works harder to digest them. Also known as sucrose, it is not easily digestible which means the body uses up its store of minerals to absorb it properly. What we all know as a "sugar rush" is caused by refined sugar going directly into the blood stream causing the blood sugar levels to increase temporarily and then dropping - which is when we experience fatigue, brain fog and hunger. Then what we tend to do is reach for chocolate bars, fizzy drinks etc., and the cycle starts all over again. This tends to be common with a lot of people in the afternoon, an hour or two after lunch - "the afternoon slump" - I know I used to be one.

So what can we do about our sugar addictions? Here's what I did and am doing as it's definitely still work in progress. I gradually got rid of all the sugar in my house and replaced them with substitutes like manuka honey and agave nectar in the first instance. There are a lot of other substitutes out there like maple syrup (which I use sometimes for baking), date sugar, stevia, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar etc. you have to try them out and find the one that best suits you.

I also started to include whole grains in my diet like quinoa, sweet vegetables like bell peppers, parsnips, sweet potatoes which you can prepare as snacks and munch on when you feel peckish. My absolute favourite snack these days is carrots and hummus - carrots are quite sweet especially when cooked and when I have them with hummus, can be quite filling as well. Also try organic plain rice cakes with almond or hazelnut butter, also quite filling.

For everything food or drink out there made with refined sugar, there is always a substitute. If you can't find one, try to make something yourself. At least that way, you know exactly what's in it and it's to your own taste and preference. Food is meant to be enjoyed, there are no hard or fast rules but an abundance of recipes out there which you can try and make your own. The first time might turn out to be a disaster but if you stick at it, the second or third try may just be absolutely perfect.

Look after your body and your body will look after you.

Peace and fabulous health!