Let’s face it: We’re addicted to sugar — and it’s wreaking havoc on our health.
Check the back of your favorite snack, and you’ll probably see some form of sugar on the ingredient list. Whether they call it sugar, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, sorbitol, maltodextrin, mannitol, or malitol, sugar is inside a lot of our foods, and consuming too much of it can pose serious health risks.
Long known to cause weight gain and high cholesterol, diets high in sugar have been strongly linked to diabetes, heart disease, hyperactivity, and tooth decay. Some studies even suggest that excess sugar intake can cause depression and mood swings.
Need another reason to kick your sugar habit? The chemical bleaching process that turns raw cane sugar into the pure white powder you put in your coffee takes huge amounts of energy and emits tons of greenhouse gases. Not to mention the environmental damage caused by large-scale sugar cane plantations, whose toxic chemical runoff pollutes the local water supply and threatens public health.
It may be hard to avoid sugar these days, but it’s not impossible — you just have to know what to look out for. Below we’ve compiled a list of the worst sugar offenders and a five-step guide to kicking your sugar habit without sacrificing your sweet tooth.
Identifying the sugar culprits
Avoid all the white stuff — Within 15 minutes of ingestion, white bread transforms into sugar in your blood stream. It burns very quickly and is deceptively filling. Say no to refined carbs: white sugar, white flour, and white potatoes.
All of these foods have the same effect on the blood sugar; they cause a tremendous spike, then dramatic fall in blood sugar. This causes intense mood swings, hyper cravings, and low energy.
Usually intense sugar binges are followed by cravings for very salty and fatty foods. This destructive cycle causes weight gain among other health side effects. Choose dark breads and whole grains to fill you up and give you lasting energy.
Don’t drink the juice — There are so many hidden sugars in beverages. By now you know soda is an obvious item to eliminate, but fruit juices are high on the list as well. Fruit juices have all the sugar but none of the healthy fiber of whole fruits. Add a lemon wedge or splash of fruit juice to water to give it a kick.
Don’t go low on the carbs — When you don’t consume enough carbohydrates to fuel your body, you get hungry, which many people experience as a craving for sweet foods.
Build meals around complex carbohydrate-rich foods. Examples include baked or roasted purple potatoes; sweet potatoes; root vegetables, such as carrots or parsnips; fresh fruits; or whole grains, such as brown or wild rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, or 100-percent sprouted or sourdough whole-grain bread.
Add colorful, fibrous vegetables — particularly greens — preferably steamed or sautéed leafy greens, salad greens, a dash of healthy fat or oil (nuts or seeds; olive, coconut or flax oil; butter; or avocado), and include a small portion of protein in each meal, as insufficient protein intake will induce sugar cravings as well. So keep your diet well rounded.
Shake your sugar blues — Emotional eating is a huge factor when it comes to sugar dependency. Instead of using sugar to cope with imbalances in our lives, why not explore a dialogue to start fresh. Integrate healthier sweeteners, and make a conscious effort to decrease your intake of sweets. Your body will thank you.
Five steps you can take to kick sugar to the curb:
1. Drink more water — We often experience cravings that are largely due to dehydration. Drink more water. When you feel a craving arise, drink an 8-ounce glass of water. See what happens 10 minutes later, you may find that your craving will decrease of fade entirely.
2. Manage your stress levels — Adrenal exhaustion can contribute to cravings for stimulants, such as salt, sugar, alcohol, coffee, etc. Working out daily and getting enough sleep will help alleviate your adrenals and relieve your system of stress. A regular practice of deep diaphramatic breathing will also help you manage stress as it rises.
3. Integrate sweet foods — Sweet potatoes, pears, and cinnamon: These foods are soothing to the pancreas and can satisfy the body’s craving for sweet taste.
4. Try herbs — Garcinia and gymnema sylvestre – aka “sugar destroyer.” This herb is used in Ayurvedic medicine to balance sugar cravings by temporarily numbing the tongue receptors to sweet and restoring the pancreas. You can take capsules or drink the tea.
5. Eat your veggies — As you increase your intake of dark leafy green vegetables, your body begins to find a balance and cravings for sweet begin to diminish. The micro sugars in your greens loaded with phyto-nutrients that fortify the blood and cleanse your organs.
Still need to satisfy the sweet tooth? Click here for a list of healthy sugar substitutes.
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