Sweet temptation: Eight Ways to Tame the Sugar Beast
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Surely you have heard that sugar is bad for you. You know that sugar is bad for your waistline. Still, you cannot stop eating it. It draws you in in the form of candy in the break room, a delicate scone, hazelnut flavor in your coffee. The average American consumes more than 130 lbs of sugar/year, which comes out to 3 lbs/week, or 22 tsps/day. And don’t think for one instant that because you use Splenda you are any better off (in fact, you may be worse off). It’s the flavor, the craving, the boost of energy that you are chasing.
So what’s the problem? Who cares if you eat a little sweet stuff here and there all day long? Is it really so bad? In one word: YES.
Sugar comes in many forms, and the most common we see are cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, and fruit juice concentrate. People say that when you eat sugar you are consuming ‘empty’ calories. This is not true. Not only do you not get any nutrition from sugar, but sugar actually leeches nutrients out of your body, so you are actually at a deficit when you consume it. Here is another fact for you: Eating excess amounts of sugar suppresses your immune system, decreasing white blood cell activity by up to 50%. So if you, like many people, are eating sweets here and there throughout the day, you are actually living with a chronically suppressed immune system. There are many bullet points on the list of “Why Sugar is Bad,” but the point of this article is to help you kick the habit, so read on for eight tips on beating the sugar cravings.
1. Eat a healthy breakfast focused around protein. Too many of you are starting your day with carbs, or worse yet, nothing, drowned in coffee. Your blood sugar is low when you wake up, and when you instantly hit it with carbs/coffee, you cause your blood sugar to spike, which leads to a crash. The crash leaves you craving more sugar for an instant burst of energy, and thus the cycle begins. Start your day with healthy protein and maybe a few complex carbs so that you can stabilize your blood sugar and break the cycle before it starts.
2. Eat adequate amounts of protein throughout the day. Protein is crucial for giving us sustained energy and keeping our blood sugar level. Start planning snacks based on protein rather than carbs, such as nuts, hummus or cottage cheese — especially for that 3 pm energy crash.
3. Eat healthy fats throughout the day. Healthy fats have been shown to keep sugar cravings at bay. Avocado, coconut oil, and olive oil are a few of the best (and yummiest).
Photo Credit: Brett Jordan (Own Work)
Photo Credit: Brett Jordan (Own Work)
5. Always combine carbs/sugar with fiber, healthy fat, or protein. Fiber, fat and protein are like the ground for the shock your body gets when sugar enters your system. It allows your blood sugar to rise more slowly than it would if the sugar went in on its own, which allows you to avoid the post-sugar crash. If you are pre-diabetic or diabetic, you’ll want to follow this 100 percent of the time, even when eating fruit.
6. Avoid low-fat products. Once you start reading labels, you’ll notice that when producers take out fat, they often compensate for the remaining not-so-good flavor by adding sugar. Also, once the fat is taken out, there is no longer a ground for the sugar (see #5).
7. Pay attention to your cravings. Most of you likely crave sugar around 3 p.m. That post-lunch crash is set up by eating the wrong foods early in the day, and can easily be changed by making a few different food choices at breakfast and lunch. Many of you are also reaching for sugar when you are tired, stressed, or depressed. Once you start paying attention to when and why you need that brownie, you can start to take control of it and replace it with healthier choices.
8. Get more sleep. Sugar and refined carbohydrates provide us with quick easy energy, so when we are overly tired our bodies are smart enough to make us crave them. You eat the candy bar,get the quick energy, but shortly afterward you crash along with your blood sugar. Now you need more candy, or maybe another coffee, and the cycle keeps going. Instead, focus on regulating your sleep, and see if those cravings lessen.
This list could go on. There are numerous ways to tame your sugar cravings. Giving up or cutting back on sugar is not easy, but the rewards are big. You may find that your skin looks better, your jeans fit better, you don’t get sick as easily, and you have more energy. Give it a try and see how much better you feel. You have nothing to lose except that 3 pm crash
Homepage Photo Credit: Daniel Novta (Own Work)