Do you feel intense cravings for sugar?
It has been said that sweet is the first taste humans prefer at birth. Fast forward and it's still the preferred taste for many. There really is science behind the cravings that you are NOT imagining! Carbohydrates stimulate the chemical serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical. Sugar stimulates the same receptors in your brain as morphine and heroin. Yikes!
We all know sugar can cause problems with our teeth, but it's important to know excessive sugar intake can lead to a host of other health problems including obesity, diabetes, liver disease, high blood pressure and heart disease. High sugar intake often lowers HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and raises LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and can raise the blood fats that clog your arteries and lead to heart disease. AND when there are frequent sugar spikes, insulin is not as efficient at allowing sugar into the cells, causing the sugar to get 'stuck" in the body, causing obesity and diabetes.
Who's nervous now—and we were only concerned about our weight! If this isn't motivation to kick the sugar habit, what is? There is no time like the present to start cutting our sugar intake.
According to the American Heart Association, women should consume no more than 100 calories or 24 grams (6 level teaspoons) of added sugar a day, and men should limit their sugar to 150 calories or 36 grams (9 level teaspoons) a day. Each gram of sugar contains four calories, so if you see a table that says 15 grams of sugar, that equals 60 calories.
Check out my tips to reducing sugar
1. Reduce sugary drinks. Even diet drinks are a problem because of the excessive artificial sweetener. Did you know a medium Coke can have over 14 teaspoons of sugar and a 12-ounce glass of orange juice can contain 10 teaspoons of sugar? If you are a fruit juice drinker, dilute it with seltzer/carbonated water to cut the sugar. Eventually you might just add a splash of juice to your seltzer or add a lemon wedge or even better, try adding one drop of Doterra lemon essential oil for a boost of flavor!
2. Eat frequently. Split up your meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugars level and cravings at bay. For example, have a plain yogurt and fruit when you get up and a hard-boiled egg (or two) mid-morning.
3. Eliminate processed foods like chips, crackers, muffins, cookies, desserts, candies, white pasta and rice. Remember sugars are hidden everywhere, even in the foods that are thought to be healthy choices. Peanut butter, yogurt and cereals are great examples of foods that can have excess sugar if the more natural versions aren't consumed. Synonymous words for sugar, commonly found on food labels are: maltose, dextrose, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, xylitol, molasses, cane sugar, corn sweetener, raw sugar, syrup, honey, fruit juice concentrate. Check your labels!
4. Sub in some fruit for the sweet taste. Make a fresh and dried fruits readily available and add them to your meals. Get creative! Add some mango to your grilled chicken dish or throw raisins in your plain yogurt.
5. Trick your taste buds with sweet spices. Add cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg or vanilla to your coffee, natural cereals or healthy shakes.
6. Use alternative sweeteners (in moderation) in place of sugar. Honey is a decent choice because it contains other health compounds including proteins, amino acids and trace minerals. I would read up on low calorie sweeteners as there are varied opinions and they are not all created equal, but some experts recommend stevia because a little bit goes a long way (it's very sweet) and comes from a plant native to Paraguay and Brazil.
7. Do not eat sweet treats by themselves. The goal is to reduce simple sugars as much as possible, but if you do, pair them with another healthy fat or protein like nuts or some olive oil and whole grain bread. This helps keep the sugar levels stable. Also, give yourself a sweet treat calorie limit to keep the quantities small.
8. Find treats that have nutritional value in them. Nut butters mixed with dark chocolate can be used in a variety of ways. I have a great protein ball recipe that combines oats, almond butter, honey and dark chocolate chips. Another idea is to melt a bar of natural dark chocolate and mix it into a jar of organic peanut butter. Cool it in the fridge so that the flavors blend. When you need a sweet treat, have a spoonful. It still has 4.5 grams of sugar per serving, but compare it to a brownie which may contain 30 grams of sugar! One of my favorite healthy treats is to make a healthy shake that tastes like it's dessert! Combine almond milk, a ripe banana, peanut or almond butter and natural cocoa. The possibilities are endless when it comes to shakes and smoothies.
9. Chew a piece of gum. Chewing gum can sometimes calm your food cravings down. It's not something you want to do all day long, but having something sweet to chew can go a long way without the high sugar damage.
10. Log your food on an app like Myfitnesspal and make sure to check out the macronutrient percentages you consume on their pie graph they supply for you as you add your foods. Awareness is key! Most of my clients have been surprised at the findings of their actual macronutrient content.
Some people try quitting simple sugars cold turkey and they find the first 48-72 hours challenging, but also find their cravings diminish considerably. That's not for everyone, however, setting goals and limits before your day begins will help you stay on track!
Bottom line: If you eat well, you will feel better, look better, have more energy, fend off disease and be a happier person! Let's do this!
Health and Happiness,
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