When working with new clients, I always ask them what their biggest food vice is – and the answer is always, you got it: Sugar!
It’s next to impossible to avoid. It’s in almost every processed food out there on a shelf in some form or another. It’s in yogurt, spaghetti sauce, toothpaste, mouthwash and even mustard! Manufacturers are even using fancy names like, evaporated cane juice or raw cane sugar to try and trick us, when the truth is, it’s still sugar and it still has the same effect on the body.
Our body needs sugar to survive. Our muscles need it after a workout to restore glycogen supplies. We do need it, but not in the amounts or from the sources that an average American is ingesting it from today.
Studies show that an average American ingests up to 150 pounds of sugar per year…150 lbs! That’s insane! And not only is it insane, but eating that much sugar is causing a whole slew of health problems for kids and adults.
Sugar inhibits the effect of leptin, which is a hormone that lets your body know when it’s full. So your body never feels full and you keep right on eating!
Adult onset diabetes is at its highest and so is obesity. Sugar is one of the biggest culprits of these two diseases. Some agencies are claiming that it’s as addictive as heroine, in that it releases the same “feel-good” chemicals in your brain that heroine does, short-term of course, leaving you wanting more.
There has even been recent talk of taxing it, like we do cigarettes and other addictive like substances. Anything that creates a craving for more, even from just having a small amount, is considered an addictive substance.
Think about this: if you drink one cup of coffee every day and put 2 teaspoons of sugar into that coffee, and multiply that by 7 days, that’s 14 teaspoons of sugar a week, just in your daily coffee. If you multiply that by year, it’s 728 teaspoons or 15.16 CUPS per year! And that does not account for all the other foods you eat daily that are loaded with sugar and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).
Well, there is hope. There is a way to tame your Sugar Monster. There are ways you can still keep sweetness in your life while cutting out the “bad” stuff. You don’t have to fully deprive your taste buds, which do need to be sweetly satisfied from time to time, but you can do it in a healthful way.
Many of us also turn to sugary food for comfort, which seems to be another big mountain to climb in the world of healthy eating. Comfort eating, otherwise known as emotional eating, is something many of us engage in when we are stressed, feel alone, or feel angry or sad. We use food as something to “get us through,” or comfort us, when in all actuality it could be negatively feeding our feelings and causing major mood disorders.
During my 30-day cleanses, which are 95% sugar free, except for certain types of fruit and small amounts of low-glycemic sweeteners, mostly all of my participants claim feeling more even-keeled, more patient and more level-headed. This is due to them finding their natural energy through balanced blood sugar, which is next to impossible when you keep feeding your sugar monster day in and day out.
Keeping our blood sugar levels stable will help us to have sustained energy and focus throughout the day, as well as help our metabolism to fire properly.
Did you know that eating sugar can suppress our immune system for up to 6 hours??? Why do you think so many people get sick right after the holiday season? Their immunity is so worn down from eating so much sugary, fatty food that they are completely vulnerable to any bug that is out there.
So, here are some simple steps you can follow to begin to tame your sugar monster. Remember that Rome was not built in a day, and breaking habits can take anywhere from 21-32 days of consistent action. If you really want to break your sugar addiction, these steps can help you on the road to “recovery.” Remember, coming off any “substance” can cause detox like effects, so be sure to drink a lot of water and take care of yourself by listening to your body’s needs.
1. Eat foods that are high in complex carbohydrates throughout the day like: beans, gluten free grains, yams, apples, and pears. This will ensure that glucose is slowly released in your blood stream giving you stable blood sugar levels all day long.
2. Use alternative sweeteners such as Grade B Maple Syrup, Stevia, Coconut/Palm Sugar, Mesquite Powder, Lucuma Powder and Xylitol (these can all be found at your local health food store.) Remember these are still a form of sugar, so you don’t want to use massive amounts, use a drizzle here and there, or replace these sweeteners for real sugar when baking. There is always a healthier alternative available, especially if you make it yourself.
3. Drink 2 teaspoons of Apple Cider Vinegar in 6-8 oz of water before bed each night or sip throughout the day, this will help to curb sugar cravings.
4. Take a high quality B-Complex and 1,000 mg of Chromium Picolinate per day to help with your daily cravings.
5. Drink Gymnema tea. This can help to block the sensation of sweetness on your tongue.
6. Address underlying emotional issues that cause you to eat sugary foods. Work with a therapist, nutritionist or wellness coach to help you get to the root of your comfort eating and sugar cravings. When you feel a craving, sit with it instead of feeding it. See if you can determine if the craving is real or if you are seeking solace outside of yourself. You can journal about it and see if anything further comes forward. Awareness is the first step to breaking any habit. Talk to a friend about it and seek support.
7. Bulk up on leafy greens and allium foods, such as onions, leeks and garlic. The flavonoids will help your cravings.
Remember, as I mentioned, it can take a while to break a habit. It starts with your awareness and your commitment to your health and well-being. Not only is sugar the culprit of many prevalent diseases today, but it is also responsible for premature aging, arthritis, brittle bones and more. It is highly acidic, which creates an unhealthy and toxic internal environment in your body.
Are you trying to tame the Sugar Monster? Are there any steps you take to curb your cravings? Let’s start a discussion in the comments below!
# # #
P.S. See my cookbook, The Ultimate Karma Chow Cookbook, for a full sugar substitution list.
Melissa Costello is a personal chef, wellness coach and nutrition educator. Check out her website here.