No More Sweet Tooth
At the turn of the 20th century, the average sugar consumption per person in the US was 5-10 lbs per year; in 2001, it was 170 lbs! During this time we have witnessed an alarming increase in obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and conditions related to a compromised immune system (immune function is suppressed for up to 5 hours after eating sugar!). Is it coincidental that these ailments were quite rare in traditional cultures before the introduction of white sugar and other refined carbohydrates, such as white flour and white rice?
Everyone knows that sugar causes tooth decay; but what many don’t realize is that dental problems are almost always an outward sign of a systemic problem. For example, thinning tooth enamel indiactes mineral depletion, while gingivitis may be a precursor to heart disease. Additionally, sugar and refined carbohydrates feeds bacteria (including those that cause acne), viruses, Candida albicans (a yeast-like microorganism that can cause digestive problems and yeast infections), and even cancer cells. An overgrowth of Candida, which is quite common, especially among women, will itself create more sugar cravings.
So why can’t everyone just simply give up sugar? Unfortunately, it can be one of the hardest habits to kick, partly because it is so pervasive in our culture, and partly because, for some people, it is highly addictive. Beyond simply tasting good, sugar affects the physiology of the body in several ways that keep us hooked. Sugar and refined carbohydrates cause the blood sugar to rise rapidly, then quickly crash back down, leading to more sugar cravings and an endless roller coaster effect. Sugar stimulates the same pleasure pathways in the brain as alcohol and many drugs. At the same time it ends up depleting us of the co-factors needed to make our own feel-good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters), leading to a dependency on sugar or refined carbs to feel good.
There are, however, many things that can be done to overcome sugar cravings. Following are some guidelines that will help reduce cravings and ensure better overall health, steady energy, a stronger immune system, and better weight control.
Check all labels for added sugar, especially salad dressings, mayonnaise, breakfast cereals, soups, and canned foods. Get rid of anything with added sugar.
Stop drinking soda! Regular soda contains a whopping 8-12 teaspoons of sugar, while diet sodas contain aspartame which blocks the production of serotonin, causing more sugar and carbohydrate cravings! Instead, try drinking low sodium mineral water with a splash of unsweetened fruit juice.
Switch from refined flour to whole grain products. Remember, refined grains and refined grain products affect blood sugar in the same way as white sugar.
Use alternate sweeteners. Use stevia, xylitol or lo han, none of which significantly affect blood sugar levels.
Lighten the glycemic load. If you need to drink something sweet, dilute fruit juice with water. Try to avoid eating anything sweet on an empty stomach; add some protein and/or fat into the equation (e.g. some nuts with fruit) to ease the glycemic load. This way your blood sugar won’t go up, or crash down, so quickly. Crashing blood sugar leads to more cravings.
Don’t skip breakfast. Eating breakfast helps to stabilize your blood sugar, whereas skipping it tends to unbalance it.
Include protein at every meal. Protein is made up of amino acids that your body uses to make feel-good brain chemicals, short-circuiting cravings. It also keeps your blood sugar steady.
Cut back on alcohol. Alcohol is itself another form of sugar. If you are going to drink, try to limit your consumption to one glass of wine or beer a day.
Get enough sleep. Research shows that when people are sleep deprived, they are much more likely to reach for sweets or other refined carbs.
Tune into your emotions. If you are craving sugar because of an emotional upset, try to deal with it through direct communication, journaling, talking to a friend, or counseling.