Is sugar really addicting? You bet, and here's some reasons why. Eating sugar causes serotonin, dopamine and endorphins to be released which all contribute to making us "feel good" and since we all want to feel good we begin associating eating sugar with feeling good and our sugar cravings increase. You're probably familiar with the sugar rush you get that makes you feel energized right after eating sugar. Sugar actually stimulates the same brain receptors as heroin and morphine. It also interferes with the hormones that let us know when we are full. When this system is not functioning properly we don't recognize that hunger has been satisfied and continue eating. If you have a diet with a lot of sugar, kicking the sugar habit can cause withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and being irritable. This is partly due to the yeast, parasites and bacteria in the digestive system and other parts of the body that are fed by sugar. When sugar is reduced in the diet these organisms face a reduction in their food supply and cause us to have symptoms of withdrawal. Since there are different types of sugars, some better for you than others, and it is so prevalent in foods, how do you know how much sugar is too much? After all, even fresh fruits and vegetables have sugars in them. The biggest concern in sugar addiction is the added sugars you consume. For women this number should be no more than 25 grams daily and for men no more than 38 grams a day. Giving up sugar is not always easy, but here are some tips that can help.
1. Find the Hidden Sugars
Naturally occurring sugars in foods are not the big issue for most people as natural sugars like lactose and fructose have other needed nutrients. The problem is with the added sugars in foods that you might not even realize are there. Reading the labels on foods and understanding what they mean is therefore important. Ingredients on labels are listed according to their weight in the product so if any of the first three ingredients listed are a form of sugar then you'll know it makes up a large percentage of the product. Look for words that end in –ose as a clue to sugars like dextrose or words that include syrup, molasses or honey. All these can be added sugar ingredients. Don't assume just because the product doesn't taste "sweet" that it doesn't have any added sugar. It is common to add sugars to products to make them taste better, so read all the labels on anything you buy that is packaged. The label will also list the amount of sugars in a serving size of the product. Figure that a gram equals 4 calories and multiply the number of grams of sugar by 4 and then multiply that number by the number of servings in the product to find out how many calories that product has from sugar. Doing this on the foods you eat will help you find out how much sugar and calories from sugar you are consuming on a regular basis. Then you can work on cutting out the top most sugar-filled foods that you eat and finding substitutes for those. If you find you eat a lot of added sugar, you may have to work on just cutting down one thing at a time to be successful. You might be surprised how much your waistline will slim down just cutting out your afternoon candy bar or soda.
2. Probiotics to Fight Sugar Cravings
The naturally occurring probiotics that live in your intestines not only help with digestion but are part of the immune system. Sugar addiction causes an overgrowth of yeast and bacteria that are harmful to your body and that take over the good bacteria you need as these microorganisms feed on sugar. The more you satisfy your sugar cravings, the more you are feeding these and the more sugar cravings you have as they continue to grow and demand to be fed. It's a vicious cycle that needs to be broken before it leads to conditions such as Candida. Boosting your good bacteria by eating foods that contain probiotics and even taking probiotic supplements can help rebalance your intestinal flora. Increasing your good bacteria will help them to get rid of the bad. Foods such as kefir, yogurt, and kombucha which is a fermented tea are good sources of probiotics. Read the labels though and make sure you get products that say live active cultures. You can also take supplements of high quality acidophilus, bifidus or a full-spectrum probiotic formula to support your good bacteria growth.
3. Combat Sugar Cravings with Protein
Many people eat foods high in sugar and simple carbs because they find it gives them an energy boost to make it through the day. It does do this, but the flip side is that with the sugar high comes the sugar crash. The energy boost is short lived and the ups and downs your blood sugar levels take is not healthy and is hard on the adrenal glands. A healthier solution is to have a diet that maintains even blood sugar levels throughout the day. Protein throughout the day starting with breakfast can help provide your body with the energy it needs on a stable basis all day. This would include eating foods like meats, nuts, beans, soy and dairy. As your body adjusts to this stability, sugar cravings will reduce. Protein is also where the body gets the amino acids it needs to produce the right balance of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine necessary for regulating mood, energy and cognitive function. Sugar can interfere with serotonin and dopamine production. Adding protein rich foods to your diet as you wean off the sugar can help offset the damaging effects and reduce the body's dependence on extra sugar for energy. AFA bluegreen algae is another excellent source of protein and has all 20 amino acids our bodies need including phenylalanine, an amino acid that crosses the blood-brain barrier faster than any other amino acid.
4. Prepare for Cravings
As you start reducing your sugar intake and make it through the withdrawal stage you may still find that you have sugar cravings. Know this ahead of time and plan for it. Give some thought as to what it is about certain sugary foods and drinks that attracts you to them. Is it the texture?, the chewiness?, the sweetness?, the carbonation? and so on. Then find substitutes that might meet some of those same conditions and have them ready for when those nasty sugar cravings pop up. For example, replace soda with seltzer water that is flavored or air popped popcorn instead of potato chips. The internet is filled with healthy recipes that can help you find substitutions.
5. Plan When and How Much to Indulge
If you just feel like you are being too deprived and life is not worth living without your favorite sugar food, then at least pick the best time and conditions in which to indulge. After vigorous exercise your body is at its best for sugar digestion. Save your snack for around half an hour after your workout and maybe eat a protein along with it. Many experts recommend eating more smaller meals throughout the day rather than the traditional 3 meals to keep blood sugar levels stable and thus reduce sugar cravings. And of course finding a replacement for the sugary snack is still the best alternative. I find that this bar fortified with sprouted grains, greens and bluegreen algae makes a tasty and healthy snack alternative that provides a complete protein and all the essential amino acids I need. Eating more fruits can also satisfy cravings for something sweet. Dr. Oz has a great solution for those who like their sugar in the form of sodas or juice. He recommends you start watering them down with half a cup of seltzer which cuts the amount of sugar you are getting in half. Then slowly add more and more seltzer and less and less soda or juice.
6. Add the Good Fats to Your Diet
Eating more saturated fats can also help with sugar cravings. You may be thinking that saturated fats are not healthy and can lead to increased cholesterol levels and you're right. There are saturated fats that are good for us however. According to Tim Ferriss from FourHourWorkWeek.com, the types of saturated fats found in foods like butter, cream, coconut oil and palm oil are necessary for metabolism function to operate properly. Since the brain needs lots of healthy fats to feed it, having more of these in your diet will help it keep brain chemicals stable, keep the brain working optimally and reduce sugar cravings. Just be picky on what saturated fats you are adding to your diet
7. Cope with Stress
Stress can cause the brain to tell the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol causing blood sugar levels and blood pressure to rise. That's why when we are stressed we often crave sugary and fatty foods. Resist the urge to reach for the sugary foods and opt instead for whole grain foods with fiber. The body absorbs this type of food more slowly which adds more stability to blood sugar levels and this type of food allows the body to increase serotonin production. Complex carb foods help keep your energy level stable throughout the day so you don't feel the need to get the sugar rush when you start dragging. Eating foods with magnesium, B vitamins and chlorophyll can also help in relieving stress. As your body becomes stressed it uses up these stress relievers more quickly so that just when you need them the most, they are the least available to you. Eating lots of leafy greens, halibut, oysters, nuts and seeds can give you the extra nutrition you need to support your body through the times you are coping with stress. Be sure to also get enough good quality sleep, exercise, maintain a social network of friends or family and make time for relaxation activities such as yoga or meditation to help reduce stress.
There you have it! Seven ways to help you kick the sugar habit. If you struggle with sugar cravings and know you have a sugar addiction there's no time like the present to make a change that will leave you feeling better and being healthier.
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