As with most things related to dieting and losing weight, making big changes all of a sudden makes it harder to keep your commitment. It’s the same whether you’re talking about exercising, cutting calories, eliminating sodium or cutting back on sugar.
Sugar has a very addictive nature for many people. It almost mimics a drug addiction, and your brain becomes dependent on it for things like satisfaction during meals or snacks as well as energy for some.
Instead of simply going on a sugar detox all at once, you might want to work on curbing your sugar addiction little by little. Start by cutting down slightly on the sugar you put in your coffee in the morning.
If you use two tablespoons, go to one and a half, then one, and so on. Don’t add extra sugar to your sugary cereals or other meals that already contain it. Watch product labels to see how much sugar you’re consuming.
Sugar is one of those things where, the more you have it, the more you want it. And you may not even be aware of how much sugar you’re actually eating or drinking each day. You might want to tally it up for a few days just to get an idea.
When you shop, think about the foods you’re buying and see if there’s a healthier option. For example, if you love having orange juice every morning, you might be shocked to find out how much sugar is added to it.
You might want to invest in a juicer and use whole oranges instead to make fresh, organic juice without all of the added sugar. Not only will it be healthier, but it will taste better, too.
If you’re big on processed foods for meals in your home, you’ll want to look at the label of those, too – because they’re often crammed with sugar in every box, can or jar. It might be better to start making things from scratch (or at least choosing a healthier option).
Sometimes, you think you’re making a healthy food choice, but you’re not. Take yogurt for example. It sounds healthy. But some yogurt tastes so great because of the amount of sugar they pour into the container.
Some people might recommend making the switch to a sugar substitute. But these can often cause digestive issues for many people. So it’s better to gradually wean yourself off of this substance or at least lower it to an acceptable amount.
As more and more people have become concerned with both the amount of sugar they are consuming, and the large number of artificial sweeteners that are being put into the food chain, attention has turned to trying to find the ‘holy grail’ of sweeteners, one that is both healthy and natural.
The trouble is that what sounds healthy might not be at all, and what has gotten a bad rap might actually be good for you.
Honey is naturally sweet and derived from the hives of bees, making it all natural. While it does have a lower glycemic index (GI) than table sugar (55 versus 70), it does have a significant impact on your blood sugar when you eat it, leaving you potentially more prone to craving sweet treats. Therefore, use in moderation.
Agave tastes similar to honey, but has a GI of only 15. It is derived from the cactus plant and can be used in the same way as honey, though it is important to note that it is higher in calories (310 vs. 250) per 100 g.
Corn has gotten a bad name due to high fructose corn syrup, that is, a natural sweetener which has become so much a part of the food industry it is being blamed as the most likely cause of the US obesity epidemic.
Corn can actually be part of a healthy diet if eaten in moderation. It is great eaten fresh from the cob with a pat of butter. It is excellent when air-popped and served with a sprinkle of cheese, or chocolate chips for a sweet treat. Studies have shown that popped corn has one of the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants of any food. In fact, it is said to have twice the level of blueberries.
Corn cobs are used to make the natural sugar substitute xylitol, which you’ve probably seen in sugar free gum. Corn starch is also often used as a thickener and can add some sweetness to recipes.
Corn meal, as in ground corn, is the basis for delicious corn bread or corn pudding. Provided it is not smothered with sugar, salt and gravy, homemade cornbread can be a healthy sweet or savory treat.
Corn is a naturally sweet food, but as with all things, use it in moderation.
No matter which you choose, remember the goal is always to burn more calories than you consume. Aim for a healthy diet and exercise, and sweets in moderation. Then see what a difference it can make to your health.
Now that there has been such an extreme backlash against artificial sweeteners like saccharin and Splenda, a great deal of attention is now being paid to sugar substitutes. The goal is to get a sweet taste from a natural source that is safe. So are these sugar substitutes really better for us? The answer is: It depends.
There are literally dozens of sugar substitutes that claim to be natural, healthier than sugar, and so on. The trouble is that many of these claims are unregulated. They also sound natural and safe, but can actually be more dangerous than you can imagine.
Brown rice syrup
For example, most people would consider brown rice to be a health food, so brown rice syrup would seem to be a healthy sweetener. This is a reasonable assumption, until you discover that it has a significant impact on blood sugar and a great deal of it is contaminated with high levels of arsenic.
Arsenic, a metal that is poisonous to humans, is found in the water where the rice grows. When the rice is processed to make the syrup, the arsenic becomes more concentrated. Arsenic can damage every organ in the body even if it doesn’t kill you outright, so this is one natural sugar substitute to steer well clear of.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
HFCS has been the mainstay of the food industry for decades as a natural sweetener. It is found in almost every packaged food on store shelves in one form or another. It is a cheap by-product of the corn industry, and cheaper than cane sugar. As the low-fat eating trend hit in the 1970s, HFCS started to hit its stride, adding more flavor to the foods that had had their fat content drastically cut. The result: unprecedented levels of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in the last 40 years in the US, far out of proportion to that experienced in other countries around the world.
Here are a few others to watch out for:
Dehydrated Cane Juice, Evaporated Cane Juice=sugar from the sugar cane plant
Fruit Juice Concentrate=usually apple juice, very sweet already, even sweeter if it is concentrated
Honey=a natural sweetener produced by bees, but with a comparable glycemic index (GI) to that of sugar (55 vs 70), so has a significant impact on blood sugar
Your best bet for a natural sugar substitute with no impact on blood sugar and no calories is stevia. But buyer beware. Check the label to make sure it has as few added ingredients as possible. Then see what a difference it can make to your health.
Clean eating is one of the latest trends for people trying to lose weight, and those who are health conscious and concerned about what’s really in the food they consume.
They’re right to be worried. Food labeling can be confusing and even deliberately misleading. There’s also all sorts of conflicting information about eating this, not that, and foods that sound healthy are often anything but.
With the rise in obesity and in Type 2 diabetes in the US, particular attention is being paid to the sources of sugar in our diets in an effort to cut down, if not steer clear completely.
Studies have shown that the average American eats around 22 teaspoons of sugar each day. The American Heart Association recommends only 6 teaspoons for women and 9 for men. In terms of clean eating, therefore, it means tracking down and eliminating the main sources of sugar in your diet.
Cake, cookies, candy, and other dessert-type foods are the obvious culprits for both sugar, and a lot of chemicals, so they should be the first to go when you start clean eating. If you are going to eat dessert, it should be made from all-natural foods and eaten sparingly, with a strict observance of tight portion control.
In fact, many people who start a clean eating regimen begin with a sugar detox because research has shown just how addictive sugar can be. It creates a rollercoaster of sugar highs and lows, alters mood and increases cravings.
Those who have a sweet tooth tend to be emotional eaters who grab sugary treats when they are stressed, bored, or want to ‘reward’ themselves in some way. Think about the foods we eat at birthdays, holidays and other special occasions and you will get an idea of just how common it is in society for sweets to be used as a reward.
Healthy foods that really aren’t
A Nature’s Valley granola bar sounds like the perfect healthy snack-until you read the label and see how much sugar, salt, fat and calories it has it in. Make your own trail mix with raisins, crasins and almonds. It will be better for you and probably even cheaper pound for pound. Use fruit for dessert, such as apples and berries.
Artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes
Clean eating means eliminating these from the diet. It therefore means learning how to make your own salad dressing, ketchup and more. Read most food labels in the store and you will find these as part of the ingredients. They might be disguised as dextrose and flavorings, but they are usually sugar and trigger cravings.
Try clean eating with a view to eliminating sugar, and see what a difference it can make to your health.
Do you suffer from a sweet tooth? You’re not alone. Unfortunately, many people try to curb their sugar cravings by using artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes that sound healthy, but really aren’t.
The good news is that there are a number of all-natural ways to curb your sugar cravings without a lot of cost or chemicals.
The natural foods you choose
Since we are what we eat, it should come as no surprise that the more sugar we crave and eat, the more we want, in a vicious cycle that has been compared to an addiction.
The foods you choose can benefit you in 2 ways. The first is to satisfy the sweet tooth. The second is to choose foods that help regulate your blood sugar in various ways.
Naturally sweet vegetables
Vegetables are full of fiber and natural sweetness. Carrots, sweet potatoes, beets and corn are natural sweet, and starchy too, meaning they take time to digest and release their energy longer than, for example, a candy bar. For this reason, some foods are termed low carb, and others slow carb. They may be higher in carbs, but they also help maintain steady blood sugar.
Carrots are tasty on their own, or in a carrot cake. Sweet potatoes are delicious straight out of the microwave, or in a pie.
Leafy greens are low in carbs and make you feel full. Some of them also contain certain minerals that regulate metabolism and can help maintain a steady supply of blood sugar throughout the day. A lot of people are not fond of the taste of broccoli, but it really is a super food that can help curb cravings.
Kale may seem like just a food fad, but there is hard science behind how it can also cut carb cravings. Eat it raw in salads or cooked lightly to preserve its nutrients.
Spinach is another superfood that can be eaten cooked or raw. It is wonderfully versatile as well, making it a perfect addition to omelets, quiches, and even the tops of homemade pizzas.
Almost all fruits are naturally sweet. Add an apple a day to your diet as your dessert, for example, or some grapes. They are moist, sweet and filling.
If you’ve been struggling with sugar cravings, add these foods to your diet as you remove processed foods and potentially harmful artificial sweeteners. Then see what a difference it makes to your level of carb consumption.
A startling study published in 2007 in the non-profit journal PLOS One rocked the food industry and people’s attitudes toward their eating habits when it reported that in mice, sugar was more addictive to them than cocaine.
This led to a range of new studies seeking to confirm or refute the findings. Fast forward to the present day, and the evidence is growing that sugar does indeed have addictive properties.
Researchers are not yet certain of the mechanisms behind sugar addiction, but they have a couple of significant hints as to why it is possible. Some of them are physical and some are mental.
From the moment we are young, we are introduced to sweet foods such as applesauce and baby foods that are made with fruit and starchy-sweet vegetables like carrots. The tongue, however, seems to be relatively primitive and can’t handle the intense sweetness of modern foods, which are loaded with sugar, sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners. The more it gets, the more it craves. If you think about your food cravings, do they start in the stomach, or in your mouth?
Another physical reason for sugar addiction is that eating sweet things releases the feel-good chemical dopamine, giving you a ‘buzz’ in mood, pain levels and energy levels. This significant chemical change in the brain leads to a desire for continuing ‘happiness’, which means more sugar.
Studies have shown that the cravings produce a feedback loop in the brain. It sees the sugar as a reward, and strives to get more. The more it gets, the more it wants the reward.
Over time this leads to the brain being remodeled and re-wired to the point of addiction and poor impulse control. In addition, this can have a significant effect on mood and brain chemistry, which could be one of the reasons why a high-carb, high sugar diet is associated strongly with Alzheimer’s disease.
Artificial sweeteners have an impact on the sugar cravings in the brain as well. They have been used for decades under the assumption they were better for us than sugar, but research shows that they have a similar impact on sugar cravings and also affect blood sugar.
Some of them are especially dangerous because they change into harmful chemicals once they are digested. For example, aspartame has been linked to ‘holes in the brain’ in laboratory animals and methanol poisoning, which affects the brain, in humans.
Sweet tastes therefore seem to be very addictive no matter what the sources. If you’ve been struggling to curb your craving, it might be time to cut all desserts and pre-packaged foods from your diet.
As a result of the recent obesity epidemic in the US, scientists have turned their attention in the past few years to the question of why we crave sugar. The answer has come in part from studies of laboratory animals, and humans, leading to some startling findings.
Early man had tongue receptors that could taste sugar, but the modern trend towards making everything very sweet seems to trigger even more cravings for sweet things, and a desire for greater levels of sweetness. Prior to sugar becoming more widely available in the 17th century, humans consumed an average of 7 pounds of sugar, usually in the form of sweet foods like honey, per year. Now in the US it is about 125 pounds of sugar annually.
Artificial sweeteners have actually make the problem worse, with so-called high-intensity sweeteners (HIS) approved by the FDA, such as aspartame, many times sweeter than natural sugar, which therefore boost the craving.
The brain is also re-wired as a result of sugar consumption, leading to cravings. The mechanism isn’t completely understood, but it appears to be a vicious cycle of craving, reward, greater craving, an even bigger reward needed, and so on. The ‘reward’ aspect is both physiological and psychological.
We are rewarded when we eat sweets because they raise dopamine levels in the brain. We can describe dopamine as a ‘feel-good’ chemical that elevates mood and naturally relieves pain. Therefore, sweet things make us feel good. The ‘sugar high’ from eating sweets is therefore not just blood sugar, but mood as well.
We are also rewarded when we are younger. Our parents reward us with dessert if we eat all our dinner. We are rewarded at our birthdays and holidays with sweet treats. We even reward ourselves with food when we complete a task. If we are stressed, many people often manage that stress with food, drink, or both.
The trouble is that the more sugar you get, the more you want, until you start to crave it in the same way that an addict craves a fix.
If you’ve been struggling with a sweet tooth and cravings for sugary foods, it might be time to try a sugar detox to eliminate all sweet things from your diet for a few days to see if you can curb the cravings. Also try to find other ways to reward yourself that don’t involve food or spending money. Then see how much less stressful and more enjoyable life can be, free of the sugar habit.