Sugar is not your friend. Sorry to say it, but there it is. I know, I know, it’s yummy and how bad can it really be? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but to convince yourself that “all things in moderation” means you can feed your addiction with a regular sugar hit is a slippery slope.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the occasional bowl of gelato or a slab of chocolate cake at a birthday party. What I’m talking about is the daily habit of succumbing to that little voice that tells you “you’ve earned this glass of wine” or “how much harm can a few jellybeans do?”.
Maybe what’s even more insidious is the hidden sugar that you don’t even know you’re eating, when you really believe you’re making healthy choices. Beware of your morning orange juice, those fat-free hazelnut lattes, the so-called fibre and protein bars, the white bagels and, of course, vanilla yogurt (even if it claims to be full of probiotics and low in fat – that’s a whole other post).
The truth is if you find that later in the day you are struggling with cravings, your body is sending you a message loud and clear. That message is “I need more nutrients”. The solution may be more simple than you think: eat real food.
Why is sugar so bad for you anyways?
- It feeds the “bad bacteria” in your intestinal tract which can lead to digestive disturbances such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea.
- It suppresses your immune system (70% of which is in your gut). Do you often come down with colds or flus?
- It interferes with the absorption of Calcium and Magnesium
- It stimulates fat storage. That muffin top is more likely the result of refined grains, sugars or alcohol, NOT fat consumption.
- It triggers hormone imbalances which can result in sleep disruptions, mood conditions (anxiety or depression), PMS, fatigue, weight gain
- It feeds inflammation, a biochemical cascade that in the long term can be linked to heart disease, cancer, dementia
The good news is that you can beat the cravings. You may experience some nasty withdrawal symptoms at first. In fact, the worse you feel the more dependent you probably are. But the headaches, lethargy, cravings will all pass in a few days. Here’s how:
My Top 5 Tips to Beat Sugar Cravings
- Stop Counting Calories - When we become too conscious of calories we tend to itemize and calculate the cost of everything that goes into our mouths. This often leads us to falling prey to the marketing geniuses behind packaged processed nutritionally empty psuedo-foods. Low-fat foods also tend to be high in sugars (go on, read the label). Result: you’re still hungry an hour later.
- No Skipping Meals – I see this fairly often. Either we’re too busy to eat or we’ve decided it’s time to “detox”. Again, this backfires. Best way to keep hunger at bay and control the late day binges is to feed yourself several times throughout the day. Take the time to pack up some snacks so you’re not tempted by the junk sitting around the office. Fresh fruit, homemade trail mix (nuts, seeds, dried fruits), hard boiled eggs, veggies and hummus. Believe me, if you’re nibbling on these all day long you won’t have time for any cravings.
- Boost Your Protein Intake – This is a biggie. Most people I talk to don’t eat enough protein in the earlier part of the day, which leads to those carb cravings in the afternoon or at night. I especially recommend higher protein intake at breakfast: eggs – not just 1 but 2-3; plain organic greek yogurt with berries, nuts, sunflower seeds; protein smoothie; last night’s dinner! I do this all the time – leftover chicken or fish with avocado slices and a serving of fruit. I am full and happy for hours. Protein helps control your appetite and builds a lean body.
- Eat More Greens – Remember, nutrient dense foods nourish your body and help minimize its cries for more energy. You may be amazed. Example: just one cup of cooked spinach will give you the following percentages of your Recommended Daily Intake: Calcium 25%, Iron 35%, Vitamin K 1000%, Vitamin A 300+%, Manganese 80%, Folate 60% and Potassium 24%. PLUS 5 gms of protein. Need I say more? **Teaser – next blog post will discuss how to get more greens in your daily diet
- I saved the best for last - Awareness and Accountability. This is often the turning point, where the balance shifts. If your mind is not in the right place, if you keep making excuses for yourself it is almost impossible to making lasting changes. When you shift your thought patterns and commit to yourself, the cravings no longer control you.