Most Americans are addicted to sugar. Some don't even
know the amounts of sugar that they are consuming because it is hidden
in so many foods with a variety of different names. Sugar causes a multitude
of physical ailments from headaches and chronic infections to crankiness
and mood swings. Let's examine sugar, how it affects the body and how
we can deconstruct our cravings and reduce them so that we can feel better.
Sugar comes from two different places, sugar cane and
beets. From both plants, the juice is extracted, crystallized, cleaned
and processed so that the end result is the white stuff you see at every
restaurant and dinner table around the world. Simple table sugar is made
up of sucrose, a simple sugar that burns quickly when it enters the body.
When we eat these simple sugars, a few reactions occur in the body. The
first place the sugar goes is into your digestive system. Because sugar
is processed down to one molecule, it is missing all of the vitamins and
minerals the body needs to digest it. In order for the body to process
sugar it must release its own stores of vitamins and minerals to aid in
digestion. Sugar robs the body of essential vitamins and minerals that
When foods are digested, they are broken down and the
nutrients are moved into the bloodstream. Because sugar is made of only
one substance, it breaks down rapidly and moves quickly into the bloodstream.
Sugar in the blood triggers the production of insulin by the pancreas.
Insulin is a hormone that moves sugar out of the blood as it binds with
receptors in the body. On average, Americans consume about 150 pounds
of sugar per person, per year. This excess sugar is stored in fat, which
is why we gain weight from eating sugar. However, there is another reason
that sugar causes weight gain; when the pancreas is producing insulin,
it cannot produce another hormone called glucagon, which is responsible
for telling the body to release and burn fat stores for energy. So, your
body grows its fat stores and prevents them from being burned for energy
when you eat sugar.
Sugar is not the problem as much as is the solution to
sugar cravings. Cravings are caused by the excess amounts of sugar we
typically consume. Constant exposure to excess sugar causes the body to
overproduce insulin. This excess insulin causes the blood sugar to drop
to a low, which then triggers the body to crave sugar, which at this point
it needs. So, you eat some sugar and the whole cycle starts again. This
sugar cycle is the high burst of energy we get from eating sugar followed
by the crash and burn later. There is no need to feel bad about any lack
of will power when it comes to sugar because it is highly addictive. Trying
to stop eating sugar is as hard as quitting smoking or drinking coffee,
so cut yourself some slack and check out these ways to curb your sugar
Reduce the amount of sugar you consume - the less you eat, the less
you crave. Soda and juice are high in sugar so read your labels carefully.
Eat some sweet vegetables. Root vegetables like yams,
sweet potato, carrots, beets and onions provide a sweet flavor that
satisfies the palate, reducing your craving for a sweet dessert.
Eat some leafy green vegetables to replenish the vitamins
and minerals you have been losing to sugar.
Drink more water! We often mistake thirst for hunger.
The next time a craving strikes, drink some water and see how you
Gain awareness of the many names of sugar as they
appear on food labels. Sugar is called fructose, maltose, dextrose,
cane sugar, turbinado, organic sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, high
fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup, just to name a few.
Remember that processed foods act like sugar in the
body, so stay away from white bread, white pasta and white rice when
you are trying to reduce the amount of sugar you consume. Replace
these with whole grain versions for a slower burning food.
Stay away from artificial sweeteners! Aside from being
a chemical and not a food, artificial sweeteners are much sweeter
than regular sugar. Studies have shown that zero calorie sweeteners
cause weight gain by tricking the body into thinking that they are
the real sweet. Because artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than
sugar, people overeat when exposed to sugar, trying to reach the sweetness
of the fake.
Try natural sweeteners like raw honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar
in place of sugar. These sweeteners are less processed than sugar
and still have their nutrients intact. Although they have calories
like sugar, they do not cause weight gain as quickly because they
burn more slowly in the body. If you want a zero calorie sweetener,
try stevia leaf, an herbal supplement that is extremely sweet and
can be found in your local health food store.
By understanding the way that sugar affects the body,
we can make smarter decisions about the foods we eat and avoid getting
caught in the sugar spin cycle. Side effects from reducing sugar include
weight loss, better mood, more energy, better skin, hair, and nails, and
a healthier, happier you!
Rachel Leslie is a certified holistic health counselor
and founder of A Cup of Life, Holistic Health Counseling. She is also
a partner in Green Parties CT, an organic catering company located in
Fairfield County, Connecticut. Rachel lives in Stamford, Connecticut with
her husband and son. For more information: www.acupoflife.com.