Sugar is everywhere today. Not only is it in soda, cake and ice cream but in more unlikely foods such as ketchup, canned food and salad dressings. Sugar is often disguised in fancy language such as corn syrup, dextrose, fructose or maltose. Many of us unknowingly consume 30 teaspoons of sugar each day, which is 3 times the USDA recommendation.
It is only natural that we crave sugar. It is simply the body asking for energy. When sugar is digested, it turns to glucose which fuels the body’s cells and helps restore energy levels. But, before you hit the vending machine for an instant energy boost, note that all sweets are not created equal.
Refined sugar creates a roller-coaster effect–imagine a child’s birthday party. The kids are calm in the beginning, but after cake time everyone is bouncing off the walls. The sugar from the cake quickly enters the bloodstream and causes the blood sugar level to skyrocket causing excitability, hyperactivity and nervous tension. Because this sugar is refined and does not have any minerals or vitamins to sustain energy, the hyperactivity will only last for a short period of time before the energy plummets and the kids become cranky and tired. Ever wonder why these kids birthday parties last only a couple of hours?
Refined sugars not only lead to major mood swings but also take a tool on the body leading to health problems such as diabetes, weight gain and hypoglycemia. Because the table sugar in your morning donuts is such a severe dose of energy, it causes your body’s glucose levels to spike up and then crash down. When the body senses a high level of sugar it goes into panic mode and words hard to burn it up as quickly as possible. In order for the body to absorb sugar properly, it uses its own minerals and enzymes creating a deficiency. Refined sugars also create more cravings for more high-calorie, sweet foods as your body tries to replace lost nutrients.
For those of you who are sugar addicts, start slowly. Rather than quitting ‘cold turkey’, try to incorporate sweeter veggies such as carrots and sweet potatoes into your day. You may still experience energy dips in the early afternoon and then a couple of hours post lunch, however, this is only natural. By incorporating more foods with naturally occurring sugars, the energy dips will not be as sever as if you were to eat a candy bar. As you add more veggies, you will eventually crave less sugar and naturally crowd out the sweet snacks.
Sometimes your cravings go beyond hunger or the need for an energy boost. The desire for something sweet may be the need for other forms of comfort in your life. When do you crave sweets the most? Is it in the late afternoon when you are bored at work or when you are home alone? Along with replacing simple sugars with sweet veggies, whole grains and fruits, try to incorporate more self-care into your life, whether it is though relationships, exercise or hobbies. You may be surprised to learn that your desire for that bowl of ice cream is not as strong.
Here are a few of my facts and tips to help you navigate through your Sugar Blues:
- Sugar is addicting; once we start…we cannot stop…we continue to crave sugar and want more and more!
- Food changes everything; we take it in with our mouths and it becomes us..’you are what you eat’, so when we are eating too much sugar, we are very different than when we are eating leafy greens and good sources of protein
- Willpower is not the problem, it’s the uncontrollable cravings
- Sugar is the solution, not the problem
- Why do we go for sugar? It gives us something-energy, feeling happy, satisfied, etc. and it’s an instantaneous solution to these problems. It will shoot our energy through the roof but we will crash later. So, sugar is our solution in the moment- our body is constantly trying to achieve homeostasis (balance). We want balance.
- So, if we wake up tired-we want coffee, donuts or sugar, which spikes us up then we crash
- If we are eating too many salty foods (yang) such as meaty, salty grounding foods they will make us crave sugar (yin) foods. For instance, bartenders put out peanuts so that people will continue to drink sweet alcohol. The same goes for dining out–the food is always heavy on the salt so that we will want to order off the dessert menus.
- When we are craving sugar we are not hungry, we are usually thirsty. Most Americans are dehydrated, which causes migraine headaches and exhaustion.
- When you get a craving; take a deep breath and drink water, look at your watch and wait 20 minutes for the craving to pass.
- There is ALWAYS something behind your underlying causes of cravings.
- Could be our lack of primary foods in our lives? By Primary Foods, I am referring to love, friends, relationships, work, spiritual practice, career, exercise, hobbies and anything that is a non-food source that heals your soul. Are you bored? Are you lonely? Are you running away from something or someone? Many people use food to fill a void that food CANNOT fix. The freezer (ice cream) satisfies that need, but the ice cream does not solve anything, so you are off to find another quick fix.
- Put a list on your fridge that will list non-food options called a ‘Nourishment Menu'; use this menu to feed your soul. Work in the garden, call a friend, take a walk, get outside in nature, practice yoga, read a book, make a human connection with friends or family members. Food cannot help our problems or make us feel as good as these options can.
- Ask yourself, “Am I getting the nourishment that I want from my life?” ” Am I looking to food to fill this void in my life?”
- Sugar is not the problem; it is the solution and our body is always trying to come into balance. When we eat too many meat-based or grounding foods we are going to crave the opposite.
- If we are dehydrated we will crave sugar.
- Often times, food is not the issue. We are looking for connection with spirit in our body. Take a step back and analyze the situation. You may be surprised to know that food is not the problem at all.
- What is one thing that you learned about yourself with your relationships with food? Be sure to look at everything you do for yourself that truly nourishes you. True nourishment comes from non-food sources; mindless snacking is something we do to keep us busy.
- If your sweet tooth is not satisfied with sweet vegetables or fruit, here are some of my favorite ‘Sweet’ Condiments, which are more natural alternatives to sugar.
Be sure to understand and comprehend each bullet point above. Ask yourself if these scenarios relate to your life. Do you realize the impact of sugar on your health and well-being?
Eat for quality, not quantity and savor each bite of food.
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