Sugar is a sizzling hot topic right now with the release of the new documentaries “The Men Who Made Us Fat” and “Fed Up.” I saw the latter, which was a great compilation of things I’ve seen before about the great sugar excess, and some material that was new to me. It’s a great film, narrated by Katie Couric, and I hop you’ll all try to see it. It’s very well done, and shines a bright, bright light on the relationship between the food industry and the epidemic rise of obesity and diabetes among American children. Powerful film, I tell you!
While it’s easy to blame the food industry for much that is wrong with the food we eat in this country, (and much of that blame is well deserved!), one of the invitations of this documentary is for individuals like you and me to take a look at our own sugar intake, and how we, as consumers, are complicit, albeit indirectly, in the problem of sugar excess. I have often said that each bite we take makes us either part of the solution or part of the problem. Even if our sugar intake has reduced gradually in the last few years, as it well may have, it doesn’t hurt for us to look again, to do a review, lest we get complacent….
Sugar has been shown to increase the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. It’s a leading factor in excessive weight gain, inflammation, and unhealthy skin conditions. It is also associated with mood swings, bulging middle sections, bloating, and afternoon energy slumps.
We are genetically programmed to enjoy sweet foods. In their natural state fruit, for example, has many vitamins, minerals, and plenty of fiber. The problem is that the highly processed granules and syrups that are added to much of the food that we buy are highly addictive. Following are some ways to manage our relationship with sugar, so that it is not in the driver’s seat of our lives, always beckoning us to have more and more of it. Consider these helpful tactics to gain better control over the sneaky stuff.
1. Eat lots of nourishing foods, particularly in their raw state. Increase the amount of dark leafy greens and other vegetables. When your body is truly nourished, that is, receiving all the nutrients that it is searching, the voice of sugar will not be nearly as demanding when it calls. Sugar cravings can be eliminated by a more nutrient dense diet.
2. Drink more water. Soft drinks, soda, energy drinks, and packaged fruit drinks are typically loaded with sugar. Additionally, sometimes sweet cravings are simply a sign of dehydration. Before you reach fro the sweets, drink a glass of water and wait a few minutes. The craving may just disappear.
3. Reduce caffeine consumption. The ups and downs of caffeine include dehydration and blood sugar swings, which can cause sugar cravings to become more frequent, more pronounced.
4. Eat sweet vegetables. Pumpkin, corn, beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes are naturally sweet, healthy, and delicious. Packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, they’ll keep you satisfied for longer, and will help to curb your cravings. Also, try some coriander, mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom.
5. Use natural forms of sugar. When the idea of a “real” dessert is irresistible, you’ll do yourself a big favor by avoiding artificial sweeteners and foods with added sugar. Enjoy some fresh fruit, or foods sweetened with dates, organic maple syrup, or coconut sugar or syrup. The less refined sugars you eat, the less sugar you will crave.
6. Avoid the fat-free and low-fat labeled foods. They compensate for the lack of flavor from fat with high quantities of sugar, which will assure you a seat on the roller coaster ride of sugar highs and lows. Foods high in natural fat, such as coconut, avocado, nuts, and seeds actually reduce sugar cravings while they balance hormones and feed the brain and skin. Don’t believe the marketing ploys and make better friends with whole foods, which are much better life companions anyway.
7. Get moving. Even ten minutes of walking or yoga a day to begin with will help to balance blood sugar levels, boost energy, clear the mind, and reduce tension. All of these things will eliminate the need to self-medicate with sugar.
8. Get more sleep, rest, and relaxation. Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, are the most readily usable forms of energy for an exhausted body and mind. Sugar is a quick form of energy in a chronic state of stress and/or sleep deprivation. Getting adequate rest will save you from this toxic, never-ending, unhealthy cycle.
9. Find sweetness in non-food ways. Cravings – especially for sweets – often have a psychological component. Is it really more fun, adventure, affection, or freedom that you crave? Be good to yourself. Check to see what’s out of balance in your life. Treat yourself. Reward yourself in ways that don’t involve food, especially the sugar-sweetened kind. (Seeing the movies I mentioned above will give you encouragement to become more of the solution to the sugar craze in this country than part of the problem.) When life is sweet enough, you don’t need sugar additives.
Please feel free to leave comments below I’d love to hear from you about some of your sweet cravings — what they are, and how you’ve managed them.
Have a wonderful July 4th weekend!