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Why Sugar Just Might Be the Death of You

Sugar is fast becoming the new frontier in the fight against our epidemic of chronic health conditions. More and more research is implicating sugar as a leading contributor to heart disease, obesity, diabetes and more. Add to this the unfortunate fact that food manufacturers have responded to the push for lower-calorie meals by swapping fat for sugar and other sweeteners and it becomes pretty clear that we all need to take a good hard look at how much sugar we are actually consuming. This article explains the damage that sugar does to your health and offers some advice for breaking your addiction.

Why sugar may be killing you

Sugar is hidden in so many of our foods that we become addicted from childhood without even realising it. If you take some time to read the labels on the foods you buy, you might be shocked to learn how much sugar you are actually consuming every day. According to the The Times, people in the U.K. consume an average or 106 grams of sugar every day (or over 38kg per year), which is well over the maximum 36g recommended by the NHS.

But why is sugar so terrible for your body?

Sugar strips the body of nutrients and can lead to a weakened immune system, candida, yeast infections, poor digestion, skin rashes, joint pains, diabetes, liver problems, headaches, poor sleep, bad breath, cravings, disease, and poor concentration. It also contributes to many health issues including:

  • mood swings

  • fatigue

  • weight gain

  • dental issues

  • insulin resistance

  • autoimmune disease

  • digestive issues

  • cardiovascular issues

  • hormonal imbalances

  • cancer

fat does not make you fat, sugar does

Sugar is a major contributor to weight gain. This requires quite a big readjustment to many people's thinking: fat does not make you fat, sugar does. Understanding how your body processes and metabolises sugar is absolutely vital if you want to appreciate how sugar makes you put on weight.

Throughout the day, your glucose levels rise and fall depending mostly on your diet. When sugar or simple carbohydrates hit your bloodstream, your body is flooded with glucose and responds by producing insulin. The job of insulin is to take glucose from the bloodstream and deliver it into the cells where it is needed. This causes glucose levels in the blood to drop, giving you the sensation of 'crashing.' If your diet is high in sugar and refined carbs, this will result in energy spikes and crashes throughout the day, commonly referred to as the 'sugar rollercoaster.' If the process is repeated too often, your cells can become resistant to insulin and instead of converting the glucose to energy, the body converts it to fat. This causes weight gain and is also the method by which type-2 diabetes begins.

Due to the fact that we are all unique, not every person eating a high sugar diet puts on weight. Different people metabolise sugar differently and in many cases this is a result of dietary variations. People who have diets that are low in protein, fibre and probiotics may find it more difficult to metabolise sugar than somebody whose diet is well-balanced. Unfortunately, the people who eat the most sugar are often the ones who are missing out on these important food groups. As with every aspect of your nutritional health, a well-balanced diet is the key.

The sugar trap - artificial sweeteners

Some people think that artificial sweeteners do not cause weight gain, but evidence shows that view is not correct. Artificial sweeteners are low in calories; however, they slow down metabolism and interfere with our endocrine disruptors. As a result, they cause bloating, weight gain, water retention, and digestive upset. In addition, as they’re made up of chemicals, they introduce toxins into your body.

Out of all of those sweeteners you see on the shelf at the supermarket, stevia is your best option. Stevia is a natural sugar that does not lead to blood sugar imbalances or feed candida (a yeast-like a fungus that is harmless for many people unless they have imbalances in the digestive system).

Monk Fruit is another natural sweetener you can try, which can be bought here. There are also other natural sugar substitutes you can use, such as honey, blackstrap molasses, coconut sugar, and agave. However, if you really want to kick your sugar habit, I encourage you to forgo these sweeteners and stick with stevia or monk fruit, as they will not spike your sugars at all. Better still, try cutting sugar altogether and see how quickly your tastebuds readjust and begin to crave more diverse flavours.

If you would like to learn more about the risks and benefits of different sugar alternatives, this article on sugar substitutes explains your options in much more detail.

Kick the addiction

Sugar cravings can be extremely difficult to resist, but they don't last forever and you don't have to 'white-knuckle' it.

Here are some simple tips that have helped many of my clients beat their sugar addictions:

• Reduce or eliminate caffeine. Caffeine causes dehydration and blood sugar swings which may cause sugar cravings to become more frequent.

• Drink water. Sometimes cravings are a sign of dehydration. Before you go for the sugar, have a glass of water and wait a few minutes to see what happens

• Eat sweet vegetables and fruit. These include squash, sweet potatoes and sweet yellow onions. The greater amount of healthy foods you eat, the less you’ll crave sugar.

• Get physically active. Start with simple activities like walking or yoga. Start with 10 minutes a day and gradually increase. Being active helps balance blood sugar levels, boost energy, and reduce tension which will eliminate the need to self-medicate with sugar!

• Get more sleep and rest. Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, are the most readily usable forms of energy for an exhausted body and mind. If you are in a chronic state of stress and/or sleep deprivation, your body will crave the quickest form of energy.

• Eliminate fat-free or low-fat packaged snack foods. These foods contain high quantities of sugar to compensate for lack of flavor and fat, which will send you on the roller-coaster ride of sugar highs and lows.

• Experiment with spices. Coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom will naturally sweeten your foods and reduce cravings.

• If you have a craving, take five minutes to do deep breathing. Then, ask yourself—am I physically hungry or emotionally hungry? Am I in tune with my body and present to my needs?

• Slow down and find sweetness in non-food ways such as calling a friend, writing in your journal, laughing, taking a bath with essential oils, or getting a pedicure or massage! Every craving is not a signal that your body biologically requires sugar. Cravings often have a psychological component. By identifying the psychological causes of food cravings and substituting lifestyle and relationship adjustments accordingly, you can begin to find balance and take charge of your health. When life becomes sweet enough itself, no additives are needed.

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