Breaking the Sugar Habit

Author: Linda DiBella

Sugar:  it’s one of the most common forms of addiction and can have profound negative affects on health and well-being.  In addition to the spikes and crashes in blood sugar that arise from excess consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates, they are leading factors in the obesity and type II diabetes epidemics that currently exist in the United States and that are being exported worldwide.

Our fast-paced world with all the technological advances, sedentary lifestyles, and information overload have helped to create a stressed out, tight, contracted society.  Based on the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang, which is based on complimentary and opposing forces, we often balance these “yang” qualities with relaxing, lightening or expanding “yin” substances.  These include such things as alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.

But if you think the only things to worry about from sugar are your waistline and your insulin levels, think again.  Besides the two major lifestyle diseases mentioned above, sugars have been implicated in a number of other health-related issues.

For example, sugar:

- depresses the immune system;
- increases cholesterol and triglyceride levels and can lead to heart disease;
- causes headaches, including migraines and can contribute to depression and Alzheimer’s Disease;
- contributes to cancer;
- accelerates the aging process.

You may not think that you’re consuming so much sugar, but if you and your family are eating diets high in processed foods, it’s likely that you are and without realizing it, you may be addicted to it.  There are dozens of types of sugars that lurk in processed foods, from condiments, to sauces, canned vegetables, boxed cereals, crackers, meats, and even breads.  Some of their names include:

- brown sugar
- caramel sugars
- evaporated cane juice
- high fructose corn syrup
- isomalt
- maltodextrin
- saccharides
- sucrose

So how do we break the sugar habit and get on track to a healthier lifestyle?

1. Drink more water

Many people are dehydrated and don’t even know it, which can also lead to a lack of energy, headaches, and sluggishness.   Symptoms of thirst can often be mistaken for hunger.   Staying sufficiently hydrated will help to eliminate the confusion between true hunger and dehydration.

Drinking more water will also help reduce the amount of sugary sodas, sweet coffee beverages, and fruit drinks consumed.  If your kids love juice, even natural, 100% fruit varieties, they’re still consuming mostly sugar.  Try weaning them off gradually by diluting the juice with water.  The goal is to eventually serve them a glass of water with a shot of juice added for flavor.

2. Eliminate processed foods from the diet

Cooking and eating a diet of whole foods – those that are as close to their natural state as possible, will ensure that you’re getting the most nutrients possible from your foods, which will help eliminate the craving for foods that give instant energy, like sugar.  This includes fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, clean protein sources such as nut, seeds, legumes, and lean meats, and healthy fats from olive, grapeseed, and coconut oils.

Root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, and beets are naturally sweet and are loaded with fiber and nutrients.  Including these in the diet will help to reduce sweet cravings.   Below is a recipe for roasted root vegetables that is sure to please.

3. Use natural sugars whenever possible

If removing sugar completely from the diet is out of the question (we all want something sweet now and then!) opt for sugars that offer more than just sweetness.

For example, honey, date sugar and sucanat offer nutrients not found in refined, white sugar.   Barley malt, brown rice syrup and coconut sugar enter the bloodstream more slowly than white sugar.  Stevia, produced from the leaves of an herb, does not cause a rise in blood sugar and can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar.

4. Relax

Since stress is often a trigger to reach for something sweet, try to slow down and relax.  Regular exercise, meditation, spending time in nature, and slow, deep breathing are all ways to slow down and minimize the affects of a fast-paced lifestyle.  In addition, practice mindfulness when eating by eating slowly and chewing your food well for better digestion and maximum absorption of nutrients.

Recipes:

Roasted Root Vegetables

1 large sweet potato or yam
2 parsnips or carrots
2 beets
2 medium rutabegas
1 medium turnip
1 head of fennel
1 large sweet onion
a couple of cloves of garlic, minced
olive or grapeseed oil
sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Using any combination of the above, wash, peel and chop all the vegetables into uniform, 1” pieces and place in a large bowl. Add enough oil to lightly and evenly coat the vegetables.  Add the garlic and season with sea salt and pepper. Spread the mixture in a single layer on one or two baking sheets and bake at 400F for ~45 minutes, or until tender and golden brown. Stir halfway through and switch the pans around for even roasting.

More recipes

Spaghetti squashA delicious alternative to pasta.

 

 

 

 

Fruit and nut bars – made with dried fruit and very little sweetener.


 

 

 

Comments

  1. Usha said on February 8th at 12:38 am:

    This can be a problem I must find more information about, thank you for the post.

  2. Andy said on February 8th at 5:56 pm:

    hi, wonderful website, and a great post! just one for my bookmarking.

  3. pratibha said on February 9th at 6:49 am:

    Hi Linda,

    Thank you for the above post. It’s a real eye-opener for me as I did not know sugar was responsible for so many other health-related issues than diabetes and heart disease. The recipes at the end of your article will be of tremendous help. I particularly love the one of the fruit bars. I am definitely going to try it and will post my feed backs.

  4. Linda said on February 13th at 2:59 am:

    Usha and Andy, thank you for your interest! I hope the information I post here will be beneficial to you and your families.

    Pratibha, I’m glad that people can see here the huge influence that sugar has on our overall health. Hopefully, the information will provide some inspiration for people to reduce the amount of sugar and processed foods that they eat. I hope you like the fruit and nut bars!!

  5. pratibha said on March 7th at 10:26 am:

    Dear Linda,

    The fruit bars were delicious and v.easy to make. Kids as well as elders enjoyed them and some friends even asked for the recipe. Wish I could post a picture here. After reading your article, I started using honey in tea instead of sugar, it really taste good. Thank you so much for this informative article.

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