I was honored to write this guest post for The HSS Feed and wanted to share it with you here as well.... hope you enjoy! xo
Life sure is sweet, isn’t it?
Unfortunately when it comes to our food, it’s too sweet.
SUGAR. IS. EVERYWHERE.
Cookies. Muffins. Donuts. Cake. Obvi.
Protein Bars. Yogurt. Salad Dressing. Pasta Sauce. Not so obvi.
If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’re right. From the obvious to not so obvious sources, it can seem nearly impossible to hide from sugar.
Even with everything I know about nutrition, I can easily fall into the sugar trap. The struggle is real. Sugar is addicting.
When we eat sweet things, dopamine (a neurotransmitter that delivers signals to and from the brain) is released. Dopamine helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers; it is released for many healthy reasons such as exercise and physical touch but also in response to the consumption of certain substances like caffeine, narcotics and sugar.
The dopamine response you get from eating sugar sends signals throughout your body that encourage you to continue to seek that pleasurable feeling. It creates an addiction. And (sadly) food marketers know it. Which is why, without even realizing it, we’re downing sugar by the pound in foods like tomato sauce, bread, cereals, deli meats and so much more. In fact, the average American eats approximately 150 pounds of sugar per year. It’s time to break the addiction.
While sugar gives us a pleasurable feeling that we all desire, it is also responsible for mood swings, acne, PMS, unrestful sleep, depression, anxiety and PCOS. If that wasn’t bad enough, more and more studies are showing that sugar plays a pivotal role in the development of many devastating illnesses — heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s to name a few.
The good news? Each one of us has the power to do something about it!
Here are 5 tips on how to break free of sugar:
- Choose whole foods. The closer a food is to it’s original form, the less processed sugar it will contain. Naturally occurring sugars in fruit and veggies are balanced by the fiber, enzymes, vitamins and other properties which slow sugar digestion.
- Try to incorporate protein and fat with each meal. This helps control blood sugar levels and will keep you satiated longer. As a baseline, you should be eating 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat. Tweak those ratios based on your body’s needs and make sure you’re getting healthy sources of each.
- Drink water. Lack of hydration can feed into your sugar cravings. If you’re craving something sweet, have a big glass of water. If your craving fades, there is a good chance you were just dehydrated. Ideally, your weight, divided by two equals the amount of water in ounces you should be drinking per day. If you’re 140 pounds, you should be drinking 70 ounces of water per day.
- Read labels. Although I encourage you to eat as few foods as possible that have labels, I know it’s hard to avoid so educate yourself about what you’re putting in your body. The longer the list of ingredients, the more likely sugar is going to be on that list. Food manufacturers often use multiple sweeteners in an attempt to hide that there may be more sweetener in a product than anything else. Don’t be fooled. Here are some sugars to look out for: aspartame, saccharine, stevia, sucralose, agave, high-fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, cane juice, fruit juice and xylitol. I could go on and on.
- Get enough sleep. When you’re tired, you’re more likely to use sugar for energy to counteract exhaustion. Feeding the need for energy with sugar, however, boosts energy levels for a very short time and can often lead to a major blood sugar crash. The crash results in a need for another boost, which often leads back to more sugar. This becomes a never ending cycle. Aim for seven hours of sleep per night at a minimum.
Let’s kick sugar to the curb so we can live a sweet life for years to come.