There's a mis-perception about fat - fat doesn't make us fat, sugar makes us fat! Let's get scientific for a minute. Diets high in added sugars lead to greater populations of certain kinds of microbes or bad bacteria that produce toxins. These toxins cause us to use energy inefficiently and store too much of it as fat. Overtime, this process can develop into poor metabolic function and unwanted additional weight.
A sugar craving is simply the body asking for energy. Under normal conditions, you eat something and your blood sugar levels rise after the food changes into glucose and enters the bloodstream. The pancreas secrets insulin, allowing the cells to take in and use glucose (sugar) for energy. When the body can't process sugar in a healthy way, excess glucose builds in the bloodstream and is eventually stored as fat. It also triggers further cravings and fatigue resulting in weight gain and other health issues.
Today we consume large amounts of processed foods packed with chemicals and sweeteners. These are the "unhealthy" sugars stored as fat. Sugar is hidden in almost all processed foods today from bread to peanut butter to canned sauces and even dressings.
The American Heart Association suggests we get as little sugar in our diet as possible:
- No more than 24 grams/day for women
- No more than 36 grams/day for men
So what can we do to start eliminating sugar from our diets?
1. Curve your cravings with whole food sweetness. The best way to curve intense sugar cravings is to provide the body with the sweetness that it needs by eating more naturally sweet foods. For three days, don’t eat any foods with more than 15 grams of sugar per serving. That means cutting out obvious sugar sources, like soda, alcohol, baked goods, and ice cream. But it also includes surprising sugar bombs, like most yogurts, juices and wheat bread. To help you get through, replace sugar with healthy fats. Think avocado, nuts, healthy animal proteins. Also try sweet potatoes, carrots or butternut squash.
2. Don't quit sugar cold turkey. Slow and steady wins the race. Try these small swaps over time, not overnight.
Fruit is considered a natural sugar, but "Sugar is Sugar.". You shouldn't be having 5 servings a day, so try cutting back to 1-2 servings per day. Lower sugar fruit options are berries, apples and pears. Looking for an ice cream treat? Try fruit! Blend your favorite frozen fruit like bananas or strawberries until creamy to make a great ice cream substitute.
Think of milk as liquid sugar. Try whole milk as opposed to skim milk for less sugar, then switch to coconut or almond milk for even less.
Instead of granola or protein bars you buy in the store, grab a handful of nuts and berries.
3. Journal your Foods. Keep track of all the foods and drinks you ingest daily. You'll start to see how much sugar you are really eating and drinking, and can begin to remove some of these items from your diet.
4. Be Mindful. The next time someone puts a plate of cookies in front of you, don't panic! Start to think about what sugar does to your body, and your mind will catch up quickly and start to reduce those cravings naturally. It sounds challenging, but your body craves what you feed it, so as you start to remove sugar, your cravings will start to decline.
5. Exercise. Whether its walking your dog, or hitting the gym, moving around will just make you feel better and have more energy.
Lowering your sugar intake can be the best thing for you to do for your body!!