You probably already know that too much sugar is bad for you and that you should avoid consuming it in excess. Large amounts of sugar have no place in a healthy lifestyle and certainly not in a lifestyle that is designed to promote weight loss.
The addiction to sugar is real — in fact, many researchers have compared it to a drug in terms of the way sugar reacts and interacts in the body. As such, a lot of refined sugar has no place with healthy eating, especially not one that is intended to promote weight loss.
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If you’re in “sugar denial,” and still believe that those cakes, cookies, and other processed foods aren’t harming you, read on to learn about some of the major dangers of sugar.
The Dangers Of Sugar Addiction
Sugar Has No Nutritional Value
Sugar doesn’t do anything good for your body; it contains no essential nutrients and is pretty much the definition of an empty calorie food. When you eat foods with a lot of sugar, you’ll still feel hungry, leading you to eat more. However, you’ll still have consumed all those calories from the sugary foods, making it easy to double or even triple your calorie intake before you feel satiated.
High Blood Pressure, Bad Cholesterol & Heart Issues
Studies have shown that individuals who consumed 25% or more of their calories each day from sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who got less than 10% of their calories from sugar. As such, it’s obvious that sugar can have a harmful effect on your health. When you eat a lot of sugar, your blood pressure goes up, which is just bad for your health. Furthermore, high blood pressure puts a lot of excess strain on your heart and arteries, thereby increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and other serious health problems.
There’s good cholesterol and there’s bad cholesterol, and sugar definitely falls in the second category. When you eat sugar regularly, you can expect raised cholesterol, which can increase your risk of weight gain, clogged arteries, heart attacks, and heart disease.
When you brush your teeth, you “starve” or kill off bad bacteria in the mouth, reducing the risk of gum disease and tooth decay. Sugar, however, feeds that bad bacteria, allowing it to go to work creating cavities and leaving behind disease. If you rather not harm your teeth, your health, and your weight, eliminate sugar from your diet.
Insulin Resistance and Diabetes
A lot of people are quick to state that sugar can cause diabetes. While there is a bit of truth to this, sugar addiction may have other consequences. Your body releases insulin in response to sugar in your blood, which occurs shortly after a meal (this is why you may feel sluggish after eating). As the day goes on, your body becomes less sensitive to the insulin your body releases. This is true even in people who are not diabetic. As a result, you become insulin resistant, which is associated with type 2 diabetes and obesity.
A Less Effective Immune System
High sugar consumption can have multiple impacts on your immune system; it can prevent you from getting adequate sleep at night as well as increase inflammation (which can negatively impact your immune system). If you are struggling with sugar addiction and have noticed that you have been ill more frequently, chances are you could be feeling the negative effects of sugar addiction on your immune system. When you eat less sugar, your immune system works better, so monitor your sugar intake to stay healthier and fit in general.
Depression Or Mental Health Issues
Your mental health can be greatly affected by sugar addiction. Consuming regular amounts of sugar due to addiction can cause your blood sugar to drastically fluctuate throughout the day, and the highs and lows associated with that fluctuation can cause your mood to swing all over the place. Recent studies have shown that consuming high amounts of sugar can lead to an increase in depression; this effect on depression has to do with certain hormones in the blood, and the suppression of a hormone known as BDNF seems to be affected by high amounts of sugar in the diet.
Breaking Sugar Addiction
There are many health consequences to sugar addiction and while it may seem like it should be easy to just stop eating sugar, remember that sugar is as addictive. With that said, there are some things you can do to break sugar addiction.
- Clean Your Pantry: In order to succeed in your fight against sugar addiction, it is important to eliminate any and all temptations in your home. Keep tempting foods out of reach and ditch all cookies, crackers, candy, chocolate and any other items with added sugar in them.
- Cut Back On Alcohol: Many alcoholic drinks, especially mixed drinks, contain sugar as a way to enhance the flavor. Consider drinking in moderation, and if you are having a drink to be social, have a beer, a glass of red wine, or a spritzer as preferable options.
- Cut Out Artificial Sweeteners: More people are consuming artificial sweeteners rather than sugar in an attempt to cut sugar out of the diet to lose weight — by saving calories — and improve wellness. However, studies have shown that the use of artificial sweeteners in foods and beverages can lead to weight gain, as well as strengthen and encourage sugar dependence and cravings. With this in mind, it seems that one of the best ways to cut out sugar cravings from your life once and for all is to stop eating both sugar and artificial sweeteners.
- Maintain A Food Plan: A great tip for fighting your sugar addiction is to generate a plan for how you will eat. You can write this plan out, post it somewhere, or simply keep a mental note of it, but a plan can help you to succeed in various situations. For example, keep carrot sticks cut up in your fridge so you can snack on those instead of cookies, and when going out to eat, plan ahead to order a healthy option so temptations are kept at bay. Having a plan is key to help you succeed in various scenarios, that may typically create problems for you.
Stop The Sugar Cravings
Fighting and putting a stop to sugar cravings can be a challenge at the start. Initially, you may notice that your cravings are in a vicious cycle that only causes you to crave sugar more often. However, there are some things you can do to set your body up for success. Generally speaking, making a modification to your diet is necessary to succeed. Here are some tips to help you to succeed in putting a stop to sugar cravings.
- Eat More Fiber: Fiber serves a valuable role in your health and wellness. Unfortunately, the typical American diet is lacking in fiber and the average fiber intake for all Americans over the age of two is 16 grams a day (current guidelines recommend that adults consume between 25 and 30 grams of fiber a day.) High fiber intake tends to be associated with better colon and cardiovascular health, as well as a reduced risk of cancer and obesity. Fiber helps to slow the absorption of the foods you eat and it can also help to curb cravings you have by keeping you full for longer. Consider eating foods that are naturally high in fiber – like vegetables, beans, legumes, and whole grains – to help curb cravings.
- Consume Lean Protein: Lean protein options are beneficial for health for a variety of reasons. Eating lean proteins such as salmon, halibut, and chicken can help to fill you up at a meal and keep you feeling full for longer. This means that your blood sugar levels are better managed, which means a possible reduced risk for a sugar craving before the next meal. Include lean protein options as much as you can to help fight off your sugar cravings.
- Drink Enough Water: Your body is mostly made up of water, which means you need to replenish your water stores as much as possible each day. Many of the body’s processes are associated with your overall hydration status. In addition, the more dehydrated you are, the greater the chances that you will have some hormonal imbalance. Your sugar cravings may occur as a result of being thirsty, so replenishing the water in your body is often a quick fix. Consider drinking about six to eight glasses each day to stay hydrated and avoid sweetened drinks as much as possible.
- Make Healthy Substitutions: Another way to stop sugar cravings from affecting you throughout the day is to swap healthy foods for unhealthy ones. By switching chocolate or candies for some fresh fruit or vegetables, you’ll avoid setting off sugar cravings as well. Consider cut up fruit or vegetables as a snack, nuts to curb appetite, or even hot or iced tea (unsweetened of course.)
Sugar-Filled Foods To Avoid
While you should aim to avoid excess sugar in all its forms, some are particularly bad because of their high sugar concentrations and because of the fact that they provide no nutritional value. We’ve provided a list of some of the absolute worst, high-sugar-content foods you should avoid.
- Yogurt With Added Sugar, Fruit Or Treats: Most people think of yogurt as a pretty healthy food, and, while it can be healthy, certain varieties definitely don’t fit that description. Steer clear of processed yogurt “treats” that contain artificial ingredients and extras, like fruit or chocolate. These types of yogurts can add up to 19 grams of sugar (or more) per serving, so instead opt for all-natural Greek yogurt.
- Dried And Canned Fruits: Dried and canned fruits are in the danger zone; canned fruits are preserved in sugar syrup that not only destroys the fiber and vitamins but also increases the calorie count. Consume fresh fruits instead of dried or canned ones to minimize sugar and calorie load.
- Sugar-Free Products: Sugar-free products contain sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and mannitol, flour, milk, etc. Though the sugar alcohols cannot be completely absorbed by the body, consuming too much of them can lead to digestive problems, which ultimately slow down metabolism and lead to weight gain.
- Soda/Soft Drinks/Sports Drinks: Sodas are bad all-around. Not only do they contain a lot of empty calories- around 160 per can!- but they also are filled with sugar. In fact, with the average can of soda, more than 30% of the calories come from sugar alone. Sports drinks are loaded with sugar. They are meant for elite athletes and marathon runners who need readily available energy in the form of glucose. Not only is this much sugar bad for your health and your weight, but it can also wreak havoc on your teeth and gums.
- Ready-To-Eat Or Canned Soup: When you crack open a can of soup, you’re probably not thinking about sugar content. After all, you might think, why would soup have sugar? Well, think again! Canned soup is not only packed with bad-for-you sodium, but it also contains sugar as a preservative and often in not-so-healthy doses. The last thing you need is for sugar to sneak into your diet in unexpected ways, so skip the canned stuff and make your own instead.
- Candy/Cake/Chocolate/Pastries/Donuts: You probably knew this one was coming! As most of us know, these items are typically far from healthy. Skip out on all of these sweet treats if you really want to make an effort to eliminate sugar. Instead aim for a small chunk of dark chocolate, which at least has some health benefits and can satisfy the need for chocolate.
- Ketchup/BBQ Sauce/Salad Dressing Ketchup contains a lot of sugar and salt along with additives and preservatives, in fact a tablespoon of ketchup contains 4 grams of added sugar. BBQ sauce is used for marinating meat and veggies and also as a dip, but this too contains a huge amount of added sugar. The amount of added sugar in 2 tablespoons of BBQ sauce can be as high as 16 g. In addition, be wary of salad dressings, as many popular brands and types contain loads of sugar! By making your own dressing, dressing your salad with just a dash of vinegar and/or oil, or by forfeiting the dressing altogether and going for just a simple squeeze of lemon.
- Breakfast Cereal: Breakfast cereals are quick, easy, available, and tasty. Generally avoiding breakfast cereal that contains added flavors and too much sugar is ideal. If you can’t give up your morning cereal, consume plain corn flakes, oatmeal or any type that has no added sugar.
The Best Foods to Eat When Craving Sugar
In order to fully stop eating sugar, it is important to surround yourself with healthy options. Here are a few options of what to eat when having a sugar craving:
- Nuts: One of the best foods for cravings are nuts. Nuts, especially almonds, cashews, and walnuts are all high in omega fats. Typically, nuts have protein in each serving and no sugar. If you are looking for one of the best foods to aid in improving your overall health then consider a handful of plain roasted nuts each day. Make sure to read all packaging labels to avoid added sugars (honey-roasted or other flavored nuts are typical off-limits). Also a void salted nuts, as a salty diet can promote sugar cravings.
- Broccoli & Carrots: Veggies are a great option for anyone looking to curb sugar cravings. Delicious for snacking, raw broccoli is a great option for anyone looking to have a healthy alternative when a sugar craving pops up. A single serving of broccoli contains minimal amounts of fructose, which is important when you are looking to curb your sugar cravings. In addition, raw carrots are one of the best foods for snacking. A serving of carrots contains ample fiber and typically they contain low amounts of sugar as well. Consider adding raw carrots to your diet if you are having a sugar craving throughout the day.
- Tuna/Salmon/Chicken: One great way to curb sugar cravings is to eat more protein throughout the day. A typical serving of tuna has more than 20 grams of protein in a serving. Similar to the tuna, having four ounces of salmon for dinner can help prevent sugar cravings before bedtime.another lean protein option, similar to both tuna and salmon. Chicken is a popular choice for those looking to cut out sugar cravings. This meat is loaded with lean protein and generally a four-ounce serving at a meal should help to regulate your blood sugar levels. Grilled chicken is the healthiest option for preparation.
- Avocados: There are not many fruits mentioned on this list of best foods for sugar cravings, but the avocado is fantastic to enjoy any time you have a craving. For starters, a whole avocado is only about 300 calories, which is great if you are also looking to lose a few pounds. In addition, this fruit contains virtually no sugar, which is unusual for a fruit. The only downside to avocado is that it contains a lot of fat, but they are healthy ones— mostly omega fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats). Consider adding avocado to salads, on toast, or as a snack as a way to fight off sugar cravings.
- Water: Water is the most abundant substance in the body and when you’re dehydrated, your hormones can trick your brain into thinking you are hungry, which could lead to a sugar craving. The rule of thumb is to have about six to eight glasses each day, or about 64 ounces. Avoid sodas, sports drinks, juices, or adding sugary enhancers to your water to keep it healthy.
- Tea: Tea has many benefits for your health including improved mental clarity, reduced inflammation, as well as fighting sugar cravings. There are a few tea options to consider here, but chai and echinacea tea are popular options any time you are feeling a sugar craving coming on. Either hot or cold tea are great whenever you feel a craving come on — just make sure you don’t add any sweetener to your tea.
- High Fiber Foods: Fiber is important for curbing your appetite as well as for stopping sugar cravings. This is a win-win for anyone looking to lose a few pounds while eliminating sugar. Adults should aim for about 25-30 grams of fiber every day for optimal health. Some of the best options include whole grains, beans, legumes, and veggies.
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Diet can help! Our program is not only aimed at promoting healthy weight loss, but aims to improve your total wellness — where the side effect is weight loss, but the end result is better overall health and well being.
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