We’ve all heard the famous song chanting “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”.
Yes, it may be lovely and sweet, enhance our feelings of well-being as well as help us to swallow even the most unpalatable of tastes, however, have your ever considered how much sugar you are consuming? The fact of the matter is that sugar is not great for our health. Type 2 diabetes is a real issue today as rates of this disease have increased by around 60% in the last decade, and more worryingly, what used to be known as adult onset diabetes is now being seen in children too! Sugar also contributes towards cardiovascular disease and it absolutely wreaks havoc with our hormones and contributes to rapid ageing. It is also everywhere!! Sugar is found in lots and lots of processed foods, and foods that we also consider to be healthy are usually loaded with sugar so it’s very difficult to avoid.
The problem is that sugar is extremely addictive, and it is something that a lot of my clients find really difficult to reduce. Sugar stimulates our neurotransmitter dopamine, which is associated with reward and feeling good, and it is extremely powerful which means that many people struggle to give it up or even reduce it.
Now many people think of sugar as the white stuff that people add to cakes, biscuits, put into their tea and coffee, sprinkle on their cereals, but sugar comes in many other forms that we need to be aware of. White refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, white pasta as well as our cakes, pastries, biscuits are all broken down very quickly by our body into sugar, so it is worth avoiding those if you want to reduce your sugar intake.
Also be aware of hidden sugars that are found in many processed foods, drinks, yes even fruit juices such as orange juice and smoothies, but also fizzy drinks, yoghurts etc. If you are trying to reduce your sugar intake, then start to look at food labels and if sugar is listed as one of the top three ingredients, then I suggest not buying the product. Even natural sugars such as honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, natural fruit juices for example, need to be eaten in moderation, as the body still treats these like sugar, and they can have a negative effect on our health if eaten frequently. So if you are avoiding sugar, then these probably need to be avoided too.
So what are my top tips for helping you to reduce your sugar intake and cravings?
- Make sure you are eating meals that have a good portion of protein, think meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds as well as healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil and complex carbohydrates, brown rice, sweet potato, wholegrains. A good ratio of these will keep any sugar cravings at bay
- Add cinnamon to your breakfasts or drink cinnamon tea. Cinnamon is a really good alternative to sugar as it is naturally sweet, but it also helps to improve insulin sensitivity which is great news for balancing your blood sugar levels and helping to reduce your diabetes risk.
- Swap refined carbohydrates for complex carbohydrates such as wholegrains, brown rice, vegetables, which will help to provide slow release energy and avoid sugar spikes.
- Plan your meals and snacks ahead so that you’re not tempted to grab a chocolate bar or something sweet when temptation strikes. Choose snacks such as hummus and vegetable crudités, nuts and seeds, Greek yoghurt with low sugar fruit such as berries.
- Distracting yourself. Quite often we build habits into our lives such as having something sweet after every meal yet again stimulating our dopamine pathways. Obviously this can feed our sugar habits, so rather than grabbing your sugary ‘treat’ why not ‘reward’ yourself with something else other than sugar, for example, a long soak in the bath, a nice bunch of flowers or a short walk after your meal. This can help to build new habits and before you know it, your sugar cravings will become a thing of the past!
- Finally, if you really fancy some chocolate then choose dark chocolate of around 80%. Not only is it much lower in sugar, but it is high in magnesium which is known as natures sedative and it may satisfy your chocolate cravings plus you can’t eat too much of it so a couple of squares should satisfy even chocoholics!
Do you struggle with sugar cravings and if so what have you tried to curb those cravings??
For Nutritional guidance, contact Fiona Hutchison at Lymm Osteopathic Practice