Sugar has become more prominent in our diets over the years and has been linked to a number of health diseases, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer. A highly addictive yet tasty substance, sugar has been termed the ‘white poison’ of our foods.
Sugar is a carbohydrate that naturally occurs in whole real foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy. As these foods contain other beneficial nutrients such as fiber, essential minerals, and antioxidants, they also provide us with a steady state of energy into our bodies. However, problems start to occur when we consume overly processed or manufactured foods containing high levels of added sugars, which increase the flavor of foods and give us that sugar high and surge of energy.
Sugar is highly addictive and often is associated with strong cravings such as headaches, lack of energy, irritability, anxiety, low moods, and changes in our sleep patterns.
Recent studies in Australia and New Zealand have shown that people are consuming over 28 teaspoons of refined sugar per day! With top sources coming from soft drinks, fruit juices, flavored yogurt, cereals, cakes, processed foods, and candy. So how much should we eat? The World Health Organization recommends around 5-10 teaspoons (50g) of free sugar per day, that’s it! Here’s a few tips on how to start reducing your sugar levels.
Replace sugar with good fats
Good, quality fats fuel us for longer and can help curb those afternoon cravings. Try bumping up your breakfast or lunch meal with some avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, or oily fish. Nut butters and veggie sticks make a great afternoon snack or chia seed pudding.
Ensure adequate hydration
Being dehydrated can often cause the body to crave sugar or feel hungry. It’s important to drink plenty of water (8-10 glasses) to make sure we are fully hydrated each day. Add a slice of lemon or a few berries to get the taste buds going!
Good quality rest and repair
These days our lives are filled with pressure and urgency at work or running the children around to school activities while maintaining a household and putting food on the table. Caffeine and sugar combined tends to fuel us during these times but can leave us feeling amped up and more stressed. It is important that we slow down and ensure adequate periods of downtime so we can activate our rest and digest part of the nervous system and create a sense of calm. This is when the magic happens, and the body repairs.
Is there an emotional connection?
Sweet foods often have an emotional connection associated with them or a need that isn’t being met. We tend to reach for that sweet item after a stressful day, as a reward, or when we are searching for feelings of love or pleasure in our lives. I invite you to try something different that still brings out those blissful feelings, like getting together with friends, watching the sunset with your partner, laughing with your children, or dancing like no one is there. Whatever makes you feel happy. Try it and notice the effects.
Fill your cupboards with whole, real foods
Replace those sugary items with real, unprocessed foods. Out of sight, out of mind is the key, and when we fill our bodies up on the good stuff, then there’s no room for the junk!
By Chrissy Denton
Certified Nutritionist and Personal Trainer