Woman refusing cupcakes

Living A Sugar-Free Lifestyle

If you’re planning to give up sugar, the first thing you need to realize is, it’s going to be tough. You may have seen articles about how you can, “Give up Sugar In Ten Easy Steps.” Well, you can omit the easy part. These articles will probably tell you that if you realized how much sugar was in your favorite candy bar, you wouldn’t eat it. The truth is, once you realize what the sugarless version of the candy bar tastes like, you’ll be running back to the original. The second thing you need to realize about giving up sugar is, it may be worth it. Here are some of the facts on living a sugar-free lifestyle.

Why Is Sugar Bad?

Worsens Cholesterol
Scientists have found a definite link between sugar and high levels of blood fats. Studies show that eating sugar can more than triple the odds of having low HDL cholesterol levels, which are strongly associated with heart disease.

Sugar and Diabetes
Although eating sugar does not cause diabetes, higher sugar intakes have been linked to the disease. According to Rachel K. Johnson, RD, it may be that the sugar contributes to obesity, which, in turn, raises the risk for diabetes. She says, “It may be because the sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with higher BMIs or associated with overweight and obesity, which we know is a risk factor for diabetes.”

woman eating salad

Living Sugar-Free
It has been said that withdrawing from sugar may cause the same neurological symptoms as quitting morphine, nicotine, cocaine, and alcohol. If you think you’re up to the challenge, here are a few pieces of advice.

Don’t Use Artificial Sugar Substitutes
Most scientists agree that replacing sugar with artificial substitutes is just trading one bad habit for the other. By still fulfilling your craving for sweetness, you are leaving yourself open to sugar temptations. The real trick is to trade the sweet stuff for the savory, or as Kristine Kirkpatrick MD recommends, trading “licorice for salmon.”

Don’t Go Fat-Free
Fat-free doesn’t mean sugar fee. In fact, many fat-free products have higher sugar levels to compensate for the lack of fat. Fat-free angel cake has 20 more grams of sugar per slice than the sugary version. A better solution is to keep monosaturated fat-containing products, like salad dressing and peanut butter to the full-fat variety and avoid saturated fats, found typically in cookies, cakes, and muffins.

woman drinking milk

Exercise and Drink Milk
One thing that makes sugar hard to kick is the feel good factor. Sugar has been shown to stimulate reward mechanisms within the brain. One study shows that consuming whey protein ( a major component of milk) has a similar effect. Milk increases serotonin levels in the brain known to cause mood elevation and therefore may make a good replacement for the “sugar high.” Exercise has been proven to have similar effects.

Keep Healthy Snacks On Hand
Keeping healthy, sugar-free food options close by are a good way of avoiding the temptation to grab the occasional ice cream or candy from the vending machine. Nuts, raisins, fruit, and cheese are all options for replacing sugar loaded snacks. Try to keep them within reach, glove compartments, purses, and desk drawers are all handy places for a healthy stash.

If you’re quitting, or have quit sugar, let us know how you’re handling the challenge. Let us know what you’re doing to keep sugar free.

Woman snacking

The Science Behind Your Snack Attacks

When you get a snack attack, most probably the only science you’re thinking about is how you can most efficiently get a bag of chips into your stomach. However, when it comes to cravings, there really is a good amount of science behind them, and it doesn’t just concern the rate of food traveling to your tummy. The fact is, certain foods, especially those high in sugar, salt, and fat, trigger a release of dopamine, which means they are hitting the pleasure center in your brain at the same time they are hitting the hunger center in your belly and the reaction is an unfailing, “Give me more!” Here are some of the most addictive foods and how they work their magic.

Cheese
Besides being high in fat and cholesterol, cheeses also contain a high level of casomorphin, which binds to the feel-good receptors in the brain. According to Neal Barnard, MD, mice aren’t the only ones susceptible to the lure of a good cheddar. “Casmorphins attach to neurotransmitter in our brain and release dopamine, feel-good chemicals that often lead us to wanting more.” Apparently, Americans are getting cheesier as time goes on. The doctor notes that the average American consumes 30 pounds more cheese per year than he or she did 100 years ago.

Woman eating chips

Carbs
It’s the quick glucose release of carbohydrates like potato chips and pretzels which keep our hands going back to the bag to reach for another. Celina Jean, nutritionist, says, ” Simple carbohydrates are seen as an addictive because they cause a quick glucose release, and this quickly increases a person’s energy. The energy will quickly be used up, and the then you’ll be forced to eat more simple carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar raised.”

Sugary Drinks
Not only do sweet sodas, lemonades, and iced tea provide us with empty calories, a 12 ounce can of the stuff can contain up to 35 grams of sugar. Sodas also trigger dopamine release. That, along with the caffeine jolt can provide a quite a hit of energy. Ashvini Mashru, registered dietician warns, “Once you’re hooked on caffeine, you can suffer symptoms of withdrawal if you try to stop, including sluggishness, headaches, and emotional distress.

French fries

French Fries
Crisp, hot, and salty, french fries have all the classic ingredients of addictive food. Mashru tells us that the fat content in the fries sends signals to our gut and brain telling us to eat more. He says, “Those little potato sticks are also a comfort food. Therefore, every time you go through a line in a restaurant and see them on the menu, you may find the urge to order them as a side to your entree irresistible.”

Chocolate
Chocolate gives you kick because it binds to the same pleasure centers in your brain as drugs and alcohol. A study conducted by Drexel University found chocolate often provides a nice “mouth feel” which triggers the production of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Dan Defigio, author of Beating Sugar Addiction for Dummies, explains, “Over time, our brains start looking for that dopamine hit, and every time we eat chocolate, it reinforces that wiring.”

What foods are you addicted to? Tell us your shocking stories of how your battles with food addictions. We want to know!

Woman drinking a detox smoothie

Feel Better With A Weekend Detox

  Do you dream in chocolate?  Do you leave a basket of fruit on your table when the neighbors come and quickly swap it for the donut box when they go?  Do you have a secret stash of Snickers bars under your bed?  If this describes you, you may be a good candidate for a weekend detox.  Now let’s get this straight.  A weekend detox is not just for the nutritionally deprived.  It is a more like going on a two-day health bender in which your diet and health habits are regulated with the goal of cleansing your system, restoring blood pressure, and getting your digestion and blood sugar back on track.  Sound like a nutty adventure?  Let’s take a closer look.

Why the Weekend?
One thing you should keep in mind is that there is a reason for it being called a weekend detox.  Firstly,  limiting your food intake in this way is definitely not the best way to stay focused in the office and should only be done for a short time period.  Also, you need time to prepare your foods and might end up having to use the bathroom excessively because of the water, tea, and juices that constitute a good portion of most diets. Thus, a leisurely day with some degree of privacy may be best.

The Nutritional Component
The detox menu varies depending on the plan you follow.  The most severe ones are limited to system flushing liquids and smoothies, but more of them incorporate a restricted list of foods.  Here are the general rules of detox eating.

Antioxidants
Eating brightly colored fruits and veggies, whole grains and beans get rid of harmful substances and make them water soluble, so your system can flush them more easily.  Think spinach, kale, and cranberries.

Eat foods with Glutathione
What’s that?  Glutathione is an antioxidant that is produced by your own body.  It can be found in garlic, onions, eggs and foods rich in sulfuric compounds.  It is useful in removing toxins, including mercury and arsenic, from the body.

Drink water and tea
There is no denying that elimination is one of the primary goals of detox.  Water helps you with Number 1, Number 2, and perspiration.  While detoxing, try to drink 8-12 glasses of water or decaffeinated tea.

You may also want to add some  detox teas as  a bonus. These generally contain dandelion which supports digestion and liver function, licorice which expels mucus, and ginger, which stimulates circulation and gets rid of toxins.  Licorice tea, in particular, contains a compound that is 50 times sweeter than sugar, which may help to control a sweet tooth.

Eat Clean
Remember, your goal is to eliminate food that contain the toxins you are trying to eliminate.  Avoid processed goods including fast food, fried food, caffeine, dairy, alcohol, red meat, sugar and white flour.

Parting Notes
Avoid eating after 7 PM and get eight hours of sleep.  This will kick-start your system and help develop lasting healthy habits, or at least, help you get reacquainted with your fruit basket.