The Low Down On Sugar: Understanding your Cravings

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By Christie Korth, CHC AADP

(Note from Dr Craig: The following guest article may be helpful to individuals who are interested in becoming healthier by reducing refined sugar in their diet. Some of the substitute recommendations by the author may be more beneficial to you than sugar, but still contribute to acidity in the body. For optimal health, I recommend a high alkaline diet but this article may help those who want to make some improvement in their diet but are not willing to go all the way.)

It’s 3pm and you are sitting at your desk at work, trying to silently nudge the time along so you can clock out. You’re tired, and the candy machine in the lounge is calling your name. A war begins in your head- with one side trying to fight the urge to but in the end, the other wins and you convince yourself you need a pick me up. Suddenly- the apple on your desk looks less appealing. Before you know it, you are looking at the empty peanut chocolate bar wrapper on your desk. Almost as fast as you ate the bar, you feel guilty. Why does this happen?

Sugar stimulates the feel-good, stimulating hormone dopamine- which; for some can be chronically low and lead to sugar cravings. Other times, a more simplistic reason is to blame- dehydration. Your body sends signals to the brain for water, and the cravings can be misinterpreted for a sugar craving. Next time you are out to lunch and want dessert, check to see if you have consumed any water. If not, you may be surprised to see your craving disappears after a cool glass of water. Here are some other reasons for craving sugar:

1: Emotional Eating: Do you ever eat when you are bored, or upset? We eat when we are happy at a celebration and when we are struck by a craving. Consider if what you are really craving is food, or if you are sad for example- if you really just need to talk or a hug. Paying attention to your physical and emotional needs and being in tune with what your body is really asking for is key.

2: Yin/Yang theory: Consider eating one food can cause you to crave another. For example, foods which are considered Yin foods are expansive foods like sugar, alcohol, white foods, milk, and foods like meat, cheese, eggs and salt are considered Yang foods, which are contractive. Eating these foods can cause a craving for another. Ever want something salty after you eat something sweet? Consider eating more neutral foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, poultry, fish, beans, and the like.

3: Seasonal Eating: Sometimes we crave foods because of the season. Up until the past couple 100 years, we ate seasonally. For example, if you lived in New York, odds are- you didn’t have pineapple in December like we have access to today. Consider we should eat more warming foods in the fall and winter like meats, squashes, and root vegetables, more greens in the spring and cooling, refreshing fruits like watermelon, peaches and plums in the summer. Eating according to Mother Nature’s unique schedule is not only cheaper, but tastier and better for your bodies overall needs.

Even if you think you don’t consume a lot of sugar, please evaluate your dietary intake carefully. In my book, The IBD Healing Plan and Recipe Book: Using Whole Foods to Relieve Crohn’s Disease and Colitis, I reveal that the average American eats 142 lbs of sugar, per person, per year. That is someone’s entire body weight in sugar, or two 70 lb boxes per person! Or put into daily perspective- the average American consumes about 20 teaspoons of sugar per day.

If you’re not sure how this is possible, consider we are accustomed to drinking our calories in coffee, juice, soda and sports beverages. We consume doughnuts for breakfast, rolls with processed meat for lunch, cake for dessert; the list goes on and on. Think about how this is impacting our society. The fuel we put into our bodies surely plays a role in the auto immune disease pandemic we are seeing today. We have more and more people succumbing to preventable diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer than ever before. Most people today are not fortunate enough to report not knowing someone with any of these diseases. How can we stop the increase in these diseases? The answer is simple: eat less sugar, refined fats and meat and consume more whole, unprocessed foods.

As far as sugar is concerned, you can easily take matters into your own hands by choosing sugars which are considered complex carbohydrates vs. refined or simple carbs. Complex carbs, like fruits, veggies, beans and grains provide long lasting energy by releasing the sugars into the body slowly. Table sugar and “white foods” are refined carbohydrates which cause the blood sugar to spike due to its rapid release in the body. Refined or simple carbs pack on the pounds and contribute to diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, arthritis; and more. While that peanut butter and banana sandwich may look amazing for lunch, consider eating only one slice of bread and subbing the rest of the meal with an apple. Notice if you have more or less energy when you eat this way. You are certainly getting more vitamins and allowing room for more whole foods, thus preventing disease and lowering your sugar intake.

Consider checking out more natural resources for sugar…

Brown Rice Syrup: This product consists of brown rice that has been ground and cooked, converting the starches to maltose. Brown rice syrup tastes like moderately sweet butterscotch and is quite delicious. In recipes, you may have to use up to 50% more brown rice syrup than sugar, and reduce the amount of other liquids.
Agave Nectar: A natural liquid sweetener made from the juice of the agave cactus. It is 1.4 times sweeter than refined sugar, but does not create a “sugar rush,” and is much less disturbing to the body’s blood sugar levels than white sugar.

Molasses: Organic molasses is probably the most nutritious sweetener derived from sugar cane or sugar beet, and is made by a process of clarifying and blending the extracted juices. The longer the juice is boiled, the less sweet, more nutritious, and darker the product is. Molasses imparts a very distinct flavor to food. Blackstrap molasses, the most nutritious variety, is a good source of iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

Dates: Dates are like natures candy and can be used to mimic caramel in snack bars when mixed with fried fruit and nuts. Dates can also be used can be used in salads, to sweeten baked goods, etc. Dates are high in minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.

Try using one of these natural sweeteners to swap out white sugar in your next holiday or dessert recipe. All three liquid sweeteners work very well in batters, cakes, smoothies, cereals, granola, and puddings. The dates work best in cakes, smoothies and bars. Natural sweeteners allow for the best way to enjoy sweets -without the guilt! If you can simply start by trying these recipes at home, you will be surprised how quickly and easily you can be healthier and happier by eating less refined sugar. To your health!

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Photo by: bossacafez

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