Humans crave sweet things out of necessity.
We need these natural carbohydrates for proper body functions as well as the large variety of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and proteins that we receive when we consume a wide and colorful variety of vegetables, fruit and unprocessed grains. These carbohydrates are broken down into glucose molecules, where they enter our bloodstream, and are burned slowly while allowing our systems to absorb all of the nutrients that they have to offer.
The food industry has taken advantage of our natural craving and has begun adding sugar to everything. When reading labels, you will find it in the most unsuspected places. The difference between whole sugars and refined sugars, which are extracted from natural forms, like sugar cane and beets, are that they are void of the nutrients that we are actually craving when we desire sweet foods. This process creates a situation where the body has to use its own minerals and enzymes in order to absorb the sucrose, making consuming sugar not just empty calories, but actually making you deficient in your life building nutrients.
Just a few reasons to avoid Sugar:
- creates an acidic environment, a perfect home for disease, and is food for viruses, bacteria and yeast.
- Sugar in the blood stimulates your immune cells to actively release inflammatory molecules that travel throughout your body causing damage and irritation.
- Interferes with the absorption of calcium and magnesium
- weakens eye sight
- acidic digestive tract
- causes obesity
Sugar and the immune system
- 80% of Immune System is in the Gut, lying within a half inch of your gut wall.
- The gut is home to digestive flora where we have 10 times more bacteria than living cells. This bacteria keeps bad bacteria, yeast, viruses in check.
- Flora cools inflammation, fight infection, enhance nutrient absorption, promote proper elimination. We have more flora in our large intestines than all of the residents of NYC! Antibiotics, sugar, flour, yeast kills off healthy flora.
- We flora aids in nutrient absorption which in turns helps our immune system to thrive. When we eat sugars, breads and other processed food, we are clogging up our gut and making nutrient absorption very difficult. You could be eating a healthy diet, but due to a history or bad food choices it isn’t getting utilized efficiently.
Angiogenesis is the act of blood vessels (angio) growing (genesis) into fat and cancer cells, and then using those blood vessels as a means to grow the cells. Sugar is THE most important substance that acts as an angiogenesis activator. What does this also mean? That starving our cells of all forms of refined sugar, and even natural sugars (or keeping the natural sugars in modest amounts) starves the fat and cancer cells. In fact, by feeding the body anti-angiogenesis foods, we can retract those blood vessels and starve the cells further. Eating angiogenesis inhibitors on a daily basis is a key to preventing these issues to arise in the future. My favorite being Lingzhi, or reishi, mushroom, which I take on a daily basis.
Sugar and Belly Fat
Eating sugar, especially refined sugars and flours, causes a sharp rise in your blood sugar. The elevated blood sugar levels cause us to easily excitability, anxiety, hyperactivity, and then flip to exhaustion and irritability. Once our levels are spiked, our body needs to do something with all of that sugar. In order for your cells to absorb it, insulin levels spike. The more we are eating these foods, the longer our insulin levels stay spiked. A primary cause of belly fat is through elevated levels of insulin. Belly fat is a different type of fat than the rest of your body. It is actually metabolically active, giving it the ability to cause inflammation! Unfortunately inflammation is the root cause of so much of our pain and disease! When we switch our diet over to consume foods that digest slower, low glycemic, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, we don’t need to produce as much insulin to absorb the nutrients, belly fat decreases as does inflammation.
Like heroin, cocaine and caffeine, sugar is an addictive, destructive drug, yet we consume it daily in everything from cigarettes to bread.
-William Dufty, author of Sugar Blues.
Ways to curb sugar
From the Institute of Integrative Nutrition:
- “Low glycemic fruits and vegetables red bell peppers, winter squash, sweet potatoes
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine. The ups and downs of caffeine include dehydration and blood sugar swings, and may cause sugar cravings to become more frequent.
- Drink water. Sometimes sweet cravings are a sign of dehydration. Before you go for the sugar, have a glass of water and wait a few minutes to see what happens. Caution: soft drinks are now America’s number one source of added sugar.
- Eat sweet vegetables and fruit. They are naturally sweet, healthy and delicious. The more you eat, the less you’ll crave sugar.
- Use gentle sweets. Avoid chemicalized, artificial sweeteners and foods with added sugar. Use gentle sweeteners like maple syrup, brown rice syrup, dried fruit, stevia and barley malt.
- Get physically active. Start with simple activities like walking or yoga. Start with 10 minutes a day and gradually increase. Being active helps balance blood sugar levels, boosts energy, and reduces tension which will eliminate the need to self-medicate with sugar!
- Get more sleep, rest and relaxation. Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, are the most readily usable forms of energy for an exhausted body and mind. If you are in a chronic state of stress and/or sleep deprivation, your body will crave the quickest form of energy there is: sugar.
- Evaluate the amount of animal food you eat. According to yin/yang principles of eating (such as in Macrobiotics and TCM), eating too much animal food (yang) can lead to cravings for sweets (yin). Imbalances can also occur with too little animal protein (for some individuals). Through experimentation and intuition, you can find which foods create balance for you as an individual.
- Eliminate fat-free or low-fat packaged snack-foods. These foods contain high quantities of sugar to compensate for lack of flavor and fat, which will send you on the roller-coaster ride of sugar highs and lows.
- Experiment with spices. Coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom will naturally sweeten your foods and reduce cravings.
- Slow down and find sweetness in non-food ways! Every craving is not a signal that your body biologically requires sugar. Cravings often have a psychological component. By identifying the psychological causes of food cravings and substituting lifestyle and relationship adjustments accordingly, you can begin to find balance and take charge of your health. When life becomes sweet enough itself, no additives are needed!”
The eight primary causes of cravings are:
From the Institute of Integrative Nutrition:
- “Lack of primary food. Being dissatisfied with a relationship or having an inappropriate exercise routine (too much, too little or the wrong kind), being bored, stressed, uninspired by a job, or lacking a spiritual practice may all cause emotional eating. Eating can be used as a substitute for entertainment or to fill the void of primary food.
- Water. Lack of water can send the message that you are thirsty and on the verge of dehydration. Dehydration can manifest as a mild hunger, so the first thing to do when you get a craving is drink a full glass of water. Excess water can also cause cravings, so be sure that your water intake is well balanced.
- Yin/yang imbalance. Certain foods have more` yin qualities (expansive) while other foods have more yang qualities (contractive). Eating foods that are either extremely yin or extremely yang causes cravings in order to maintain balance. For example, eating a diet too rich in sugar (yin) may cause a craving for meat (yang). Eating too many raw foods (yin) may cause cravings for extremely cooked (dehydrated) foods or vise versa.
- Inside coming out. Often times, cravings come from foods that we have recently eaten, foods eaten by our ancestors, or foods from our childhood. A clever way to satisfy these cravings is to eat a healthier version of one’s ancestral or childhood foods.
- Seasonal. Often the body craves foods that balance the elements of the season. In the spring, people crave detoxifying foods like leafy greens or citrus foods. In the summer, people crave cooling foods like fruit, raw foods and ice cream, and in the fall people crave grounding foods like squash, onions and nuts. During winter, many crave hot and heat-producing foods like meat, oil and fat. Cravings can also be associated with the holidays, for foods like turkey, eggnog or sweets, etc.
- Lack of nutrients. If the body has inadequate nutrients, it will produce odd cravings. For example, inadequate mineral levels produce salt cravings, and overall inadequate nutrition produces cravings for non-nutritional forms of energy, like caffeine.
- Hormonal. When women experience menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and estrogen levels may cause unique cravings.
- De-evolution. When things are going extremely well, sometimes a self-sabotage syndrome happens. We crave foods that throw us off, thus creating more cravings to balance ourselves. This often happens from low blood sugar and may result in strong mood swings.”
Remember, sugar is NOT what is causing the problem.
Sugar is what we’ve determined the solution to be.
WHY do we want sugar?
WHY are we feeling this way?
What steps can we take to empower us to let go and move forward?
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