When my mom was a little girl, whenever she would get chocolate candy, she managed to make it last forever. She would ration it and squirrel away the rest. She would take a little bite every day and savour it (unlike her younger sister, who would eat her own share and then go hunting for my mom's). I never understood how she managed not to gobble it all up in one sitting. You can see where I'm going with this. When it came to sweets, self-control was not my forte. The apple had fallen and rolled far from the tree!
Growing up, my favourite candy bar was Reese’s – the combination of chocolate and peanut butter was like no other! But over the years, it became apparent to me that my favourite chocolate was causing my throat to burn. The high sugar content (not to mention the artificial colours, numbered 1, 5, 6, and 40) did not agree with my body and I had to accept it.
good habits are as addictive as bad habits, but much more rewarding
It was one of my healthiest break ups. After all, the whopping 21 g of sugar contained in two cups was not something I wanted to put my body through. Too much sugar over time impacts cholesterol, increases blood glucose, causes you to gain weight and raises your blood pressure.
Which is why The World Health Organization recommends that adults limit their "free" sugar to no more than 50 g per day (equivalent to appx. 10 tsp of sugar), preferably as little as 25 g (or 5 tsp of sugar). Free sugars refer to monosaccharides (such as glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates. The WHO guideline does not refer to the sugars in fresh fruits and vegetables because let's face it: nobody has ever developed diabetes or heart disease from eating too many fruits and vegetables! Much of the sugars consumed today are “hidden” in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets. For example, 1 tablespoon of ketchup contains around 4 grams (around 1 teaspoon) of free sugars. A single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of free sugars.
Since my realization, I started to choose treats made with natural ingredients and lower sugar content. For example, I use coconut sugar (lower glycemic index than white or brown sugar) for baking; opt for whole fruit and vegetable smoothies vs juices (the fibre in whole fruits and veggies helps to control how quickly glucose enters the bloodstream)l and choose real cacao for the satisfying chocolate cravings, which also contains high magnesium and fibre.
If you are looking to cut back on sugar, there are a few simple hacks for cutting out the sweet stuff from your diet.
- First, ask yourself if you are getting enough protein. Many people who are protein-deficient seem to crave sugars and carbohydrate foods. A diet rich in complex carbohydrates (whole grain), vegetables and protein foods can help stabilize blood sugar and minimize the desire for sugar.
- Although both fruits and veggies contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, fruits naturally contain more sugar, so make sure to eat more vegetables than fruit in the day. A rule-of-thumb that I like to stick to is to have twice the amount of veggies as fruit in the day. So for every serving of fruit I have (like 1 banana or 20 grapes), I have two servings of vegetables (like 1/2 cup of broccoli and half a carrot).
- Nutrients that help reduce sugar cravings include: B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, the trace mineral chromium (found in cinnamon), and the amino acid L-glutamine. I recommend that you speak with your healthcare practitioner to determine if you have any nutrient deficiencies.
Incorporate more natural foods, low sugar produce and healthy fats. Here are some food ideas to help replace your sugar treats:
- Fresh fruit (I would recommend fruit only when in season)
- Plain yogurt without sweeteners
- Dried fruits with nuts to make the snack less sugary and lower on the glycemic index
- Almond / peanut butter on toast / cracker / veggie sticks
- Protein smoothies (encourage to incorporate good fats - flax seed or coconut oil)
- Vegetables sticks with hummus
- Granola (unsweetened)
- Mixed nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
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