Chapter 5: How Sweet It Isn’t: Week 2: Rethinking Our Love Affair with Sugar

This week’s chapter focuses on sugar and different types of sweeteners as well as how to eliminate sugar and chemical sweeteners from our diet.  Alex goes into details regarding the average intake of sugar per person in America which is 20 teaspoons/day, twice as much as the USDA recommendation.  Considering one 12-ounce can of Coke has 10 teaspoons, in my estimate, Americans have an intake of 40 teaspoons/day.   Cutting down on sugar helps in weight loss, eliminate candida overgrowth, and can cut down on our exposure to carcinogens, especially when it comes to chemical replacements for sugar. 

As many of you know, I’m currently a student at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and one of their resources discusses 10 Steps for Dealing with Sugar Addiction, which I have replicated below to help all of you in the transition of detoxing your body from sugar addiction.

  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine.  The ups and downs of caffeine include dehydration and blood sugar swings, causing sugar cravings to be more frequent.
  • Drink water.  Sometimes sweet cravings are a sign of dehydration.  Before you go for the sugar, have a glass of water and then 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 chemical, 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 eliminating 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), 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.

In addition to the elimination of sugar and chemical sweeteners, Alex discusses the benefits of natural sweeteners like agave nectar, brown rice syrup and date sugar.  Agave nectar is appropriate for people with diabetes and hypoglycemia.  It’s got a low glycemic index and is derived from the agave cactus.  Date sugar is found up pitted and dehydrated dates and contains the same nutrients as the date fruit, it also serves as a great replacement for white cane sugar in baking.  On pages 80-81 in the book, Alex outlines the way to use a natural sweetener in place of white or brown sugar.  Check out the following handout on natural sweeteners which discusses sweet cravings, definitions of natural sweeteners and includes a table of substituting natural sweeteners for regular sugar. 

Stress Lessen – Groovin’ and Cookin’:  I really liked Alex’s suggestions for cooking at home and incorporating an atmosphere of fun to the experience.  I like her ideas on matching food to music.  My boyfriend and I have decided to have one evening a week where we have dinner at the table, a fancy sort of dinner.  I think I will use Alex’s suggestions for my weekly menu ideas.  This week I’ll focus in Italian Food for our dinner together on Wednesday evening and add the opera music, I love this idea.

Mental Detox – Sweet Stories:  Let’s all try this excercise as suggested by Alex.  Using a blank sheet of paper, begin writing about your earliest childhood memories that involved sweets.  For me it was my maternal grandfather insisting that myself, my brother and any other kid in the neighborhood go to the drugstore, which was walking distance from our house.  We were able to get whatever item we would like.  I often times would get Nik L Nip mini drinks which are wax mini bottles that you bit the lid off and drink the contents.  Recently I went to a fabulous candy store in Arvada called Scrumptious.  They have every candy you would ever remember from your childhood.  When I look at the back of the Nick L Nip candy the ingredients are:  water, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, citric acid, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate, artificial colors. 

Good luck this week with your sugar detox, and if you ever need any assistance with your diet, nutrition counseling, or healthy cooking, feel free to check out my website at www.lisas-lentils.com for information regarding my personal services.

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