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Manic Monday - Sugar Detox

I love sugar. Not necessarily the jelly bean candy-type of sugar: I love baked goods. Yes, cookies, cakes, pies, donuts.... you get the idea. And I know I'm not alone. I see adults (and children alike) around me drinking sugary drinks (ahem... MD). In fact, my son was just recently given a dollar to get "whatever he wanted" at the concession stand. I then watched him receive a Mountain Dew from the stand and try to run by me without me noticing. He didn't get far when I confiscated his MD and walked him back to the stand to trade it in for something a little less potent. The caffeine in soda is one thing, but it's the mass amount of sugar that concerns me most and that MD is liquid syrup that people love. I'm not a fan of super sugary beverages but many are... and it wreaks havoc on our bodies. I am a believer that sugar, especially refined or in forms of high fructose corn syrup and other added forms, is a big culprit of unhealthy living.

Over a year ago, the announcement was made that, globally, one in five adults will become obese by 2025 if the current trends continue. While there are many factors that have contributed to our “global obesity epidemic”, from stress and lack of sleep to processed food, it’s also clear that sugar has played a large part in the widening of the worldly waistlines. From journalists to researchers there have been many books written on the negative health impact of sugar. Dr. Robert Lustig, researcher and author of “Fat Chance”, has been very outspoken on the subject of sugar and illness suggesting that as sugar consumption rose through the introduction of processed food, so did the chronic disease and obesity rates.

We now hear more reports in the media of people swearing off the white stuff and overcoming their addiction or reliance on sugar than ever before. If this is maybe something of interest, may I offer 5 considerations before embarking on the path to freedom from sugar…

1. Start Slowly

Sugar, just like any drug, can lead to addiction. In fact, research is starting to examine the strong influences sugar has on our eating behavior and food choices. Brain studies have shown that the same parts of the brain that light up after a hit of heroine light up after a hit of sugar. So it makes sense then, especially for those sugar addicts, to take things slow versus cutting it out cold turkey.

Creating a plan of action may be the first step. We may be inclined to eliminate sugar altogether, but it may be in our best interest to start with a reduction in refined sugar. Instead of two sugary drinks a day, cut down to one; instead of adding sugar to cereals, beverages, and cooking think about cutting back. If we are successful at doing this, the next steps of elimination may not be as painful.

2. Focus on Whole Foods

The average American consumes approximately 23 teaspoons of sugar every day. The culprits may not be the sugar they can see, but the sugar that is hidden in most process foods items we buy every day. From salad dressings and ketchup to soups and lunch meats if one were to check the amount of sugar per serving, one would understand how we can ingest 23 teaspoons of sugar a day.

Whole foods are defined as foods that rot within a week, that don’t have a package, or foods that our ancestors would recognize as food. Vegetables, fruits, or anything with less than a few ingredients (and ingredients we can pronounce) are whole foods. Whole foods are low in sugar or naturally occurring, like fruit. By adding more whole foods and reducing our process food intake, we will be successful at lowering our sugar intake significantly.

3. Chose Water

It is all too common for sodas, hydration drinks, or fruit juices to be offered at meal time and is the drink of choice for many. Given the high amount of sugar in these beverages, choosing water over any other beverage will most certainly reduce our sugar intake.

For those that dislike the taste of water or find it boring to drink, using water bottles with infusers built in may take the blah out of drinking water. Placing orange or lemon slices in a water bottle or jug may also add a bit of zing to water while we decrease our consumption of sugary beverages.

4. Watch the Sauce

We can commit ourselves to eating more salads for lunch and dinner but still consume a high amount of sugar in the dressings and sauces we choose. From salad dressings to BBQ sauces, the amount of sugar per serving can be quite steep and have a huge influence on our daily teaspoons of sugar. So what is a saucy person to do?

There are three choices to be made when deciding how far to go in our quest for sugar freedom. The first (and most laborious) option is taking the time and energy to make our own sauces with healthy, whole ingredients. The second may include reading each label and choosing a product with the lowest sugar per servings or, third, choose not to sweat the small stuff. Either way, awareness is the key and where we go from there is up to us.

5. Focus on Fruit

Fruit (and many vegetables) come with their own naturally occurring sugar; fructose. While eating ten apples a day may lead in weight gained over time, enjoying the natural sweetness of a piece of fruit may help curb our sugar craving while deliver a healthy dose of fibre at the same time. It is important to keep fruit consumption in moderation, but fruit is healthful choice for our sweet tooth.

On the other hand, fruit juice may be the equivalent of a soda, but without the fizz. Don’t be fooled by the latest trends in juice bars popping up in our neighborhoods. Although juice comes from a whole, healthy source, it is delivering the sugar without the fiber while lacking the nutritional punch that only a whole fruit can deliver.

BONUS: Don’t Forget to Enjoy Food

Sometimes an apple will never replace the joy we get from eating a high quality chocolate bar or piece of cake. It is very common to lose sight of food enjoyment and pleasure in the name of health. Life is too short to a eat gluten free, sugar free, wheat free, vegan birthday cake without risking a fun free celebration. Food is there to enjoy so we must find a healthy balance between eating for our health and loving what we eat.

If we impose strict rules onto our eating, we will soon find ourselves binging on a carton off ice cream instead of just a small bowl. If we restrict our “fun” foods to one day of the week, we may be inviting binge eating (and the cycle of shame, guilt, and self-hate that goes with it). Health is about moderation, and not restriction.

So "sugar-down" instead of "sugar-up!" You will notice a difference in better energy and your waistline!

Have a GREAT week!!

~Rachel Zimmerman

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