5 Ways to Tame Your Sweet Tooth
I have a love-hate relationship with sugar. Though visions of sugarplums have never danced in my head, I have dreamt about Tahitian vanilla crème brulée from Fleming's Steakhouse, coconut chocolate pie piled high with whipped cream from Honeypie Café and chocolate rum sponge cake topped with real French buttercream frosting.
I love the way sugary treats taste, but I hate that when I eat a lot of them, I tend to continue to yearn for more. I know I'm not alone in my struggle against sweets, so here are five ways to kick your sugar habit:
1. Limit sugar intake to 5 to 10 percent of your calories. For a 2,000-calorie diet, 10 percent is only 200 calories, or just over four tablespoons. "That's about 14 ounces of soda," says David Grotto, author of 101 Optimal Life Foods. Or just over a can. "If you go to a restaurant, you can easily [consume] that portion size and beyond."
2. Get sugar out of the house. "When you need a fix, go to the store and get what you want. Eat as little as possible and then throw the rest away," says Nancy Appleton, Ph.D., author of Suicide by Sugar.
3. Find a no-sugar buddy. "If you know someone else is watching you, you'll be more successful," says Dena McDowell, a registered dietician and nutritional consultant for weight-loss support company TOPS Club Inc. "The buddy system works really well."
4. Get enough sleep. "Even before I have my clients look at their calorie and sugar intake, I have them look at the clock to make sure they're getting enough sleep," Grotto says. "If you don't get enough sleep, it can actually cause you to crave more sugar.
Also, your body is in a state of stress." The trifecta for losing weight, he says, is to watch your calories, get enough exercise and get enough sleep. "Any time a client hits a plateau with weight loss, I have them look at this," Grotto says. "I've found that once someone gets enough sleep, the pounds can literally fall off."
5. Manage your cravings. "When you crave sugary food, set a timer for 15 minutes and do not eat that food," Appleton suggests. "Go exercise, pay your bills, clean your house or whatever. When the timer goes off, many times the craving has gone away. But the best thing is that you will have been in charge of the sugar for 15 minutes, maybe for the first time in your life."
Why Sugar's So Bad
Though it's widely known that consuming too much sugar can contribute to obesity, heart disease and diabetes, I discovered five other, more surprising reasons why we shouldn't eat too much of the white stuff:
1. It's addictive. "It's kind of a gateway food to overeating," says Grotto. Sugar can trick us into thinking we're still hungry when we're not. "There are neurotransmitters that go from your stomach to your brain to signal that it's full," says McDowell. "If you're eating a lot of sugar, it makes your stomach say 'give me more,' leading to a faulty feeling of not being full. Your neurotransmitters are misfiring, and sugar can become really, really addictive."
2. It suppresses the immune system. People who eat excessive amounts of candy or soda can have a slightly lowered line of defense against illness, McDowell says.
3. It promotes inflammation. Inflammation is implicated in many different diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis. "Research shows that consuming too much sugar can increase some of the inflammation markers in your body," McDowell says.
4. It can cause hormonal imbalances. "Some hormones become underactive, and others become overactive," says Appleton.
"Too much sugar is taxing on your pancreas, which is not only responsible for insulin, but other hormones," McDowell says. "For someone who has polycystic ovaries disease, we would tell her to limit her sugar intake, as it's not helping such a hormonal imbalance, it's making it worse."
5. It could make you more violent. A recent study shows that kids who drank five or more cans of sugary soda a day were significantly more likely to engage in violent behavior and carry weapons than those who didn't.
SecondAct asks: What are your sugar-fighting secrets? Add your comments below.