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Weaning yourself off sugar with Bernadette Bohan

29-01-2014 11:30

Learn how to eat less sugar, improve your diet and shred those extra pounds with Bernadette Bohan’s simple changes for better health.

Today, we are eating more sugar than any other generation. On average, previous generations consumed four to seven pounds of sugar per person, per year. In our modern diet, we eat 90 pounds of refined sugars per person, per year. Sugar addiction stems much further than the physiological needs for sugar. There are a number of psychological factors that contribute to sweet cravings, such as emotions, boredom, moods and stress. We associate eating sugary foods with feeling good and often use sugar as a way of suppressing emotional problems. It can numb painful feelings, ease mood swings, stop us feeling lonely or simply help us pass the time when we are bored. It can fill the emotional void that is left behind from upsets in our lives. If you frequently find yourself reaching for something sweet to relieve unwanted emotional states, then sugar has become your emotional crutch.

Cancer cells thrive on sugar. They have many more receptor cells for capturing sugar than healthy cells. The molecular biology of cancer cells requires glucose to feed them. For some people, cancer cells grow faster and stronger when their sugar levels are frequently above normal. Cutting down our intake of sugar cuts off an important food supply to cancer cells. It’s not just people who are diagnosed with cancer who are affected by this. Each of us generates new cancer cells each day in our bodies – but a healthy immune system deals with them so that they don’t become an issue.

It’s clear that we need to take a serious look at overcoming the tendency we have to consume too much sugar, when research shows that sugar:

• increases your risk of cancer and diabetes

• elevates LDL cholesterol

• disturbs brain chemistry

• increases weight and obesity

• raises blood-sugar levels

• increases the risk factor for kidney disease

• feeds fungus, yeasts and bacteria

• rots teeth.

People often tell me they don’t eat sugar. What they really mean is they don’t eat white table sugar. Sugar is the one food that most people eat every day whether they know it or not, as it is in almost every food you eat. It’s no secret that there are hidden sugars in a vast number of commonly eaten foods, ranging from fruit juices, probiotic drinks, sauces, salad dressings, cheese spreads and pretty much every processed food – even infant formula. Those that surprised me most are the ones that are added to savoury foods. Check out the labels of packets of rashers, ham, sliced turkey breast, etc. Remember that anything in an ingredient list that ends in ‘ose’ is sugar, e.g. glucose, fructose and dextrose.

Be on your guard with artificial sweeteners

There are many artificial sweeteners which people use as alternatives to sugar. Not only are some of these toxic but some of them can actually stimulate your appetite and increase your cravings for sugar, which is all bad news for your waistline. Here are a few to watch out for:

Aspartame is a well-known sweetener that has been linked to many diseases. According to research, this controversial non-nutritive sweetener can cause heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, anxiety attacks, tinnitus, vertigo, memory loss and joint pain. It is found in cereals, flavoured water, cooking sauces, yoghurt, diet soda, chewing gum and even children’s medicine.

Saccharin is used in restaurants as a replacement for table sugar, it’s also used in soft drinks, chewing gum, jams and baked goods. Saccharin was previously listed as a cancercausing substance by the National Toxicology Program in America. Saccharin was banned, as recently as 2001 in parts of America, but is now been deemed safe, however, I would err on the side of caution with this artificial sweetener (see People chew sugar-free gum to protect their teeth and enhance their breath, check if your gum contains artificial sweeteners.

Xylitol is a white substance that looks very like sugar. It is a sugar alcohol that can be extracted from plant materials. Xylitol is marketed as a ‘sugar-free’ sweetener and is often used in place of sugar because it has fewer calories and reduces the risk of tooth decay. Nonetheless, it can cause diarrhoea and raise blood-sugar levels.

High-fructose corn syrup is derived from corn which may seem harmless enough, but it can raise blood sugar as it consists of 55 per cent fructose and 45 per cent glucose sugar. There has been an increase in the use of this sweetener by manufacturers because foods maintain a longer shelf life with this additive, and it is inexpensive. It’s found in breads, soft drinks, ice-cream, ketchup, salad dressings and a host of other common foods. You may think that diet drinks have fewer calories, but research suggests that drinking diet soda can stimulate fat storage.

How to reduce sugar cravings

Let’s look at some practical steps you can take to help you break free of this addictive substance. If you are going to fight off the urge for the momentary pleasures of sugar, you need to develop some tactics to help improve your chances of succeeding long term. Remember it takes some time to create these habits, so it’s going to take time to undo them.

To reduce the intensity of the sugar cravings that occur when you start going without your sugar fix, take some chlorella supplements. Chlorella is an inexpensive source of pure green algae, which helps reduce sugar cravings and will keep you from unnecessary snacking. It helps balance blood-sugars levels, which is essential if you are to succeed in getting rid of your sweet tooth. Chlorella is also rich in chlorophyll which helps purify the blood. If you suffer with constipation, it cleans out the bowels, cleanses the liver and removes toxins which is advantageous to those who drink alcohol or smoke. It encourages tissue repair, absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen, which is necessary to support a strong immune system. It is also beneficial to people who need rebuilding after an illness. It’s rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids and macronutrients. Make sure you purchase chlorella that has had the outer cell wall broken down, the tough cell walls of this form of algae can slow down digestion and absorption of the product. Also check with your doctor before taking chlorella if you are on blood-thinning medication.

Find a healthy replacement to your usual treat. When I started down this road, I used to get my sugar-fix from an apple. If this isn’t enough for you to overcome the brief pleasure of sugar, why not allow yourself a weekend treat in the initial stages just to get you over the hump. But, here’s the deal, you must make sure you have to leave home to get it.

Hopefully by now your cupboards and freezer are cleansed of those guilty pleasures. I usually encourage people to avoid, rather than resist temptation, because I strongly believe if you don’t buy sugary foods, you won’t be tempted to eat them.

Key points to remember

- Clean your cupboards and refrigerator of anything you know will tempt you. Don’t make it harder than it has to be. It’s much easier to avoid, rather than resist temptation.

- Try making some healthy alternatives to trick your body into believing you have eaten sugar.

- Chlorella supplements are also useful in helping you get over your craving, as they regulate blood sugars.

- If you must, allow yourself a weekend treat. It helps you cut down gradually, and you are less likely to end up overindulging farther down the road.

- Be prepared for those cravings. Stock up on nuts and seeds, you can buy spicy or garlic nuts that taste delicious. Keep them at hand in your car or desk drawer, they are a perfect snack if you are on the road. Nuts and seeds are packed with protein and are a good source of vitamin E, magnesium and riboflavin. They have a low-glycemic number and will curb hunger almost instantly.

- Use stevia, a natural plant sweetener, to replace refined sugars. Stevia has a low glycemic load which means it won’t raise your blood sugars.

- Stay away from artificial sweeteners as they may cause more sugar cravings and stimulate your appetite.

- Adding a negative association to sugar can change the way you think about it. It’s a useful mental tool to help you kick those harmful habits.

- Get plenty of rest, stabilising your blood sugars overnight is important. If you are deprived of sleep, your body finds it difficult to control blood sugar.

- Don’t let your belly rule your mind.


Find out more about what-free, sugar-free and diary-free living in Eat Yourself Well by Bernadette Bohan, a bestselling author of The Choice and The Survivor’s Mindset.

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