What if I told you that there is a single ingredient that, when left out of our diet, can decrease not only the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes, but also diseases and conditions such as
- Dental plaque, cavities and gum disease
- Gastrointestinal diseases such as ulcerative colitis, Crone’s disease and gas/bloating.
- Brain fog
- Energy “crashes”
- Inflammatory disorders such arthritis and “old age achiness”
- Heart disease and high cholesterol
- Alzheimer’s disease
Sounds like a no-brainer, right?! Well, it’s not that easy, because that single ingredient is the ubiquitous SUGAR, and if you’re a sugar-holic (like me…) who’s ever tried to eliminate the sweet stuff from your diet (like me…), you understand how addictive it is! To make matters worse, sugar has several aliases we need to keep an eye on, so get in the habit of reading those labels. Basically, we’re looking at processed foods that are sweet (duh…), but also the drinks, snacks and other foods that we don’t realize pack a punch like flavored popcorn, diet drinks (no sugar, but the chemical sweeteners do a real number on our biochemistry!), breads and pastries, chips and crackers, hot sauce (really? why?!), canned foods, seasoning packets, salad dressing, condiments, granola and trail mixes, fruit rolls, flavored coffee creamers and so much more! You can pretty much bank on the fact that if the food is located on the inside shelves of a typical grocery store, it’ll contain some sort of added sugar.
I’m not going to lie, eliminating sugar can be a painful ordeal for the addict, and for those around us. Like any detox, once we start removing the offending toxin, we can get, shall we say, a little grumpy. But, if we hang in there and get past the first week or so, it becomes much easier. Once we pass the 1-month mark, the sugar cravings become a mere memory, our waistline is shrinking, bloating and inflammation settle down and we feel more energetic. As an added bonus, if we fall off the wagon, our body will remind us how horrible sugar makes us feel because we’ll start to feel like crud all over again, even after just a few bites/sips.
Here are some of my day-to-day tricks to keep the sugar-monster at bay:
- Stress eating is my nemesis, so I always have healthy snacks like boiled eggs, fruit, nut mixes and organic corn chips/salsa at the ready.
- If it’s going to be a long day at work, apples and almonds are my saving grace!
- Water! It’s amazing how a big glass of water will curb an appetite or sweet tooth. Flavor it with a squeeze of lemon or hop into the pharmacy and grab a box of Waterdrop. Waterdrop cubes contain natural botanical and fruit flavors that make boring old water taste quite delicious.
- If you experience the mid-day bonk (around 2 to 3 pm), you may be experiencing adrenal fatigue. Our instincts will tell us that we need energy so we can push through and it’s really tempting to munch on junk food or to zip into the Chick-fil-A line and grab a peach milkshake. Resist and stay strong! Instead, come by the pharmacy and let us help you support your adrenal function so we can get you back on the right track.
- If you’re in a work situation where people are bringing in goodies for the team to munch on, try to avoid the break room to help dissuade temptation.
- Be the weirdo in the grocery isles that reads the labels. Look at the ingredient list as well as the carbohydrate/sugar content on all packaged foods. An educated consumer is a smart consumer – even if we’re blocking the isle.
- Finally, for the love of all things Holy, don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach! This is a sure-fire way for unwanted junk food to land in the cart. Funny, it also seems to happen when you’re shopping with little kids. They always seem to sneak something extra into the basket, but I digress…
I hope these little morsels have sparked some ideas on how to eliminate sugars and “mindless munching” from your diet. It’s a constant struggle, I know, I’m right there with you! The temptation is all around us and it’s unrelenting! Especially during the holidays and times of stress. All this being said, it’s important to enjoy all the amazing flavors in life, and if we can exercise a bit of control, we’ll never feel deprived of a treat now and then. My kids called it “junk food Saturdays” when they were little, and as long as they ate healthy Sunday through Friday, they were free to have a sugary treat on Saturday. Maybe someday, I’ll scribe a tome detailing the adventure we had the first time the boys were allowed pick out “regular” cereal at the grocery store – it was definitely an exercise in parental patience!
Lark Swofford, RPh
A recovering (and occasionally relapsing) sugar-holic