Zombies are all the rage right now, thanks to shows like The Walking Dead. But do you turn into your own version of a snarling, temperamental beast every afternoon, an energy-starved zombie jonesing for a sugar fix? Chances are you're one of the millions of people eating up to 20 teaspoons of excess secret sugars a day—something that does all sorts of strange things to your body—and keeps you craving more.
The Sugar Smart Diet, by Anne Alexander helps explain why sugar in all forms screws with our sensibilities, turning us into creatures we'd rather not meet in the street.
Listen to these warning signs—they could very well signal serious excess sugar in your diet!
Warning Sign #1: You feel famished, even after eating "healthy" foods all day.
You're living off of fruit smoothies, yogurt, and "healthy" whole wheat cereals. There are a few problems here. One, food manufacturers often load up seemingly healthy foods with secret, added sugars as a way to make the food palatable after they've removed most of the fat. Some smoothie and yogurt picks could contain more sugar than soda does! The other issue? Whole wheat has been pulverized to the point of dust, meaning it acts like sugar when it enters your body.
Try this instead: Look for yogurt and other health foods without any ingredients that have "–ose" in their name. That's code for some sort of added sugar. Instead, opt for yogurt without added sugars (it will contain some natural sugars), and add a few pieces of fiber-rich fruit.
Warning Sign #2: You use sugar to manage your emotions.
Wouldn't we all love to time-warp back to childhood, a time without deadlines and bills and everyday stress? For some people suffering from sugar addiction, eating comfort foods like candy or ice cream stir up favorable flashbacks to a time less complicated. But using sugar to tame your tension could wind up warping your brain, since the insulin resistance too much sugar causes is increasingly being linked to Alzheimer's disease.
Try this instead: Pam Peeke, MD, author of the best-selling book The Hunger Fix, suggests two 20-minute meditation sessions a day to curb sugar binges. Here's how to start meditating.
Warning Sign #3: You're sneaking out of the office for a fix.
Afternoon slumps are normal, but if you can't control your raging sugar cravings, you could be suffering from sugar addiction. Sound crazy? It's not. Sugar lights up your brain's reward center, flooding your brain with the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. The problem? Just like street drug addicts, sugar junkies develop tolerance and need more to get a fix and keep riding the high. "Coming down" off sugar isn't easy either. The Sugar Smart Diet points to the science showing how rats suffer through sugar withdrawal with tremors, the shakes, chattering teeth, and anxiety.
Try this instead: Avoid freaky fructose. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found those who consumed fructose, a common added sugar in processed foods and soda, so their brains never sent the signals that they were full and participants' hunger waged on. Fructose hides under all sorts of names, including the notorious high-fructose corn syrup. Agave is also laden with fructose.
Warning Sign #4: You're ignoring the labels.
Shopping for convenience foods opens up the door to secret sugar overload. Even if you avoid the candy, cake, and ice cream aisles, you're probably still getting unhealthy doses of sugar from surprising sources like frozen dinners, soups, salad dressing, and even ketchup! Read the labels—you'll be appalled!
Try this instead: Trade in overpriced, sugar- and preservative-laden processed foods and cook more from scratch. Even if you're busy, dedicate a day to making a batch of homemade food with little to no added sugar to sensitize your taste buds to flavors that aren't sweet: Try laying fresh rosemary on a baking chicken, and use flavor boosters like vinegar, lemon and orange zest, hot sauce, and naturally sugar-free salsa to enhance flavors. Make extra-virgin olive oil your best friend—German researchers found just smelling olive oil caused people to eat fewer calories during a meal, which can help stabilize blood sugar.
Think about your drinks, too. If you reach for coffee, use a dash of cinnamon, not sugar. Cinnamon's a sweet-tasting spice that actually works to regulate your blood sugar levels.
Warning Sign #5: You're developing a sugar belly.
Belly bigger than you'd like? Most people would say that's from too much fat, but the truth is, a big belly can be a telltale sign you're getting way more than the max recommended levels of added sugars per day. The American Heart Association says women should eat no more than 6 teaspoons, or 25 grams, of added sugars a day, while men should cap it at 9 teaspoons, or 37.5 grams. People used to be much slimmer because they didn't binge on sugar the way we do now. According to The Sugar Smart Diet, in the 1880s, it took the average American five days to consumer the amount of sugar in a single 12-ounce can of soda. Our average today is 10 to 12 teaspoons' worth every seven hours. This overload creates belly fat that churns out dangerous inflammatory substances that damage your organs and blood vessels. If you don't get your sugar belly in check, your liver could become enveloped in dangerous fat.
Try this instead: Start your sugar step-down. On days 1 and 2, eat the way you normally would, explore your relationship with sugar, and keep a food log, noting when you eat sugar to alleviate stress—and how you feel afterward. For the full detox plan that can curb your sugar addiction in 32 days, and to take a test to determine your emotional connection to sugar, order your copy of Sugar Smart Diet.
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