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By Trina Basaysay
Added sugar contributes little-to-zero nutritional value to our body. Too much of it in our system can cause an imbalance between our body and mind. If you think your cravings for sweets are becoming too much, resolving to reduce your intake of added sugars could be a beneficial goal for you this New Year.
We chatted with Body Mind Freedom Coach Anna Krystyna to learn some tips that you can use to help beat those sweet cravings. Anna has been empowering people to restore their mind-body connection as a way to energise their bodies, elevate their mindsets and live life from their worth. With her 5 tips ahead, you will empowered to remove added sugar from your diet and reset your eating patterns for a better you this 2023!
Sugar 101: Natural and Added Sugar
First off, our system needs sugar for it to function properly. A simple carbohydrate, sugar provides calories that your body uses for energy.
Apart from meat and fish, most foods, even whole unprocessed foods, come with sugar. Natural sugars, as the name implies, are those found naturally in foods. Fruits, for example, have fructose and most dairy products like milk contain lactose.
On the other hand, the caloric sweeteners found in almost all sugar-sweetened beverages and processed foods such as sodas, fruit and energy drinks, cookies, candies and cakes are called added sugars.
Unlike natural sugar, added sugars have little-to-no nutritional value and can only contribute to your increased calorie consumption– which is bad news for your weight loss efforts and overall health.
Your body doesn't need added sugar for it to function at its optimum level, according to the American Heart Association. Additionally, sugar overload may cause fatty liver disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic inflammation and weight gain, says the Harvard Medical School.
It’s easy to overload with added sugar as sugary foods and drinks are everywhere and are easily accessible in grocery stores and restaurants. Added sugars appear in different names on nutrition fact labels, including:
• Corn sweetener
• Corn syrup
• Maple syrup
• Evaporated cane juice
• Fruit juice concentrates
• High-fructose corn syrup
• Raw sugar
• Brown sugar
• Malt syrup
Effects of Added Sugar on Body and Mind
Consuming too much added sugar can cause a disconnect between the body and mind, Coach Anna says. This imbalance occurs because the body as a whole cannot operate properly as it works to deal with the excess sugar in your system.
“The message between the mind and the body goes straight to having to sort out the sugar versus actually working optimally and functioning in what is called homeostasis, which is the equilibrium,” she says.
Neuro and digestive dysfunctions arise as the result of this imbalance and reflect the lack of enough nutrients in your body. Your hormones that are being metabolised in the liver, where sugar is broken down, are affected as well.
Other signs and symptoms include:
• Increased craving for sugary junk foods and drinks, rice, bread and ultra-processed foods
• Feeling tired and overwhelmed
• Irritability, frustration, anxiety and indecisiveness
• Inability to sleep well at night
• Skin inflammation
• Irregular bowel movements
• For women, change in the menstrual cycle
• Fast ageing and saggy skin
• May potentially lead to emotional binge eating
Moreover, sugar is “one of the most addictive substances that people find difficult to break free from,” Anna notes. “It's actually one of the main reasons for excess inflammation in the body, which can cause heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer, which in the UK are the three leading causes of death.”
5 Tips for Cutting Out Sugar
If you consumed lots of sugar last year, a reset is always possible. One way to do this is by limiting your consumption. The recommendation of the American Heart Association is to limit the intake of added sugar to about 6 teaspoons for women and about 9 teaspoons for men.
Anna, who was once addicted to sugar herself, gives these 5 tips to help you cut your added sugar intake, detoxify and restart your journey to a healthier you.
Tip 1: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Water is vital to a healthy body and organs. It aids your kidneys in flushing toxins and waste products out of your body faster, and it serves as a potent excess sugar detoxifier. Water keeps you hydrated and strong as you go about your sugar cleanse.
Drinking water every day makes for a powerful sugar detox strategy because it’s not only easy enough to remember and follow, but it’s also something that one cannot do without.
Anna also explains: “Sugar holds memory in the body and the body needs energy to start detoxing from it. So, you need to make sure you're staying hydrated. Water is vital, especially because a lot of people also mistake hunger for thirst.”
The US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine generally recommends 11.5 cups (2.7 litres) a day for women and 15.5 cups (3.7 litres) a day for men. However, your actual water intake may vary depending on a host of factors such as your health condition, physical activities, diet, location and many more. If you can, check with your doctor to know what is the most appropriate number of cups for you.
Tip 2: Eat Lots of Healthy Fats and Proteins
A diet rich in healthy fats and proteins helps decrease your sugar cravings and gives your body energy a boost. Healthy fats and proteins balance your blood sugar levels by preventing the release of too much insulin into your bloodstream. Abnormal levels of insulin can cause your body cells to take in high amounts of glucose from your blood, which may help trigger a drop in your blood sugar level.
Eating more proteins– as opposed to sugar– can particularly help curb your appetite by making you feel full with less food intake and by bringing down your level of the hunger hormone ghrelin. With decreased food cravings, you can also better maintain a healthy weight.
“We're not talking about protein powder because they’ve also got hidden sugar in them. [You need] quality whole-food protein from meats” says Anna, who now sticks to eating whole foods as part of her healthy diet.
Some excellent sources of healthy fats and proteins include:
• Whole foods
• Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, and sardines
• Chia seeds
Tip 3: Go for Low GI Diet in the Short-Term
GI or glycemic index (GI) is defined by Harvard as “a value assigned to foods based on how they impact your blood glucose levels.” During your sugar cleanse, a low GI diet may help you achieve your target.
Anna explains: “Basically, sugar holds memory in your cells so what you want to do is you want to ‘starve’ your cells of the memory of sugar. In the interim, go for low GI to allow the body to regulate what its sugar level response is.”
High GI foods such as potatoes, rice and pasta are ideal for those who are physically active. This diet helps achieve fast recovery post-workout. Low GI foods, on the other hand, are good for the prevention of high sugar levels. They are recommended if you want to lose weight or decrease your risk of heart disease and diabetes, plan more nutritious meals, and are diabetic.
For a low GI diet, try increasing your intake of some of these healthy foods:
• Green vegetables
• Raw carrots
Tip 4: Get Yourself an Accountability Buddy
As it’s difficult to limit your sugar intake, having an accountability partner will make it less challenging and more fun for you. You will have the support to stay motivated throughout this journey. Your accountability partner can be your spouse or anyone from your family, friends, or colleagues.
“Get someone who is enrolled into your health vision or someone who really wants to quit sugar as much as you do. Pair up with them and hold each other accountable for three months to saying no to processed food, eating out and eating sweets so you’re actually detoxifying your body with the support of someone,” adds Anna.
Tip 5: Work on Your Nervous System
Described as the body’s command centre, the nervous system that makes up your brain, spinal cord, and nerves controls not only your movements but your thoughts and automatic responses to your surroundings as well.
Working on your nervous system gives you the space to better address your sugar cravings and their impact on both the physical and the emotional aspects of your being. “The physical is the easy part. The body will adapt and then detoxify pretty quickly once you’re consistent,” Anna shares.
“The other bit is the emotional mindset piece. We've been conditioned and programmed to go to sugar. The sugar that we identify with are snacks, sweets and ice cream because these have been everywhere in our environment. A lot of people distract themselves with sugar,” she adds.
Anna suggests regular meditation and regular journaling, to name a few, to better understand your thoughts and what's triggering you to go to sugar. When you work on your nervous system, you get to heighten your awareness as you “explore your thoughts, feelings and understand yourself on a deeper level.”
The nervous system work is also crucial to helping you stick to the transformation you need and be freed from your sugar cravings. Working on the nervous system entails the support of an expert who can guide you through the whole intricate process.
When it comes to our health and wellbeing, taking added sugar out of our diet is a step in the right direction. Admittedly, cutting out sugar takes a lot of work and, according to Anna, you need these 3Cs to achieve your goal: consistency, commitment and community.
“If you eat sugar and it's making you feel good, and you don’t always want more or feel like it’s controlling you, awesome! But if it doesn't make you feel good, you feel stressed, possibly guilty afterwards, then you're doing something that it's not making your body feel good, and therefore, addressing that and going there is an act of self-care for yourself because it’s so loving to your mental, physical and emotional body,” she says.Follow Anna’s Instagram account (annakrystyna_coach) to know how she can help you reset your body-mind balance this new year.
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