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Weekly Diet News Digest

by John McGran, Columnist

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We can all stand to cut back on our sugar consumption. The average American consumes almost 150 pounds of sugar a year and much of it is hidden. Patty James, an expert on natural foods and organic cooking, is here to reveal the dangers of too much sugar in your diet -- and to show you how to quench your craving for the sweet stuff.

Simple Tips to Beat Your Sugar Addiction

sugar habitBy definition, sugar addiction is a term for the situation where individuals crave sweet foods and find it difficult to give it up. There is clearly an aspect of psychological addiction (mother's milk representing love and nurturing is naturally sweet) but recent research has also identified elements of physical dependence. Addictive drugs stimulate receptors in the brain to release natural opiods and dopamine, neurochemicals that trigger feelings of pleasure or well-being.

It's important to understand what sugar is and how it affects your health before learning how to give up the white stuff.

The term sugar refers to sucrose, also called table sugar, a white crystalline solid disaccharide. Commercially produced table sugar comes from either sugar cane or sugar beets. The sweetener High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS,) found in many processed foods has replaced regular sugar in a considerable number of products. It is six times sweeter than sugar and does not act the same way as sugar in the body.

HFCS does not stimulate insulin production; it is processed more like fat. Some experts believe that it actually converts to fat faster and easier than regular sugar. Its super sweet flavor could contribute to sugar cravings.

Alcohol consumption also contributes to sugar cravings. Many former alcoholics have intense sugar cravings because sugar acts very similar to alcohol in the body. Moreover, for many, alcohol acts like a gateway drug to the over consumption of food. White flour, white potatoes, and white rice all convert to sugar in the body. These will all cause the high rise of insulin and the drop in blood sugar that leads to sugar cravings. Eat whole grains and whole-grain breads.

The average American consumes almost 150 pounds of sugar a year and much of it is hidden. Become a label reader; anything that ends with "ose" is a form of sugar and that includes fructose, sucrose and maltose. "Ols" such as mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol and maltitol, are sugar alcohols and are common in breath mints and gum.

What does sugar do in your body?

There is the obvious disease - type 2 diabetes - that is closely linked to the over consumption of sugar and the consequence, obesity. Sugar causes inflammation in the body and inflammation is associated with everything from acne and wrinkles, to arthritis, heart disease and depression. Sugar suppresses your immune system, can cause chromium and copper deficiencies and interferes with the absorption of calcium and magnesium, which can lead to osteoporosis. Sugar leads to tooth decay, can lower your vitamin E levels, and even weakens eyesight.

How does one begin to kick the sugar addiction?

For some it's better to go cold turkey and give it up completely. For most, however, this would lead to failure and a slow and easy approach is better. Here are some tips:

1. Change to natural sweeteners. Raw honey, maple syrup and agave nectar are less processed than sugar and still have their nutrients intact. They burn more slowly in the body and do not cause weight gain as quickly. Remember they are still sugars, so limit the amount you eat. Try stevia, an herbal supplement that is very sweet and can be found in your local health food store. You can also grow your own plant if you have a yard or a patio.

2. Keep sugar and all sugar products out of the house, so you won't be tempted and give in during times of stress and hunger.

3. Reduce the amount of sugar you consume - the less you eat, the less you crave. Don't forget: soda and juice are high in sugar.

4. Eat root vegetables like yams, sweet potato, carrots and beets. They provide a sweet flavor that satisfies the palate and helps to reduce your cravings.

5. Eat your vegetables! Leafy green vegetables replenish the vitamins and minerals you have been losing to sugar.

6. Drink more water; 8 glasses a day. We often mistake thirst for hunger. The next time craving strikes, drink some water and see how you feel.

7. Stay away from artificial sweeteners! They are a chemical and not a food. Don't eat any fake foods!

8. A little bit of protein is much better for you in the morning because it will create satiety holding you over until your next snack or meal. Eat some form of protein at every meal to help cravings.

9. For a healthy and satisfying snack, try whole-grain crackers and natural peanut butter, with no added sugar. Fiber in the crackers helps you feel full and peanut butter adds healthy fat and protein.

10. Start each meal with a salad with vinaigrette dressing. The greens and added vegetables provide important fiber and nutrients and the fat in the dressing makes you feel full. When you feel full and have given your body the fuel it needs, you are less likely to crave sugar.

11. Eat whole food snacks such as fruit, dates and whole grain crackers in place of sweets.

12. Exercising will reduce cravings.

13. The supplement ...    Continue

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