So, Why Do We Eat Sugar?
Like all carbohydrates sugar provides energy. Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel for the working muscle. Not eating enough carbohydrate makes it difficult to be physically active, and makes us feel sluggish.
People who are very active like athletes have very high carbohydrate needs. It is very difficult for very active people to meet their carbohydrate needs without eating sugar. Sugar is a significant part of our diets and, if we are not careful we can consume a whooping 28-30 teaspoons per day.
We know that sugar is bad for the teeth and worse for the waistline, but excessive consumption of simple sugars, could be one of the reasons why one in every three individuals is likely to become insulin resistant, a condition that can lead to diabetes.
The Different Kinds Of Sugar?
But first one must distinguish between simple sugar and complex sugars. Simple sugars are those that can get absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly. They can also be called fast sugars. Foods containing these sugars are said to have high glycemic indexes. This sugar can be sucrose, glucose, maltose, fructose, different types of natural sugar or it can be disguised as jams, sweets, cakes, pastries, soft drinks, chocolates, biscuits, ice creams etc.
Complex sugars are those that release sugar slowly into the blood. They are called slow sugars and foods containing complex carbohydrate are said to have low glycemic indexes. Common examples of these foods are apples, peanuts, strawberries, lentils, green vegetables and mushrooms.
Biscuits, cakes, chocolates are obvious sugar traps, and sugar can be present in surprisingly large quantities of food that you would otherwise regard as healthy. There is research to indicate that the brain can recognize sugar molecules differently from those of other carbs, and some people can be addicted to sugar in a similar way to cigarettes and drugs. Reducing your intake of refined foods and processed foods can help stabilize your insulin levels and reduce the chances of insulin resistance in the body.
The good news is that you can eventually lose a taste for sugar but going ‘cold turkey’, as you may have done to date may not be such a good idea. Instead you should cut down very gradually over weeks or even months. To help, keep a food and mood diary for a couple of weeks in which you can note down carefully what sugary foods you eat and when you crave for them. This will help you understand what triggers your cravings, be it tiredness or stress and help you plan around those times.
To facilitate the process, cut down on processed foods and reduce the glycemic index of your diet. Low glycemic foods release sugar into the blood in quantities that the body can cope with without having to release high levels of insulin. Also these foods provide the body with nutrients it needs to burn sugar effectively. Fiber, protein and fat, lower the GI by slowing the sugar release into the blood, so if you can eat a baked potato (GI 95) you can slow the sugar release by up to half by combining it with lentils. This type of diet will keep your energy levels constantly topped up, making you less likely to crave for an instant sugar hit.
By all means eat fruit to provide natural sweetness, but whole fruit is always better than fruit juices. Cherries, raspberries, strawberries are good choices, particularly after a meal, because they have a low glycemic index and a few calories. Avoid snacking on cakes and sweets after a meal as they can keep the insulin high and make our muscles more unresponsive to the hormone. If you crave for sweets, the dark bitter chocolate would be a better choice rather than the sweet candy stuff.
Eating more omega 3 fatty acids will increase the flexibility of your cell membrane and make your insulin receptors function more effectively. And then of course, staying lean and healthy can significantly lower your chances of insulin resistance. This is because exercise encourages insulin to push glucose into our muscles makes us more insulin sensitive.
The psychological benefits of eating food like jams, sweets, cakes, pastries, soft drinks, chocolates, biscuits, ice creams are fairly obvious. They taste lovely and feel like a special treat. It is important to keep them just that, a special treat, only once in a while. So stick to whispering those sweet nothings, and avoid eating those sweet something’s.
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