So you consider yourself a pretty healthy person? You exercise regularly. You don't smoke and keep drinking to a minimum. You have cut down on fried foods, but have you tried kicking sugar to the curb? As you might have already found out, saying good-bye to that pesky carbohydrate is a difficult union to break. Not only is sugar addictive, with its users suffering from headaches, anxiety, depression and mood swings - similar to the effects smokers, caffeine addicts and narcotics users experience - but it also lurks in unexpected places.
Refined sugar can be found in almost all packaged and processed food at your local supermarket. It hides under the guise of sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, glucose, maltose and other pseudonyms.
Americans love the sweet taste of sugar, but unfortunately, most that ingest it on a regular basis are addicted. With the United States facing an obesity epidemic, the consumption of refined sugar does not help. The average American eats about 175 pounds of sugar each year, compared to the 15-pound average of 1915. This over consumption has led to a number of different health problems:
1. Weight Gain. It's no secret refined sugar leads us to pack on the pounds. Especially if eaten in large quantities, it will keep you from achieving that dream body you want. This is because it contains only empty calories - no fiber, no protein, no vitamins and no minerals. Nothing. Unlike water, which seems to have the same nutritional value, your body sees refined sugar as an invader and acts accordingly.
2. Mineral Depletion. When you eat refined sugar, your body takes nutrients from other cells to metabolize it because the sugar lacks the ability to do so on it's own. Minerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium are taken from vital body parts to make use of the sugar you ingested. Over Time, the vital body processes requiring those minerals run down and become less efficient.
3. Bone Loss. Your body particularly misses calcium as it is destroyed in your body's fight against sugar. With a decreased amount of calcium being used toward vital body processes, bones become weak, increasing the chances of osteoporosis, breaks and fractures later in life. Calcium loss also leads to tooth decay, a major component of the $50 billion dentistry industry worldwide.
4. Diabetes. Large sugar intake leads to the onset of diabetes because sugar raises your body's blood sugar levels quickly, causing the pancreas to release insulin. The constant consumption of sugar throughout the day forces the body to constantly work. Eventually, the pancreas wears out and cannot perform its normal duties.
5. Low Energy. Sugar consumption will leave you feeling run down. Eating sugar after a craving might give you the notorious "sugar high," but it does not last long. Soon you crash and feel more tired than you did before the high, have less energy and are hungrier.
To wean yourself off refined sugar, take your time. Don't think you will go from eating donuts and McDonald's to oatmeal and steamed broccoli over night. Instead, try to eliminate something from your diet once a week that contains refined sugar and replace it with something natural. For example, to keep energy that will last, eat a bowl of oatmeal instead of a Twinkie.
As you are kicking the sugar habit, remember not to completely suppress your craving. You can feed it, but keep the portions small and savory.