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How to Cut Down on Sugar

potatoes 1585075 640Sugar is one of the most addictive substances known to man. If you want to improve your diet or heal from a health condition, cutting down on sugar is the best start.


But before you cut it out completely, it’s important to understand what the different forms of sugar and carbs, what they do to your body and why they shouldn’t be cut out completely. It’s easy to go from one extreme to the other and feel equally as bad at the other end. Going too low carb can cause issues with memory, mood, energy and hormones. So here is a simple guide to sugars and carbohydrates so you can choose your energy sources carefully and with lots of context.


One of the biggest issues with the standard American diet is that it’s too high in hidden sugars. Many processed foods contain sugar to make it taste better, most especially low fat products. We’re not just talking obvious sweet foods like cookies and pastries. Food manufacturers sneak sugar into savory foods like pasta sauce, salad dressings and soups, to name a few.


The average American eats 130 pounds of sugar each year. And because of this we are experiencing a spike in sugar-related health problems like obesity and diabetes. And there’s been a lot of talk in the health press lately about good carbs and bad carbs. So let’s examine what this means.


Carbohydrates are foods made up of starch or sugar.  Your body eventually breaks carbohydrates down into glucose, the fuel your body and muscles use for energy. There are two types of carbs, simple and complex. Complex carbs are considered the good kind of carbs because they can contain other nutritious elements like fiber, vitamins, enzymes and protein. They also take longer to digest and don’t spike your blood sugar. This translates into more even energy instead of the spike and crash effect of simple carbs.


That brings us simple carbs also known as “bad” carbs. These types of carbs will give you a sugar high followed by an energy or mood crash. Pasta, white bread, white flour, white sugar, cookies, candies, crackers, chips, pretzels, concentrated fruit juice and sodas are just some of the junky foods classified as simple carbs. Fruit are the only simple carbs that are healthy.


The reason insulin spikes are relevant to health is because insulin is the master hormone that rules your metabolism. It regulates glucose levels in your body by depositing it into cells as fuel. If the cell already are full of fuel then insulin carries the extra glucose to be stored as fat. When you eat a meal that is high in simple carbs, your pancreas works overtime to produce enough insulin to deal with it. This is not good for your pancreas or other organs. Too much glucose and insulin can cause a wide array or diseases and some research has linked them to cancer.


One of the best ways to figure out which carbs are simple and which are complex is by consulting a glycemic index chart like this one. This chart measures how high and quickly a particular food raises your blood sugar. It’s also a good measure of fiber content because fiber offsets the insulin response. Foods high on the glycemic index chart are simple carbs without much fiber. Foods lower on the index, for example below 60, are a good choice for blood sugar stability.


Some tips for staving off sugar cravings, while reducing simple sugars, is to eat more complex carbs like sweet potatoes or pumpkin puree. Fat and protein is also a good bet for filling you up and balancing blood sugar, so those sugar demons don’t scream so loud.


The 21 Day Body Makeover emphasizes foods that are lower on the glycemic index but still provide enough glucose to give you steady energy throughout the day.

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