I have been finding myself increasingly craving sugar throughout my days as of late. This is more than a little odd for me because I am DEFINITELY Team Salt. I have, for as long as I can remember, craved salt. I normally always reach for the chips in the pantry over the cookies and can eat pickles by the jar full! I attribute this mostly to the fact that I have naturally low blood pressure. Like it is not unusual for me to measure in around the 100/45ish range. That is just how my body has always been.
Recently though, I have been finding myself more drawn to the sweets rather than the chips and pretzels. My cookie and candy intake has noticeably increased over the past couple of months where it was almost non-existent before. I have taken my blood pressure a few times now (we have one of those handy dandy do it yourself blood pressure machines at the house) and it is still low, or in my case normal, so nothing going on there. Whatever the root cause, my increasing desire to stuff my face with sugary substances has led me to the decision to commit to a 21-day mini-sugar detox just to break the cycle before it gets any worse. This was originally going to be my monthly goal intention for August, but keep reading for why I postponed it until now.
I am also curious to see how I feel after 21 days of cutting back on sugar because I have been feeling a bit sluggish the past couple weeks and I am wondering if my increased cookie and sour gummy worm consumption has anything to do with it. I’m betting, yes. So, to kick things off, let’s dive a little deeper into why cutting back or cutting out sugar completely might be a good idea and a few tips on how to go about it:
Why is sugar so dangerous?
Obesity — We all know one of the biggest and most obvious dangers of consuming sugar, especially too much sugar, is the risk for obesity. In fact, with the cases of obesity rapidly on the rise all around the world, the intake of too much sugar is at the top of the list of reasons why. More specifically, sugary beverages such as fruit juices are largely believed to be the culprit when examining the causes of obesity. As if being overweight wasn’t bad enough, it has a direct connection to causing another really dangerous condition, diabetes. Obesity often leads specifically to Type-2 diabetes, which is a particularly scary disease that occurs as a direct result of the insufficient production of insulin which causes high blood sugar. High blood sugar and Type 2 diabetes can cause fatigue, slow healing of wounds, blurred vision, increased infections, crankiness, numbness and tingling in your extremities, along with a whole host of other issues. Along with being a leading cause of diabetes, excess or visceral fat can also lead to the next item on the list, which is all about your heart.
Heart Disease — The number one cause of death worldwide, you guessed it, is heart disease. And can you guess what some of the leading causes of heart disease are? If you guessed obesity and/or high blood sugar levels, you are right again and not to mention on fire! The intake of too much sugar has been directly linked to an increase in the likelihood of dying from heart disease which kills roughly 17 million people a year worldwide! One of the ways sugar is to blame is that consuming too much of it is directly associated with the development of atherosclerosis. This is a particularly dangerous condition where fatty deposits build up in your arteries, eventually leading to the potential for a fatal heart attack. Having watched one person in my life actually have a heart attack (thankfully they survived!) and several more actually pass away from them, this one really hits home for me. Keeping your heart healthy, your arteries clear and your weight in the normal range is so, so important to overall health, and limiting your sugar intake is a great way to ensure that and your heart remains strong and happy!
Cancer — I don’t know which is scarier to think about, having a heart attack or getting diagnosed with the Big C, but excess sugar consumption can lead to both! There are two main ways it is thought that excess sugar in your diet can lead to the development of certain cancers. Number one, obesity is directly linked to an increased risk of cancer, and as we talked about above too much sugar is a direct cause of obesity. Number two, overloading on sugar causes inflammation in your body which is a huge risk factor for developing cancer. More specifically, it is thought that too much sugar can lead to cancers of the small intestine, the esophagus, and in women, endometrial cancer. The link between sugar and cancer is not yet quite as understood as is the link between both obesity and heart disease, but there is enough evidence to suggest there is, in fact, a correlation. Not wanting to find out myself, I think I will go ahead and jump right into how I plan on lowering my own sugar intake….
How can we start to cut back?
Plan Appropriately — I waited until now to start my detox because I knew I had a vacation planned for mid-August and I didn’t want to go into with the burden of trying to limit my food choices. I wanted to go away, enjoy myself, and eat what I wanted. I knew I would have a much better chance, not to mention an easier time, sticking to my goals once I was back to my normal routine. You want to do everything you can to set yourself up for success when entering a sugar detox so taking a look at your calendar is a good place to start. This past week I got back into town and started really paying attention to the levels of sugars in the foods I was eating and have slowly started cutting back in a few areas. Keep reading for a few dietary ways we can begin cut down on the sugary cravings…
Increase protein intake. Protein is an excellent way to keep yourself feeling full and therefore less likely to snack on those sugary treats between meals. A good intake of protein, think around 30 grams, also does wonders to keep your blood sugar levels stable which will further help in keeping the sugar cravings away. A healthy amount of protein in your diet also helps with keeping our bones and tissues healthy, the oxygen flowing well through our bloodstreams, and aids in a strong immune system. Good sources of protein include chicken and turkey, both of which don’t contain any sugar, eggs, and canned tuna.
Increase fiber intake. Just like protein, an increase in fiber can also go a long way in keeping you full in between meals and your hand out of the cookie jar. Fiber is also incredibly important in helping to keep everything moving correctly in the bowel region if you catch my drift, as well as helping to keep our bones healthy and it even promotes healthy cholesterol levels. And if that wasn’t enough, fiber goes a long way in aiding with healthy weight loss! Fiber-rich foods include greens like spinach and kale, artichokes, avocados, seeds like chia and flax, and fruits like raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries.
Choose healthy fats. Not all fat is bad you guys! Fat, just like fiber and protein, is an excellent substance to keep us feeling full and satisfied all day long. Fat also helps to promote healthy blood sugar levels thus decreasing the likelihood of those dreaded mid-afternoon crashes that come with consuming too much sugar. Healthy fat is also really important for maintaining body temperature, keeping our lungs and brains working properly, and boosting our immune systems. Healthy fat can be found in foods such as olive oil, fatty fish, avocados, nuts like macadamia and almonds, and one of my faves, dark chocolate.
Sugar can be found in so many food items, from the obvious ones like cake, cookies, muffins, and candy bars to the less obvious items that can seem healthy until you read the nutritional labels like yogurt, granola, dried fruit and a lot of sauces and condiments like BBQ sauce, ketchup and tomato sauce. Sugar is thought to be addicting in the same way drugs and alcohol can get us in that when we ingest it our brains produce that happy little hormone dopamine that our bodies perceive as a rewarding feeling and even one of arousal. No wonder we crave it, huh? Maybe like me, however, you find yourself craving it a little more than normal lately. Maybe you are at home a lot more these days, also like me, and are therefore snacking on sweets more than you previously had. Maybe you just have always had a sweet tooth and think it might be time to get it in check. No matter that the reason, taking a look at how much sugar you are ingesting every day and being aware of what it could be doing to you could end up helping you avoid some really nasty diseases and heck maybe in the long run even save your life!