We all love a little sugar in our lives, and some of us love it a little too much (ahem, me).
In fact, I recently had an acupuncturist feel my pulse and tell me I had a yin imbalance – too much of a sweet tooth.
But little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice, right? So what’s the deal with sugar?
As you’re probably aware if you’ve kept up with the news, High Fructose Corn Syrup is the DEVIL. Ok, that statement may be a bit extreme, but it is linked to poor health, and best if avoided. Don’t take my word for it – here are a few studies explaining what it does once inside you.
The news also keeps us fairly aware of the consequences of sugar over-consumption and an out-of-control sweet tooth (which includes natural sugar found in fruits and when eating grains). This includes diabetes, hypertension, low-level chronic inflammation, depression, cancer and more. Click on the hyperlink for a quick rundown on a few of the studies.
What many don’t know is that reducing sugar isn’t as easy as skipping dessert now and then as sugar is hidden in nearly all processed food – here’s a list of some common foods that aren’t dessert, but might as well be:
Ketchup (Heinz Original uses High Fructose Corn Syrup – yuck)
Salad Dressing (especially avoid the low fat versions that bump up the sugar in order to make it “tastier”)
Bread and crackers (although it’s only 2 grams of sugar per slice, the infamous Wonder bread also includes High Fructose Corn Syrup)
Flavored Bottle Waters (Vitamin Water has 33 grams of sugar in just one bottle – eek!)
So what’s a sensible person to do to balance a sweet tooth?
- Read the labels
Lawmakers have done one thing right by standardizing nutrition facts and ingredients on labels. If you choose to buy pre-made, compare a few brands first, but be careful if it says sugar free and uses a chemical sweetener instead. Remember: the fewer ingredients the better (and if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it).
- Make your own
You know, whip it up old school style.
Salad dressing is easy – and so much tastier fresh. Try 1 part apple cider vinegar + 1 part tahini + water to thin, whisked in a bowl and drizzled over salad or veggies. Easy, creamy goodness.
Or a basic balsamic vinaigrette: Measure out 2 parts extra virgin olive oil or flaxseed oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar, whisk to combine (or reuse an old jar and shake it up), then add a dash of salt and pepper and any other dried herbs that tickle your fancy (I like dill in my dressing).
- Play with Stevia as a sweetener
Too much stevia can be bitter so start small and buy a reputable brand (I like Trader Joe’s Stevia Extract – NOT the packets but the $9.99 one in a small spice container); as with anything, the source does matter, both in nutrition and taste.
Used in moderation, this stuff is pretty amazing in balancing out flavors when just a little sweet is called for. I like to put a tiny scoop in a bowl of kefir with unsweetened coconut flakes and cinnamon. Oh yum.
- Make sure you’re eating enough healthy fat in your diet
Often your sweet cravings can be curbed if the rest of your meal gives you that satisfied feeling (plus your brain needs it). There is much controversy around coconut oil as a good fat, but I like it in small amounts along with pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, avocado, almonds, and sardines to get in those healthy Omegas.
- Eat fermented foods which are high in probiotics
Studies show that having enough good bacteria in your tummy helps starve out the bad bacteria that sugar feeds on. And on and on and on.
Of course, the key is ultimately balance; once you’ve worked out where the hidden sugars are you can be fully conscious and fully ENJOY your sugar treats when you indulge that sweet tooth.