Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Curb Your Sweet Tooth

Stopping the Domino Effect

Here comes the hard-to-swallow truth: The only way to curb a sugar habit is to cut back drastically. It will be rough in the beginning, but your body will crave sugar less as it regains its insulin sensitivity. In order to extract your sweet tooth, you first need to know how much sugar you're actually eating. There are plenty of hidden sources of sugar and, as Connie Bennett reports in her book, Sugar Shock!, more than 100 names for sweeteners. Take note of sugar's pseudonyms and look for red-flag ingredients like dextrose rice syrup, and cane juice. Read labels for a week and jot down how much sugar you're taking in--you'll probably find that it far exceeds the approximately 10 percent of your daily caloric intake the federal dietary guidelines recommend (that's about 20 grams, or five teaspoons, per 1,000 calories consumed).

You'll also realize that many products touted as healthy are still high in sugar. There are no laws regulating the use of the words "all natural" on food packaging, so manufacturers can label their products with abandon. "'All natural' is a really misleading term, and it does not necessarily imply that a product is low in sugar," Bennett says. Even if sweeteners do come from all-natural ingredients, they can be highly concentrated, as they are in dried fruit. One ounce of dried pineapple has about 21 grams of sugar, compared with 2.6 grams for the same amount of fresh pineapple. So watch your portions of trail mix.

Once you know how much sugar you're really eating, you can control your intake.
Here are the pros' tips for cracking down on the most seductive tabletop substance known to man:

Eat breakfast 
"Ninety percent of sugar addicts skip breakfast," says Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D., author of Potatoes Not Prozac. "They wait and get a big hit of sugar at 10 a.m." When you eat breakfast, you prevent the drop in blood sugar that makes you crave sugar later.

Pick fruit Satisfy your sweet tooth with apples, bananas, and berries, which temper natural sugar with fiber and loads of antioxidants, says Elisa Zied, M.S., R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and the author of Feed Your Family Right! Dried fruit and 100 percent fruit juices will also do in a pinch, but they don't have nearly as much fiber and are more concentrated sources of calories, Zied says, so limit yourself to a quarter cup or less of dried fruit or one cup of 100 percent juice a day.

Think 100 When you simply must have a cupcake or a candy bar, stick to 100- to 150-calorie portions and 16 grams of sugar or less. Check out theBest Supermarket Foods for Women, to keep your fitness goals.
Indulge right after dinner Late-night ice cream fixes give you a pure, unadulterated sugar rush. Have a small scoop soon after dinner instead and you'll reduce (though not counter) the insulin-­spiking effect, DesMaisons says.

Cut out "overt" sugars Tackle the worst offenders first: sucrose-laden treats like candy, frappuccinos, ice cream, and soft drinks. If you drink a soda every day, try having one every other day, then once a week, then not at all.

Enter sugar rehab Like any addict, you need to detox before you can fully recover. According to DesMaisons, it takes five days to fully overcome your cravings for sugar, and you'll feel awful for three of them. Prepare to be edgy and irritable starting on day two; by day five, you'll feel like a whole new person. After you've recovered, you'll find that a little sugar goes a much longer way.

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