Natural Health tips from the College of Natural Health.
Evidence is growing about the detrimental effects of sugar on health and its links to an increased risk for obesity and disease. Everyone will benefit from reducing or cutting out sugar without resorting to the artificial sweeteners that may have other detrimental effects on health.
Sugar occurs naturally in all carbohydrate foods like grains, vegetables and fruits, which also offer valuable vitamins and minerals. However, processed sugar, providing empty calories, is added to foods like chocolate, cakes, biscuits, fizzy drinks, and some yoghurts, breakfast cereals, low fat ready meals and soups. It's often 'hidden' in these foodstuffs under other names. Sugar intake activates the 'reward system' in our bodies - the same system activated by drugs like nicotine and alcohol. With repeated reward system activation we can find ourselves needing more and more to achieve the same 'hit' ' sugar is addictive!
DID YOU KNOW? All 6 tastes are important for a balanced body and mind and to keep cravings at bay. This includes the sweet taste as well as sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent. The important part is to get your sweet taste from a healthy source.
Hunger is controlled by a complex and carefully controlled hormone system which, even if slightly out of balance, can have a number of effects, cravings being one of them. To keep hormones balanced and cravings at bay, a balanced blood sugar level is essential. Fluctuations in blood sugar happen when we eat foods that contain fast releasing sugars or go for long periods of time without eating. Stimulants like caffeine and alcohol can also have an impact.
Ensuring you eat regularly and include protein with every meal and snack is a quick and easy way to help keep blood sugar stable. Choosing slower releasing carbohydrates in the form of wholefoods like brown rice, quinoa, butternut squash, lentils and beans instead of potato, white rice, bread, pasta and processed foods will also help. Dried fruits release their sugars very quickly and should only be eaten occasionally. Whole fruits are preferable to fruit juice as the fibre helps slow down the release of sugar into the bloodstream.
Making sure you are well hydrated and getting plenty of exercise are other simple ways to promote optimal hormone balance. Stress, nutritional imbalances, sub-optimal digestive function and food sensitivities are other factors to consider.
Consider brewing some herbal tea when you get a sugar craving. Herbs like cinnamon and liquorice are naturally sweet and satisfying. Cinnamon has also been shown to help support healthy blood sugar levels.
Is your urge for sweet treats a habit, or a need for comfort? Try rewarding yourself in other ways. Soaking in an Epsom salt bath, or taking some gentle exercise may constitute new healthier alternatives.
This article was written by Nutritional Therapist Ami Gilder for CNH (College of Natural Health). CNH trains students across South Africa for successful careers in natural health, and offers Short Courses in a range of natural therapies. www.collegeofnaturalhealth.co.za
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