Saying “no” to sweets
A crucial first step to kicking a bad sugar habit is to stop eating what Teitelbaum calls “added sugar.” That means fast food, processed food, soda, juices and fruit drinks, he says. Don’t worry so much about the natural sugars you get in whole fruit; do avoid processed foods that have any form of sugar (sugar, sucrose, glucose, fructose, corn syrup), especially if you see that they’re one of the first three ingredients on the food label. You’ll also want to avoid white flour, most often found in breads, pastas and pizza dough.
The next step is to make sure you’re reaching for plenty of healthy foods—preferably, small snacks throughout the day—to keep your blood sugar stable. This will keep you from “crashing” and reaching for a sugar-laden hit of energy. Ideally, include a carbohydrate, protein and fat each time you eat. For example, opt for steel-cut oats with fresh fruit and a drizzle of flax oil for breakfast; a container of Greek yogurt if you need a mid-morning snack; a mixed salad with vegetables, avocado and tofu for lunch; grilled salmon with a side of quinoa and steamed vegetables for dinner; and an apple with almond butter for an end-of-day snack. “Protein and healthy fats give you sustained energy, vegetables add fiber, and the nutrients you get from goodfor- you foods help you feel full,” says Koff.
If you must have a sugary snack, go for it—but just have one or two bites that you savor with no guilt. Occasional “cheats” are OK; it’s getting too much sugar over an extended period of time that causes problems.
“Try to remember that 80 percent of the pleasure that comes from eating something sweet happens in the first two bites,” Teitelbaum says. “The health-wrecking sugar comes from inhaling the rest.”
The cost of too much sugar
Eating too much of the sweet stuff can be a significant contributor to many chronic conditions, including:
Anxiety: Sugar causes wide swings in blood sugar, wreaking havoc on the nervous system, which can leave you feeling on edge.
Depression: Eating sugar-laden foods rather than nutritionally dense ones often leads to B vitamin deficiencies, which can exacerbate the blues.
Type II diabetes: Eat too much sugar and your body can get overwhelmed by the demands of processing all the excess, which can lead to insulin resistance and weight gain—major factors in the onset of type II diabetes.
Fibromyalgia: Sugar suppresses the immune system (just one 12-ounce can of soda can drop immune function by 30 percent for three hours), which makes it harder to fight infection and can lead to both chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
Migraines: A drop in blood sugar after a sugar “high” can cause muscles to spasm, causing (and worsening) tension headaches and migraines.
Sinusitis: Too much sugar causes yeast overgrowth, which may trigger an inflammatory reaction in the nose.