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Verified by Psychology Today

Stephen Sinatra

Stephen T Sinatra M.D., F.A.C.C.

Happy, Healthy Holidays -- Without the Sugar

De-Sugarize Your Holidays

Holiday time is here again, and typically a time we go collectively crazy for all things sweet, with temptation galore, for kids and adults alike, to overeat sugary empty calories.

Do you remember that popular song from years gone by: "Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, sugar at suppertime?" That aptly describes the bingeing opportunities that start with Thanksgiving and run through Jan. 1 and results in an average weight gain among American adults of anywhere from seven to ten pounds. The cause? Too many refined carbohydrates-and sugar is a carb-that become stored as fat if not sufficiently metabolized by insulin.

xcess dietary sugar raises the sugar level in your blood. In response, your body tries to control the sugar by releasing insulin, a pancreatic hormone. A rush of insulin brings your blood sugar level down, but the drop can leave you tired, irritable, and even depressed. Plus, excess insulin is the most potent inflammatory hormone, causing damage to arteries and contributing to atherosclerosis and heart disease.
The higher your blood sugar goes, the higher your insulin surges, and the faster you age. All of you. From the skin on the outside to pumping central, your heart, and all of the tissues in between.

Here are some suggestions to help you get through the holidays-and beyond:

1.Read labels! Most of the sugar you eat is hidden in or added to processed foods, drinks, desserts, and cereal bars-much of it labeled as high fructose corn syrup. This corn-based product sweetens up thousands of foods, from ketchup and tomato sauces to soft drinks, crackers, processed meats, and even so-called health food products. Researchers and medical professionals regard high fructose corn syrup as a toxic and inflammatory agent affecting obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Take care to avoid these sneaky sugar products.
2.Steer clear of doughnuts and pastry. You get the sugar, plus damaging hydrogenated oil and processed, fiber-less flour.
3.Beware of sodas. They are liquid candy-the number one dietary source of added sugars. Studies connect them to weight gain and numerous nutritional deficiencies. For example, sodas rich in phosphates inactivate magnesium, a critical mineral for your health. And while I'm on the subject, watch out for sweetened trendy teas, energy drinks, and sports drinks. One popular brand of vitamin-infused water has more sugar per bottle than a Krispy Kreme doughnut!
4.If you need to sweeten any foods, add a little juice from oranges, grapes, pears, peaches, or other fruits. You can also use some shredded raw or dried apples, coconuts, raisins, or dates. Try sprinkling on cinnamon, cloves, or nutmeg. You also may want to experiment with stevia, an herbal supplement that millions of people use as a sweetener.
5. Eat several small meals, starting with breakfast, and include some protein at each sitting to keep you feeling satisfied. By eating little portions throughout the day, you will be less inclined to overload on party food.
6.As far as dessert is concerned, challenge your willpower. If you can't resist, take a couple of bites but no more.
7.If you have difficulties controlling sweets, check out the web site www.sugarshock.com. It's the work of veteran journalist Connie Bennett, who suffered dozens of debilitating symptoms for years until a doctor connected her malaise to overeating processed carbohydrates and sweets, particularly red licorice, chocolate, and hard candies. She changed her diet-and changed her life. She's all energy and enthusiasm now.
8.Limit alcohol intake. This includes wine, beer, and liquor. Many people don't realize that alcohol contains a large store of hidden sugar.

Remember, if you eat sugar all day long, you will just continue to crave it. So avoid it in the first place!

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