Recently I attended the local American Diabetes Association Expo and spoke with a lot of people about blood sugar issues. But sugar is not just an issue for people who already have diabetes; it is a troublesome issue for a lot of people. Americans consume over 50 pounds of sugar a year, and this level of sugar can wreak havoc on our health from cavities to weight gain. My grandmother had diabetes, so like many Americans I may have a genetic predisposition that would make me more likely to get diabetes if I did eat sugar at anything close to the average American intake. In addition to the diabetes risk, sugar adds calories to the diet without nutrients, which can contribute to weight gain. Also, there is evidence that sugar may suppress the immune system.
Many people know sugar isn’t a healthy choice but are having trouble cutting it out of their lives. For some, this is just because sugar is addictive. For others, the issue may be that their blood sugar is dropping and they are choosing the quick, unhealthy solution of sugary foods. Instead, it is better to pick foods that will sustain you longer like those high in protein and complex carbohydrate. The mineral chromium can also be helpful for balancing blood sugar for some types of hypoglycemia as well as in prediabetes. Other sugar cravings are related to mood and stress. When stressed out, some people consume sugar to temporarily increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being. Of course, there are healthier ways of supporting serotonin such as eating a high-protein food with all three meals. If none of these approaches is helpful, the health of the digestive tract needs to be considered.
If you need further motivation to drop some of your favorite sweet treats, check out this visual representation of the sugar content of some common junk foods compared to fruit.
And for more nutrition tips, I have posted my most recent PowerPoint presentation on Whole Nutrition for anyone who couldn’t make it to my talk.