4 Tricks to Cut the Sugar Treats

This Halloween season, don’t be tricked by treats! The average American consumes a whopping 180 pounds of sugar per year. Halloween candy, cake, and soda are no-brainers—but sugar also shows up in some surprising places like spaghetti sauce, condiments, bread, and crackers. All of this is adding up to a fatter waistline and a host of life-shortening diseases. Keep the pounds down and your longevity on track by following one habit: cut back on sugar.  Get started with the four tips that follow!

This is the tenth habit in the 2011 Longevity Program, a yearlong plan of monthly activities that come from the habits of centenarians from around the world. The idea of this program is that by choosing a simple activity and doing it every day, you will gradually develop 12 new healthy habits by the end of the year. To do the whole program, look at my previous Yahoo! Blog “The Longevity Resolution: Live to 100”.

If you are interested in a more formal longevity program, check out my book Secrets of Longevity 8-Week Program, a journal that will transform your health and lengthen your years.

October’s Goal: Cut Back on Sugar

Here’s why: For most of our time on earth, we human beings have eaten small amounts of sugar that occurred naturally in our food sources. By around 1890, we were eating approximately 90 pounds of sugar a year, and today we are up to a yearly average of 180 pounds—far more than we actually need.

So, how is this excess sugar affecting your body? An excess of simple sugar upsets the body’s blood-sugar balance. When the sugar influx enters your bloodstream, the pancreas is triggered to produce and release insulin. While our bodies need insulin to function, it is unhealthy to make too much of it. The insulin spikes that come with overindulging in sugar lead to all sorts of negative health problems down the road. More reports are surfacing that link high sugar consumption with the nation’s top killers: type II diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. A sugar habit is also thought to be a culprit in certain types of cancer, tooth decay, and possibly behavioral problems.

4 Ways to Kick the Sugar Habit

1. Look out for hidden sugar on labels. Most of the massive quantities of sugar we eat come from processed and prepared foods with added sweeteners. Read the labels carefully to uncover secret sugar sources with names that include: dextrose, fructose, sucrose, glucose, and high fructose corn syrup. Better yet, skip the packaged foods completely and make your own meals and snacks at home.

2. Head off the sugar spikes with more protein. Break the sugar habit by eating food that sustains your energy level, heading off a snack attack caused by a dip in blood sugar. Introduce more protein foods into your diet, including eggs, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, and seeds. These foods take a longer time to digest and absorb, slowly releasing sugar and nutrients into the blood stream.

3. Everything in moderation. Whatever your sweet substance of choice—sugar, honey, or even natural fruit—eat it in moderation. Your body simply was not designed to cope with multiple daily servings of sweeteners. The general recommendation for a healthy individual is to eat no more than six to nine teaspoons of sugar a day (about 100 to 150 calories). Consider that an average 12-ounce soda contains eight teaspoons of sugar, about 130 calories.

4. Sugar substitutes. Sugar is a mainstay in your tea or coffee, breakfasts, and baked goods. How to replace? Add more flavorful spices like cardamom, clove, or cinnamon to help you cut back on the sugar content. A handful or berries or chopped dates can sweeten up a dish. You can also try these healthier substitutes: honey, agave nectar, erythritol (a natural sugar substitute), luo han guo (the sweetener in a fiber-filled extract called Sweet Fiber), or stevia. Don’t forget! A calorie is still a calorie, so don’t overdo.

Stay on Track

Ask yourself these questions each day and consider keeping a written record of your answers. This will help you stick to the plan and may give you helpful and inspiring insights.

  • Think of a reward for yourself if you follow the plan nearly every day, and write it down. You will be more likely to follow through with your goal when there is a bonus at the end.
  • Are you actually able to cut back on your usual amount of sugar? What has the experience been like?
  • How do you feel today compared to the previous day? How about to one week ago? You might experience slight headaches or other discomfort at first if you are cutting back drastically. When you stick with it, hopefully you will begin to notice more balanced emotions, or better clarity of mind and perhaps a more even energy level.
  • What obstacles are keeping you from practicing this habit every day? What can you do to get around these?

Make It Happen! An Answer for Every Excuse

Miss a day? Sometimes a bad habit can really have a hold on you. If you binge on sugar in a big way for a day or two this month, it does not make you a failure! Let it go. What can you do differently for more successful results? Recommit, make adjustments, and continue where you left off. Don’t ever give up!

Can’t celebrate without sugar! Our culture definitely celebrates with sugar: candy, cookies, cakes, and pies. Skip the candy and celebrate the Halloween season with these treats: autumn apple with nut butter, home-baked pumpkin seeds, or stewed pears with cinnamon. Not sold? Just be more moderate with indulgence. A birthday counts as a celebration, but do you really need to celebrate after every meal with desert?

Everything tastes boring. Sugar taps into a very powerful human preference for sweet tastes, and food makers know that sweet sells. Consequently, our taste buds have become accustomed to loads of sweeteners in everything. But who should get decide how you eat? Companies who want your money—or you? Give it time and within a few weeks, your palette should adjust. Eventually, the subtle sweetness of a pear or the bright burst of a berry may be more satisfying than a sugar-laden cookie.

On the last day of the month: If you have been cutting back on your sugar consumption consistently, it is likely that you have created new longevity habit. Keep up the good work! Stay tuned for November, where you will learn how an attitude of gratitude can help you live longer. Look for my monthly articles to guide you through a healthy and happy 2011.

You can find more ways to live a long and healthy life in Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100, which is now available on Kindle. In addition, The Natural Health Dictionary makes a great companion to your quest for longevity. It is a comprehensive guide that answers all your questions about natural remedies, healing herbs, longevity foods, vitamins, and supplements.

I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

—Dr. Mao

This blog is meant to educate, but it should not be used as a substitute for personal medical advice. The reader should consult his or her physician or clinician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field is ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.

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