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May 2006 "Break the Sugar Habit"

Sugar lurks in unexpected places, compromising our nutrition and our health.

Obesity and obesity-related conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol are the most rampant consequences of all our sugar con-sumption, says Manhattan-based Jana Klauer, M.D., author of How the Rich Get Thin. An alarming 30 percent of American adults are currently obese, and the percentage of obese children has doubled in the last 20 years. Excess sugar can also crowd out what our bodies truly need. "When sugar replaces nutritionally valuable foods," says Klauer, "it deprives our bodies of many important nutrients, including calcium and magnesium."

Search for Sugars
Bringing your body and mind back into a balanced relationship with sugar can help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of illness, boost your energy, and even out your mood. And it doesn't have to be a course in misery. Our three- week sugar-reduction plan is designed to help you break the sugar habit gradually and painlessly. You'll still have plenty of sweet - fruit, whole grains, and milk all contain naturally occurring sugar. "Cutting back on the added sugar in your diet while eating whole, naturally sweet foods will give you the physiological balance you need for long-term health," says Klauer. Best of all, what initially might feel like deprivation may eventually become a bonanza. By stemming the deluge of added sugars that usually overwhelm your taste buds, you'll awaken your palate, allowing naturally sweet flavors to come alive.

Be aware that sugar has many guises-in fact, there are dozens' of varieties of added sugar. While it's unlikely you'll remember - all of them, you can keep some of the most common in mind (see "Sugar Glossary," page 119). Familiar sweeteners like cane sugar, honey, and molasses are easy enough to spot; other common sugars include dextrose, fructose, fruit-juice concentrates, maltose, and sucrose.
High-fructose corn syrup is especially abundant in processed foods-and especially problematic. Its use has directly paral-leled the rise in obesity in America, says Klauer. Derived from corn and inexpensive to produce, high fructose corn syrup' is a very concentrated sweetener. "Also, because fructose is metabolized through the liver," says Klauer, "consuming high fructose corn syrup strains the liver and has, been linked to increased levels of triglycerides and total cholesterol",
In your hunt for sugars, don't search just in the expected places; also check breads, cereals, sauces, soups, and yogurts in short, anything with a label. Nutrition labels don't delineate added sugars-"sugars," listed in grams, includes naturally occurring sugars-so it's hard to determine how much you're getting. . Keep in mind, though, that ingredients are listed in order of quantity, so if any type of sugar is listed in the first few ingredients, the food is most likely high in added sugars.

Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner
Skipping meals results in low blood-glucose levels, which can lead.to impulsive eating, often of sweets. Try to eat every three to four hours, says Klauer, and keep healthy snacks on hand. Breakfast is particularly important, since your body has been fasting all night; skipping breakfast can trigger late-morning cravings for sweetened foods. And be sure to eat a breakfast that contains adequate protein. Protein will balance your blood sugar and make you feel full, leaving you less susceptible to quick-energy cravings. So get up in time to make yourself eggs, or have a piece of whole-grain toast with almond butter.

Balance each meal
Balance your meals by eating complex carbohydrates in the company of proteins and healthy fats. The proteins and fats will help stabilize your blood-sugar levels and keep you satiated longer, says Klauer. So rather than eating an apple or a cookie on its own, combine it with a handful of nuts or a piece of cheddar cheese. If you have spaghetti for dinner, choose whole- wheat pasta and top it with roasted chicken.

Quell your cravings
"Initially, when eliminating sugar you may feel an intense crav-ing for it," Klauer says. Sugar cravings, while not true hunger, can be overpowering. They signal an imbalance and have been linked to diminished beta-endorphins and serotonin levels in the brain. Succumbing to the sugar craving will initially raise the levels of these chemicals but ultimately leave you in a sugar "deficit," only to crave again. When you feel a craving, try Klauer's suggestions:
1. When the craving begins, set a timer for 15 minutes. Most cravings last only 8-14 minutes.
2. Drink a full glass of water. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger, says Klauer.
3. If the sugar craving persists, eat a protein-rich snack, such as handful of almonds or walnuts, some unsweetened yogurt, or a piece of cheese.

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