The Not-So-Fab Four Ingredients
- Jul 20, 2022
- Kelly Harrington, MS, RD
Here are research-backed reasons these four ingredients can be removed from your life for good.
According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, sugar activates your opiate receptors and has the same effect on your brain and body as cocaine – and is equally as addictive. Excessive sugar consumption is linked to a myriad of health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, and fatty liver disease.
The good news is after only a few days without sugar, you’ll be able to resist its lure. Your hormones will begin to regulate themselves, and your hunger signals will normalize. Unfortunately, cutting out sugar is not that simple, since it is added to many foods and drinks that are generally thought of as healthy such as yogurt, condiments, granola, non-dairy milk, and much more.
Where Sugar Hides
The sugar you want to eliminate is “added sugar” which is sugar not found naturally in a food source, such as table sugar (and its aliases), honey, agave, and syrup. Always look for “added grams of sugar” on the label too.
Also look for sugar hiding behind an alias such as sucrose, dextrose, corn syrup, or barley malt, making it harder to detect.
Not all sugars are horrible, and naturally occurring sugars are found in plenty of healthy and nutritious foods such as fruit, dairy, and even vegetables (sugar is their carbohydrate!). These foods are totally OK to eat because they contain vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and lots of healthy fiber.
Cutting sugar is difficult and takes planning because of the sheer nature of its addictive qualities. But stick with it – read food labels carefully and choose real fruit when you need a dose of the sweet stuff.
While they sound enticing, “diet” foods and drinks made with artificial sweeteners may actually be worse for you than things made with real sugar. Since they are more potent than table sugar, artificial sweeteners retrain your taste buds to crave sweeter and sweeter foods. And since they provide no nutritive value or sense of satisfaction, they can lead to overeating – causing weight gain, not weight loss.
A study published in Trends in endocrinology & Metabolism also found that consumption of foods with artificial sweeteners interfered with metabolic function, and more research links them to insulin resistance, increased body mass index, and even Type 2 diabetes.
Even sugar alcohols such as xylitol, sorbitol, and maltitol are artificial sweeteners, with the added ailment of possible bloating, gas, cramping, and diarrhea.
Artificial sweeteners can be found in things other than food, such as toothpaste, cough syrup, chewable vitamins, and gum.
A processed or refined grain is one that has been stripped of its nutritive components such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals, leaving behind a basic starch, which is then milled into flour. This flour acts like a simple sugar in your body. It is digested quickly, causing a spike in your blood sugar and a rise in insulin, followed by a crash a couple of hours later. Consumption of refined grains has been inked to cravings, overeating, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes.
Refined products such as bread, cereal, pasta, rice, and crackers should be kept at a minimum on a regular basis. Replace these with carbohydrates that provide a ton of energy and nutrition and do not impact your blood sugar, such as vegetables, fruit, nuts, nut butter, and seeds. Not every meal needs a grain or carb, which is a definitely a mentality switch because this isn’t what we have been taught. Choose more vegetables, leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, root veggies, all kinds of squash, sweet potatoes, cauliflower-based noodles. These kinds of carbs reduce cholesterol, improve insulin response, decrease body fat, and ultimately reduce your risk of disease.
Your body sees alcohol as a poison and literally stops all other metabolic processes in order to remediate and eliminate that alcohol – including fat metabolism, which is one of the liver’s primary functions. And because it is a depressant, once alcohol reaches your brain, all other bodily functions slow down, as well. Alcohol consumption has been linked to fatty liver disease, breast cancer, inflammation, high blood pressure, heart disease, and depression, and since it contains a lot of empty calories (7 calories per gram) regular intake can thwart your physique goals.
Eliminating alcohol can improve metabolism and liver function and reduce your risk of a host of chronic diseases and types of cancers. When dining out, try a mocktail or ask for a seltzer in a champagne glass to stay festive while being healthy.
Do the metabolic math: 2 glasses of wine (125 calories each) x 3 nights per week = 3,000 additional calories per month!
Where to Start with Minimizing Sugar, Artificial Sweeteners, and Refined Grains
Wonder where to start? I suggest looking through your pantry and tossing all processed foods as well as foods with added sugar and artificial sweeteners. You must read the label, especially in the Ingredients section.
Where to Start with Alcohol
When you find yourself reaching for alcohol, ask yourself “why?” The two most common reasons are Stress and Buried Emotions
Stress can come from overcommitting (saying yes to everyone, wanting to please everyone), being overscheduled (not wanting downtime because you don’t want to slow down enough to catch up with yourself and potential emotions that may rise to the surface).
Do you overschedule? Are you busy, busy, busy? It’s very typical for overeaters to be overscheduled. This turns to overwhelmed, but it’s being created by you overscheduling and overcommitting. Not to say things don’t happen that create stress, such as emergencies, but this is the day-to-day we’re talking about.
Set Yourself Up For Success
Create a grocery list based on recipes you want to cook for the week. I use Pinterest for a lot of basic recipe inspiration. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
Carry meals and snacks with you to work and in the car to avoid getting overly hungry. This is when cravings kick in so planning ahead will set yourself up for success.