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Cut Your Processed Sugar

In January, we shared an infographic with 12 months of healthy habits with you. Each month, we want to give you more tips and tools to embrace that habit. For February, we challenged you to cut your processed sugar in 1/2 or out all together.

Sugar is addicting. Period. In fact, it has some of the same effects on the brain as heroin, nicotine and cocaine. The more we have sugar, the more we crave sugar. The more we crave it, the more we think we can't go without it. When you have sugar, your brain releases serotonin and dopamine which feels so good. Unfortunately, it also causes an insulin spike which ends up causing a drop in blood sugar making you feel bad and then wanting more to get it back up again.

Why stay away from sugar?

- It can cause type 2 diabetes and other blood glucose issues.

- It causes inflammation of the body, which is associated with a variety of ailments.

- It depletes the immune system.

- Sugar disrupts normal brain function.

- Sugar will increase your storage of fat due to the insulin effect.

Let's remember. Other than taste, sugar has no merits. It is an empty calorie that can only wreak havoc on your health.

Unfortunately, sugar is hard to stay away from. It's in drinks, bars, even your ketchup! A glass of fruit juice might sound healthy but actually has 24 grams of sugar (in an 8-oz glass of orange juice) and causes a quick rise in blood sugar! You are much better eating the whole orange which has the benefits of fiber. It takes about 4 oranges to make a glass of juice. Would you ever eat 4 oranges at once?

Here are 5 tips to cut the sugar from your diet:

1) Eat foods in their natural state when possible. If you eat something packaged, check the sugar content.

2) Don't be fooled. The following are all sugars: Fructose, sucrose, maltose, dextrose and corn syrup.

3) Cut out all sugary drinks. No more sodas, sweetened teas or fruit juices.

4) Eat a high fiber food and / or a protein with your sugar to slow absorption in the blood. For instance, pair an apple with some walnuts.

5) Have back up foods ready. When you crave something sweet, have some fruit or another low sugar "treat" ready to fill that craving.

The World Health Organization recommends less than 10 percent of your intake be sugar. The is 40 g on a 1,600-calorie diet. Just a note, that is the amount in just one soda.

While I usually recommend baby steps in health, you might be better off going cold turkey for sugar. Choose 21 days to kick the habit and you will probably be amazed at how much better you feel!

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