Medical herbalist columnist Nicola Parker writes about cutting down on sugar and aids to increase protein levels.
I’ve always liked the idea of Lent, spending six weeks giving up something that has an unhealthy presence in your life.
I like the discipline it cultivates and the benefit we get from the challenge. This winter, I feel comfort eating has become a more regular habit than I’m comfortable with, so I’ve decided to take the plunge and try to eliminate sugar.
Sugar is earning a bad reputation as more and more research is done on the effects of refined sugars. We are becoming increasingly aware of the negative impact it can have on our health.
A key reason for keeping sugar off the table is poor blood sugar control. The body needs a steady supply of energy, just like an open fire needs a steady source of fuel. Adding sugar in response to a sugar craving is like adding newspaper to a fire. The energy peaks quickly but dies down rapidly, requiring more fuel and triggering another sugar craving.
We release insulin to deal with these sugar peaks, a hormone that helps maintain safe blood glucose levels. If we constantly subject our blood to these peaks in sugar, we stop responding effectively to insulin.
Fat cells begin gathering between the organs, giving us the rotund middle known as ‘middle aged spread’.
This type of poor blood sugar control predisposes us to diabetes which can lead to all sorts of complications.
To stop this from occurring, provide your body with slow burning fuels like beans, oats and veggies that are high in fibre.
Enjoy lean meats, fish, eggs and nuts to increase your protein.
Regular meals high in fibre and protein should help to curb the cravings, making it easier to drop sugar entirely.
The best way to cut out sugar is to go cold turkey as each cheat will renew the craving cycle.
For people with long term blood sugar irregularities or for those troubled with constant cravings, I recommend using herbs like fenugreek and cinnamon.
Fenugreek works by slowing down how quickly your gut absorbs sugar, preventing the blood sugar highs that perpetuate cravings and contribute to the fatty deposits between your organs.
Fenugreek has also been shown to improve cholesterol levels so it is the key herb for dealing with fats.
Cinnamon works in a similar way but it also helps with gas.
The swollen belly one gets after a large meal is caused by fermenting bacteria that cause bloating and disrupt proper bowel function.
Cinnamon works like fenugreek to assist in blood sugar control but it also kills off these bacteria, making the gut a healthier place and your tummy less prone to bloating.
Nutrients like chromium are ideal for sugar cravings.
For those wanting to lose weight while managing better blood sugar levels, we recommend a product called Metabolic Balance that contains all three.
The product is named after Metabolic Syndrome, a state that occurs in pre diabetics and is associated with weight gain around the middle.
In Metabolic Syndrome, women tend to gain a pear-shaped torso, while men become more round and apple-like even though their arms and legs might remain relatively slender.
Metabolic Syndrome often includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol and poor blood sugar levels, including diabetes and pre-diabetes.
If these things sound familiar, then sugar could be contributing to much more than weight gain and a dietary overhaul is worthwhile.
Some years ago I helped a lady to lose weight using the product Metabolic Balance alongside a sugar free diet.
Once we’d broken her sugar craving cycle, we reintroduced some sugar, but kept it strictly limited.
Whenever her diet slipped early days, she’d pile the weight back on but after her most recent holiday, she’d gained very little, despite admitting to overindulgence.
I believe that the consistency in her diet as well as the cinnamon, chromium and fenugreek in the Metabolic Balance helped to change the way her body responded to sugar.
She’s now much healthier, has more energy and no longer gets fixated on sweet treats as she once did.
If you’re nervous about cutting out sugar, give it a short two-week trial and see how you feel.
People that make it to week two rarely turn back.