Everyone learns in childhood that eating too much candy causes cavities, especially if you don’t brush and floss daily. We might think we eat less candy as adults, but sugar (disguised by various names) can be found in a surprisingly wide variety of foods, from catsup to canned vegetables.
According to the U.S. Diabetes Council, the average American consumes over 100 pounds of sugar a year, the highest in the world. But it’s worse than that, because the refined carbohydrates that make up much of the standard diet (including white flour and white rice) are turned into sugar by the body very quickly.
The results include two-thirds of us being overweight, greatly increasing the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. While tooth decay continues to be a problem, by the time we are adults, all those sugary foods and beverages that stick to teeth have also led to gum disease. Unless reversed, the infection can result in eventually losing some or all of your teeth.
There are lots of ways to cut back on those sugar cravings, starting with using healthy sugar substitutes in moderation, like xylitol, stevia, erythritol, and mock fruit. Eat more whole grains, seeds, nuts, beans, and legumes, which provide complex carbohydrates that take a long time to digest and keep blood sugar high, deterring hunger and providing energy (unlike eating a candy bar, which produces a quick high, followed by a crash). Proteins and healthy fats (like olive oil) can help, too (while avoiding too much high-fat meat and dairy and all trans-fats found in processed foods). Too much alcohol can also reduce blood sugar, creating cravings.
To offset temptation, eat a breakfast of oatmeal, eggs, or plain yogurt with honey, putting alternative sweeteners in your coffee:
- Eat lots of vegetables, whole grains, lean fish and meats for lunch and dinner.
- Carry sunflower seeds or almonds for snacks. Read the labels of so-called “nutrition bars” carefully.
- Add a multivitamin supplement to make sure your body has whatever nutrients it needs and a probiotic to improve digestion and balance of good bacteria in your intestinal system.
But what the brain is really craving isn’t simply junk food, it’s the chemical dopamine that is the body’s “reward” that can be stimulated in an unhealthy by junk food:
There are other ways to give it that without sweets or overeating:
- Go for a brisk walk or jog.
- Take a hot shower.
- Drink a glass of water.
- Make sure you get a full amount of refreshing sleep.
And be sure to come in at least twice a year for a dental check-up so that we can make sure your health program is preventing tooth decay and periodontal disease.