Addiction is a strong word. Most people associate addiction with alcohol or drugs -- anything easily recognized as harmful. But there is another substance many people are, in fact, addicted to, probably without realizing it: carbohydrates.
Whether it's ice cream to soothe the soul after a long day of work or an inability to ignore the bread basket at a restaurant, most of us experience a desire for carbohydrates, for sugar, on some level and it doesn’t help that so much of the foods we eat are simply laden with carbohydrates. But when symptoms like weight gain and fatigue can't deter you, that's a problem.
Rules of Addiction
Carbs and sugar play on the reward center of your mind, promoting the release of serotonin, the "happy hormone." In other words, when you eat sugar and starches, you feel more positive and less anxious. You get that favorite pasta dish or a big slice of birthday cake (be it yours or someone else's) and suddenly, all the stress melts away and you feel not only physically satiated, but mentally and emotionally, too.
That feeling only lasts for a short time though, causing your blood sugar to spike and then crash, leading to cravings for more. You feel lethargic and tired and only the rush carbohydrates provide will set you straight again because your body has learned to want them and need them to function properly. However, the long-term effects of eating too much sugar and starches include high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Not so tasty.
If all this is setting off alarm bells for you, don't fret. There are safe, natural ways to end your addiction to carbohydrates and turn your diet from a never-ending cycle of highs and lows to a fulfilling lifestyle that makes you feel great all the time. That doesn't mean carbs are off limits forever (phew).
Step No. 1: Identify the Culprits
To determine once and for all if your highs and lows can be linked to carbs, you need to first do an examination of your diet, and the best indicator is what you have at home at all times. We all have staples or types of "impulse purchases" that always seem to make it into our shopping cart. Take a look in your cupboards, fridge and freezer to see how many of these items you find:
Processed foods like chips, crackers, canned soups and microwave dinners
High sugar foods like candy, chocolate and sugary snacks
High sugar drinks like sodas and some fruit juices
Foods with refined flour like white bread, white rice and pasta
Processed potato products or actual white potatoes
Pull them all out, spread them out on the counter and step back to really get an idea of how many of these items make up your diet. You may not realize how many carb-loaded foods you keep in the house, tucked away in various places.
Step No. 2: Write It Down
So you know the carbs you love, but how often are you eating them? Could they really be doing something to you? If the collection of carbs didn't do it, this next step may. Start keeping a food journal. This is a sound and common practice for anyone who wants to overhaul their diet and examining what patterns may be occurring. Start logging your meals -- not only what you eat, but the time you ate it, how you felt after you ate it and also how you felt an hour later. If you get a headache, write it down. If you feel compelled to take an afternoon nap, write it down. You may be surprised at what you find.
Step No. 3: Change the Way You Eat
Once you've logged your meals for a week, take a look back at your journal and highlight or mark where you can make swaps for healthier options. For example, instead of getting fries with your sandwich, get salad, or if you make pasta for dinner, buy whole grain, high fiber pasta. Try veggies instead of chips for snacks to keep your blood sugar steady. Although it's been ingrained in us to eat three meals a day, most physicians today would recommend eating five or six small meals throughout the day. The smaller portions allow you to better control what you eat and the increased frequency prevents you from feeling hungry and tired throughout the day.
Now, for the fun part. You don't have to go cold turkey from the carbs you love right out of the gate. Why? After five or six days of sticking to a plan, you will do a nosedive into a bag on chips or slaughter an entire baguette out of deprivation or boredom. So don't punish yourself. Start cutting these less desirable foods out of our diet gradually and you'll start craving them less. And by all means, when it's your birthday, get that big slice of cake. Get the one with the flower on it or your name written in icing. Just don't take the rest of the cake home for an after party.
As mentioned before, the reason we crave carbs is the high they produce when ingested. While you remain in this realm of reality, unlike a drug, your mood is undoubtedly altered for a little while. In addition to dietary changes, there are some unique types of supplements that can remove the blood sugar spikes and crashes from the equation, making you less likely to run for the carbs. Some great options include cinnamon, chromium polynicotinate and satiereal saffron.
If you're monitoring your blood sugar for a diagnosed medical condition or are taking any other type of medication, it's important to speak with your doctor before adding these, or any other type of supplement to your routine. But they can help, if used properly, so follow instructions carefully.
You don't have to be a slave to carbohydrates anymore. Gradually changing your diet and lifestyle can help you move toward healthier choices. Not only will you feel better, you will get the side benefit of looking better, too. Shop for the supplements mentioned and more at eVitamins to get you started!
Products you may like:
New Chapter Cinnamon Force Why you may like this product? This supplement contains two
extracts to keep blood sugar
levels stable. Each serving
provides 140 mg of cinnamon to
prevent spikes and crashes.
Cinnamon also supports weight
management, cellular energy
and normal blood lipid
Olympian Labs Chromium Polynicotinate Why you may like this product? Chromium is an important trace
mineral that assists in the
metabolism of carbohydrates as
well as fats and proteins,
moving these substances to the
cells to be used for energy.
It keeps the body producing
energy as it should to keep
you from feeling dramatic
cravings due to rising and
falling blood sugar.
Life Extension Optimized Saffron with Satiereal Why you may like this product? The reason carbs are so
addictive is the fact they
trigger the release of
serotonin in the brain, which
eases tension and improves
mood. Saffron extract is known
to have the same effect, to
prevent you from using
carbohydrate-rich foods as a
coping mechanism, resulting in
weight gain. Each capsule
provides 88.25 mg of extract
per serving to keep moods
balanced and prevent those
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