Must read: The bitter truth about sugar. Your 5 step guide to escaping the candy grip.

Sugar is getting better and better at hiding from us. Research now shows it can be as destructive to our brains as extreme stress or abuse.

Sugar used to be the occasional after dinner sweet treat that was “bad for your teeth.”

Now it exists in multiple forms in most of the prepared food available to us (even the sugar-free options) and it perpetuates overall inflammation, dumps fat on our liver (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease); makes our cells resistant to the effects of insulin (insulin resistant); and then gives us metabolic syndrome, abdominal obesity, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes.

There’s more: Medical research in the last decade has provided compelling evidence for the involvement of insulin resistance in cancer. While Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is now viewed as a type of diet-induced diabetes (dubbed by doctors as Type 3 diabetes, or Diabetes of the Brain).

Now, in a recent study published last week, a team at the University of New South Wales in Australia found that sugar is as damaging to the brain as trauma or abuse.

Daunting, I know. And unfortunately quitting gummi bears won’t be enough to keep you in the clear.

Food manufacturers are finding really sneaky ways to keep us, and sadly also our kids (!) addicted to processed products. Cereals, biscuits, crackers, “health” bars, vegetable purees, sauces, juices, even innocent hot beverages are all smuggling insane amounts of sugar into our bodies.

Campaign group Action on Sugar recently revealed that 98 percent of hot flavored drinks sold in major chain stores contain dangerous levels of sugar. Starbuck’s Hot Mulled Fruit Venti came out as the ultimate villain, clocking in 25 teaspoons of sugar — equivalent to 3 cans of Coke!

The thing is, you are the person that puts food into your mouth. Think about that empowered responsibility for a second, while I tell you how to be smarter about avoiding this highly addictive and destructive food additive.

1. Have protein for breakfast

Having protein, fat and fiber at every meal is the big secret to balancing your blood sugar and keeping yourself full and focused. Skipping meals and not having enough protein leaves you reaching for the nearest, sweetest edible thing by noon. It’s a band that will inevitably snap. Our ultimate hack is this all in one, clinically-tested Rebuild shake, blended with frozen blueberries, greens and a spoon of nut butter. It’s highly energizing, anti-inflammatory and it’s our secret weapon that could now be yours. Try it.

2. Do a Simple Carb sweep

Replace refined carbohydrates with the complex kind. Simple carbs attract more simple carbs. And the simpler they are, the quicker the conversion to sugar once eaten. Whole foods with all their fiber in tact, take longer to be broken down and tend to have more nutrients still intact. (Yes you, sweet potatoe. And you quinoa!)

Get a health coach to help you do this pantry sweep effectively and sustainably in a way that fits in with your unique lifestyle.

3. Get your gut checked

Pathogenic bacteria, parasites, and yeast, such as Candida, could be making you crave and eat sugary foods, because it’s their favorite ever cuisine. At Parsley health we test for and eliminate these guys before they get the chance to exacerbate conditions like autoimmune arthritis, acne, thyroid imbalance and eczema.

4. Increase sour, probiotic foods and pure dark chocolate!

Yes we’re a medical practice and we’re telling you to Eat More Chocolate. But only the kind with 75% or more cacao. Cacao is a powerful anti-oxidant and releases endorphins without the blood sugar spike of regular chocolate. Also increase sour, probiotic foods like sauerkraut and kimchi that curb your cravings for sweetness. Bonus: Your gut will thank you by fighting off the above mentioned perpetrators (see point 3).

5. Drink more water and green tea

Often we confuse our body’s signals of thirst for hunger, or a false yearning for something sweet. Drinking enough water rehydrates your brain for better decisions (including food choices), flushes your liver and fills your stomach so that you don’t feel desperately ravenous. If water gets boring try a few cups of Green tea, which does all this with the added benefit of being full of antioxidants, EGCG (a natural blood sugar balancer) and L-theanine, a calming, mood-boosting amino acid found in green tea.

Sound good? You’ve got this.

We’re here to help you. Call me, Blair or Jackie for free and let’s figure it out together.

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Originally published at parsleyhealth.com on February 24, 2016.

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