By Erin Ernest
How does your sugar intake stack up?
“Sugar is a deep, ancient craving,” Daniel Lieberman, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University, said.
Lieberman explained that early humans looked for sweet fruits and vegetables because they contained the natural sugars that give us energy. Of course, early humans did not have Twinkies or bake sale chocolate cupcakes to entice them, but the temptation has always been there.
Sugar—a nationwide epidemic
Just how much sugar is the average American consuming? According to the Kolp Institute, the average adult woman should not consume more than six teaspoons of sugar per day, and men should stay under nine teaspoons. Today, the average American adult consumes an average of 22 teaspoons of sugar every day, the average American child consumes more than 32 teaspoons of sugar a day, and the average teenage male consumes more than 42 teaspoons of sugar per day. The downfall of refined sugar is that while all living cells need glucose in order to function, processed, or refined, sugars undoubtedly do not provide the body with nutritional benefits.
The downfall of refined sugar
If you’re trying to lose weight or get fit, consuming a great deal of refined sugar will not benefit you Recent research published in the National Library of Medicine has proven that chronic consumption of these sugars actually numbs the brain’s anorexigenic oxytocin system, which is a sensor that prevents the body from overeating. What then occurs is the body stops sending a signal to the brain that tells it to stop eating, thus leading to overeating and obesity.
Numerous studies have found that consumption of added sugars has been implicated in increased risk of a variety of chronic diseases including obesity, cardiovascular disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), as well as cognitive decline, and even some cancers.
According to the American Diabetes Association, research has shown that both being overweight and drinking sugary drinks puts you at risk of Type II diabetes.
What’s more, although more research needs to be done, some studies show that refined sugar consumption reduces our brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Our BDNF assists us with memory and learning. When this number is low, it can lead to difficulty learning and concentrating, and links have discovered a connection between this level and Alzheimer’s, depression and dementia.
Cholesterol is also affected by blood pressure and blood glucose. If your blood glucose and blood pressure are high, your cholesterol numbers may be off, as well. All of these are risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.
Different types of sugar
The truth is, sugar is an essential part of human physiology. All food—not just refined sugar—is broken down into a simple sugar that is stored in our liver or as fat. Our body draws upon this reserve to continuously fuel our organs. The main hormone that regulates this process is called insulin. Other hormones that fluctuate in response to high and low blood sugar levels are epinephrine and cortisol. These are only a few of the hormones that work to ensure that the body constantly receives the sugar it needs, even if we aren’t eating. However, there are better ways to get the energy the body needs, while eating in ways that regulate blood sugar levels so they’re most effective.
Different foods effects our blood sugar in different ways. Glycemic index is a measurement system used to identify how much a food raises the blood sugar level. A high glycemic index means that the food is rapidly digested, resulting in a significant fluctuation in blood sugar. Foods with a lower rating are digested more slowly and produce a more even blood sugar change after eating. High glycemic foods will cause your body to store more sugar as fat. A drop in blood sugar will ensue, generally resulting in a craving for more sugar to balance it out.
These spikes and drops, and ensuing cravings that perpetuate the cycle, are what cause long-term health issues. Certain high glycemic foods—such as refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup—can cause a more severe spike and drop that our hormones may not be able to effectively regulate. Eating low glycemic foods can help create fewer blood sugar spikes and put less strain on the organs that release sugar-regulating hormones like insulin, cortisol and epinephrine.
There is a better way
Aside from having the willpower to just stop consuming foods that are horrible for us, how can we satisfy that same craving without the concern of diabetes, obesity, or even worse—heart disease and cancer? In addition to choosing natural sugars with lower glycemic indexes such as coconut sugar and male syrup, there are also sweet-tasting herbs that bring out the flavor of your food while improving your overall health. Delicious and nutritious, the following spices and herbs can not only satisfy your cravings without negative side effects, but they can be found in every serving of Jahmu Chai!
Inviting and festive, cinnamon is a spice that reminds us of holiday cheer! It also happens to be loaded with antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and polyphenols that help to reduce sugar cravings by controlling blood glucose levels.
Sprinkle some on your favorite healthy snacks (sweet potatoes and yogurt are a great place to start) or into your smoothie for a delicious kick that will help your body lower the risk of disease.
If you truly want to regulate your blood sugar or want to soothe what ails your stomach, look no further than cloves.
Cloves contain it all—antioxidants, anthocyanins and an anti-inflammatory called Eugenol—that has been shown to reduce joint inflammation and may even help lower the risk of digestive tract cancers that can be caused by a lifetime of eating sugary foods.
Cloves are delicious in teas, sauces, marinades, stews and even sprinkled over your favorite vegetables to add an extra kick of flavor.
Do you love the taste of maple syrup? Enter Fenugreek—an herb that can be used to assist in the management of diabetes, stomach disorders and anemia, just to name a few.
Fenugreek can be used to control blood sugar and keep sugar cravings at bay. According to a study published by the Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders, “fenugreek delayed the onset of diabetes in subjects with prediabetes and even helped to reduce fasting plasma glucose, postprandial fasting glucose, and LDL cholesterol.” What’s more, the control group had a “4.2 times higher chance of developing Type II diabetes compared to subjects in the fenugreek group.”
Fenugreek is in of the main ingredients in Jahmu chai and November’s spice of the month! Learn more about Fenugreek here.
Herbs and spices for overall health
Cinnamon, fenugreek and cloves are just a few of the nutrient- and antioxidant-rich herbs and spices that should be added into the lifestyle of anyone who is trying to curb sugar cravings.
These and other spices in Jahmu can help satisfy a sugar craving. The next time you crave sugar, prepare yourself a warm cup of Jahmu chai with a fatty or nut milk and sweeten it with stevia, maple syrup, honey or coconut sugar. Maybe even treat yourself by throwing in a few chocolate chips and enjoying the jahmu with a spoon!