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Read This and You’ll Find Healthier Ways to Satisfy That Sweet Tooth of Yours!

Read This and You’ll Find Healthier Ways to Satisfy That Sweet Tooth of Yours!

We have all been there: you have just started a diet in an attempt to lose weight and feel better, but it seems as soon as you decide to eat less sugar and more vegetables, someone walks by you with a gourmet cupcake or a sugary coffee drink. All at once, your willpower is gone and you give in to the temptation.

If this has happened to you, then you have probably experienced the attitude of: I’ll do better tomorrow! But did you? Probably not. And that is largely because sugar is addicting.

Not figuratively. Literally. Sugar is classified as an addictive substance, and it contributes to thousands of deaths every year[1]. Before we learn how to avoid sugar, let’s be clear about something: there are good sugars and there are bad sugars.

Bad sugars are what your body does not require in order to be healthy. Good sugars are necessary and contribute to a healthy body. These are found in fruits and milk. But remember, you don’t need to eat a ton of natural sugar to be “healthy.” More on that later.

Why do we crave sugar?

For the most part, the intense desire for sugar is caused by all sorts of things happening in your body, and rarely do those things involve a need.

1. You are hungry.

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I know, I know. Duh. But I don’t mean you crave sugar because you’re hungry and a cupcake would really hit the spot. I mean your body is hungry and is desperate for you to feed it something[2]! So what does it do? Your stomach alerts your brain that you need something to fuel you and you need it to be processed quickly. That usually means you crave carbs/sugars. After all, when your stomach is growling loudly enough for the people next door to hear, the last thing you feel like doing is preparing a gourmet salad.

2. We are hard-wired to ingest sugar.

Our oldest ancestors survived by eating sugary fruits[3]. This was an ideal snack because it provided energy but also helped to store fat. This was handy when it came time to go on very long hunting excursions for their next meal.

But now-a-days, we aren’t hunting for our food, and we don’t need to stay warm in our caves. Yet we are still holding on to the craving for sugar.

3. You ate too much salt.

This is the culprit for me, personally. When you dine out or eat packaged foods, you’re ingesting a ton of sodium. For me, I crave sugar every time I eat chips and salsa or tacos/burritos. For a long time I thought it was just a quirk that after eating Mexican food I wanted ice cream or cookies, but the truth was that my body was reacting to all the sodium. The saltier the food, the bigger your sweet tooth becomes. This goes back to our ancient drive to find sugar; our ancestors had to have variety in their diet, and now our bodies crave variety in the form of tastes and textures[4].

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And too much sugar is really, really bad.

Sure, if we eat a bowl of ice cream for every meal we are going to gain weight, but too much sugar is actually a lot more dangerous than you may realize. Remember earlier when I mentioned sugar caused thousands of deaths? Well, it’s true.

People whose dietary calories come from 25% sugar have a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases. In 2010, more than 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular diseases…were reported in more than 50 countries. All of these diseases were related to sugar intake[5].

As if death wasn’t a big enough consequence of eating too much sugar, it can also have a really detrimental impact on your waist line. Because the body interprets a lack of sugar as a deficiency, our bodies crave sugar and fat. Often times though, those foods our cravings lead us to eat are filled with empty calories and very little nutrition, leaving us hungry and unfulfilled. This causes even more cravings! Talk about a vicious cycle.

So how can you combat sugar cravings and make healthier choices?

As I’m driving home from work, if I’m not listening to a podcast, I listen to local radio. And it never fails: I always hear an advertisement for some local company promising they know the secret to losing weight, to cutting out sugar, to looking great. And while that may sound awesome, it usually comes with a price tag and a lot of disclaimers. The tips below are free, healthy and don’t require any kind of contract.

Here’s how you can fight your cravings in an instant.

1. Chew gum, especially sugar-free ones!

I know it seems like a lame recommendation, but I’m telling you, this is my go-to! Research has proven that chewing gum can reduce food cravings. I’m no scientist, but to me it makes a lot of sense; a lot of times when you start craving junk food, it’s because you’re bored. Chewing gum is a great way to distract yourself while also feeling like you’re doing something[6].

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2. Take a stroll down the street.

This is a win-win. You’re getting a little exercise, but you’re also avoiding those frustrating cravings. It’s all about a scenery change to get your mind off how bad you want the muffin your favorite coffee shop just posted on Instagram.

3. Grab a green apple or any fruits you like to have a sweet bite.

Fruit is full of healthy sugars (but that doesn’t mean you should eat a ton of fruit. Sugar is still sugar at the end of the day!). Keep a granny smith apple handy at home/school/work and eat that when you feel a sugar craving coming on. You get a little sweetness, but you also get fiber and vitamins that a cookie wouldn’t provide.

You also need to think about cutting your sugar intake in the long run.

1. Compromise by combining sugar with healthy food.

Combining foods can be a great way to slowly acclimate to cutting more and more sugar out of your diet. For instance, if you love chocolate, snack on some dark chocolate covered almonds. You’ll get your sugar fix, but you also added a healthy food. Progress! The end goal is to stop that sugar craving entirely, so finding ways to take baby steps toward that goal is helpful.

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2. Substitute your sugar cravings with something healthy (in a sneaky way).

When I crave sugar, I crave the sweet smell and taste. I usually have no idea what the actual sugar content amount is. If I get a scone from the cafe down the street, it doesn’t include nutrition facts. A great way to get that sugary fix without all the sugar is to go for something naturally sweet out of habit. I like to get something sweet almost every day around 2:00. Why? That seems to be when I hit my metaphorical wall. The sugar gets me through the end of the day. But instead, if I went for a naturally sweet tea like apple spice or vanilla almond (calorie free and all-natural), I would get the mental fix that I feel sugar provides, without the guilt and fat!

3. Control your salty servings as well.

When trying to change your long-term eating habits, portion control is key. Figure out what is best for you, but start out with a lean protein, a healthy fat (think: avocados, olive or coconut oil), big serving of vegetables. Notice what’s missing? Carbs. This is because carbs turn into sugar and that’s what we are trying to avoid!

4. Go online and find recipes to make your own healthy snacks.

If you really feel like you have to feel like you’re enjoying a sweet snack, consult Pinterest for healthy recipe options that use natural maple syrup, honey, and other natural sweeteners. This involves pre-planning and effort, but if you make it a habit to keep healthy options on hand, it will never feel overwhelming[7].

5. Treat yourself every while and then and indulge thoughtfully.

Lastly, as you begin to cut sugar out of your every day life, you will inevitably experience moments of intense weakness in which you have to have something sweet or you will explode. When those times happen, if you really can’t talk yourself out of them, follow Susan Moores, MS, RD and registered dietitian’s advice and indulge. The catch? choose quality, not quantity. Rather than sitting down with a whole case of oreos, pick a decadent treat and savor every single bite.

Reference

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Heather Poole

Heather shares about everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

More About Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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