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The Blood-Sugar Roller Coaster continued...

In response to the insulin, your blood sugar level drops quickly, leaving you with a feeling of sluggishness and irritability.

When your blood sugar gets too low, hunger reappears, and the roller-coaster ride resumes -- that is, if your next meal is also mostly simple carbohydrates. These are the carbohydrates that the latest diet books denounce, not the healthy, fibrous carbohydrates that come from whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

If, instead of eating simple carbs by themselves, you choose these healthy carbohydrates or add some protein or fat to your meal, your blood sugar will rise and fall more normally without the negative side effects.

Craving That Sweet Stuff

When we say we have a sugar addiction, we may mean anything from a mild desire to intense cravings for sweet foods and drinks. Some people go so far as to equate the effects of sugar to a drug, saying it calms them and helps them deal with stress.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid recommends we limit added sugars in our diet to 12 teaspoons per day. But the reality is that in 2001, the average American ate and drank the equivalent of 31 teaspoons of sugar daily.

It sounds insane, but sugar finds it way into virtually every kind of processed food, from ketchup to soups and, especially, soft drinks. One 12-ounce can of soda contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar. As if that is not bad enough, government data suggest that we consume an average of 41.4 gallons of soda per person annually. That's a lot of sugar -- and extra calories!

Breaking the Habit

Sugars have 4 calories per gram, or 15 calories per teaspoon. So if you want to shave calories, it's a good idea to limit added sugar in your diet. Sounds simple enough, but what about those hard-to-ignore cravings?

Here's the trick: Gradually decreasing the amount of sugar you eat, and how often you eat it, will help you reduce your desire for sugars while lowering your caloric intake. Old habits are hard to break, but making small and gradual changes in your eating style will help you break free from your sugar addiction.

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