Whether you’re struggling with fatigue, digestive issues, weight loss, diabetes or metabolic syndrome, one of your first steps to improved health is to remove processed and artificial sugars from your life and keep your blood sugar balanced.

Yes your body needs some sugars to give your cells energy. That’s not the issue. The problems arise when you have the peaks and valleys, the rising and falling of blood sugar constantly throughout the day. This puts a strain on your heart and hormones and can cause a whole series of negative side effects.

Let’s take a look at what happens when you eat sugars in the form of carbohydrates:

–Carbohydrates such as bread, crackers, cereals, and pasta are broken down with enzymes and the food travels through your digestive system and goes into the small intestine.

–From the small intestine the food molecules enter the blood stream as sugar and your blood glucose levels rise.

–This presence of glucose triggers the pancreas to release insulin, which opens the doors in the cells to deliver the glucose.

–If the cells are already full, from a constant stream of glucose, they shut the door and and the excess glucose get stored as fat.

When you have these high peaks and low valleys happening consistently, you may start to experience a number of physiological responses such as poor mineral absorption, repression of the immune system, inflammation, impact on brain function, depression and fatigue, higher risks for cholesterol and heart disease, yeast overgrowth, and poor oral health.

The other thing that happens, when you flush your system with sugary starchy foods, is that it feels good and then when it falls you feel bad. So when you drop into the valley and your blood sugar is low, you crave more to bring you back to the happy place. It’s is a vicious cycle. These types of cravings are a sure sign that you’re out of blood sugar balance.

The good news is that you can overcome your sugar cravings and maintain good blood sugar balance. It’ll take some time, awareness and strong motivation to keep going, but it can be done.

10 tips for beating the sugar blues and overcoming your sweet cravings:

1. Avoid all artificial sweeteners

2. Don’t keep sweet junk foods in your house (including soda pop & other sugary beverages)

3. Read labels and be aware of where extra sugar might be creeping in

4. Notice your cravings, determine if they’re true hunger or if something else is missing

5. Replace the refined sugars with natural sugars found in fruit and sweet veggies

6. Add in some good quality fat like coconut oil, nuts, seeds, oily fish and avocados

7. Exercise to help the body metabolize all that glucose

8. Reduce stress and increased cortisol through breathing, mediation and getting a good amount of sleep

9. Always make sure each meal or snack is balanced with fat, fibre and protein

10. Find some sugar-free dessert recipes like the one below

Vanilla Chia Pudding

(Adapted from Amy Chaplin)

½ cup chia seeds

1 cup cashews, soaked in water for 2 to 8 hours

4 cups water

7 Medjool dates, pitted

Pinch sea salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder

2 tablespoons coconut butter or coconut mana

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Raspberries and blueberries for topping

–Place chia seeds in a medium size mixing bowl and set aside.

–Strain cashews and rinse well. Place in an upright blender add 4 cups of filtered water, dates, salt, cinnamon, coconut butter and vanilla extract. Blend on high speed for 2 minutes.

–Pour into bowl with chia seeds, whisk well. Let mixture sit for 10 to 15 minutes, whisking every few minutes to prevent chia seeds from clumping, pudding will thicken fast. Place in the fridge and chill for 1 hour.

–Remove from fridge, whisk. Serve chilled topped with berries.

–Stored covered in a glass container in the fridge, chia pudding will keep for up to 5 days.

–Serves 4-6

We’ll be discussing the topic of balancing blood sugar at the upcoming Spring Into Health Workshop Series. Please visit my website for more information.

* This post was originally published in the Herald Community on April 2, 2014.