Cut back on the sweet stuff, and you'll gain energy instead of pounds

By Cynthia Sass

This month's cover model, superstar Ellen DeGeneres, told Shape that she gave a heave-ho to sugar and feels great.

So what's so bad about sugar? Each meal is an opportunity to fuel your body, maximize your energy, and deliver the nutrients that help you feel and look your best. Foods packed with refined sugar, like candy, baked goods, and soda, miss the mark on all three counts.

Sugar gets absorbed fast, so it delivers a brief burst of energy, quickly followed by a crash that leaves you feeling lethargic, irritable, and hungry all over again. And, of course, sugary treats aren't bundled with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. These key nutrients not only sustain energy and keep you healthy; they're also key to glowing skin, gorgeous hair, and a de-bloated belly!

If you currently spend more than a few hundred calories a day on sweet treats, especially the really processed kind, you're eating too much. Cutting back or taking a break from refined sugar altogether can help you feel better immediately, upgrade the quality of your diet, and even shed a few pounds.

To do your own "sugar fast" (as DeGeneres calls hers), try this 3-step plan:

1) For the next two weeks, cut out all foods made with sugar and/or corn syrup.

2) Keep your sweet tooth satisfied. Replace your usual sugary treats or snacks with a baseball-sized portion of fruit.

3) Pair the fruit with protein. The combo will help you absorb fruit's naturally occurring sugar more slowly than if you just ate the fruit, and it will keep you feeling fuller longer.

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