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Kicking Sugar Cravings

We’ve all heard that sugar is bad for you.

 

There is a reason that your mom wouldn’t buy every candy bar at the grocery store and that dentists scream around Halloween: human bodies aren’t designed to process large amounts of manufactured sugar.

 

Basically, what happens when you consume sugar is a lot like this:

The cycle of sugar

The challenge is, to stop eating it. It is in so many little things that the moment you become aware of it, you can become overwhelmed and give up on the effort to avoid sugar. Additionally, sugar is addicting. While it isn’t as harmful or as difficult to break as a drug addiction, your body goes through withdrawal symptoms if you quit cold turkey. This could mean extreme fatigue, depression, muscle aches, and migraines. Not fun.

The trick is to gradually teach your body to function properly without sugar and to realize why you’re craving it.

 

Reasons could be:

    • Not enough quality sleep.
      • Your body is desperately trying to find energy any way it can.
      • Check out our post about how to improve your sleep!
    • Habitual sugar snacking.
      • If you always have a big dessert after dinner or a little sweet after lunch, those become mindless actions that take conscious effort to stop.
      • Realize when you start reaching for the cookies and think of why you are going to eat it. If you are not actually hungry and the motion is out of habit, just walk away!
    • Stressful moments.
      • When your body is stressed, it releases cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone. Apart from setting you on edge, it also slows insulin production, which doesn’t allow your body to absorb energy from the sugar in your blood. Without that energy source, your body believes it needs more, leaving you craving sugar.
      • It can also be a calming motion since you can associate things like chocolate with calmness and happiness. This is okay, but it is something you should be conscious of.
    • Emotional eating.
  • You might find happiness from eating, since it can release dopamine, especially when emotions are running high and you want to feel better.
  • With dopamine, the more your body releases, the more you subconsciously start to crave more of it, which in turn leads you to eat more things that make you feel good, which releases more dopamine…
  • There is also the social element of emotional eating. You gain the social support you need, but you also tend to overeat and overindulge when you eat or have coffee with someone else.
  • Not eating the right foods.
    • Too many starchy or high carbohydrate foods increase sugar cravings since they get digested too quickly.
      • This includes things such as white breads, pastas, and sugary cereals, but also candy, dried fruits, and other sweets.
    • Not enough iron leaves you low in energy and increases your sugar cravings.
      • Look for red meats, pork, poultry, beans, spinach, and dark green, leafy vegetables.
    • Eating protein and healthy fats prevent too much insulin from being released at a time, which keeps your blood sugar levels stable.
      • Healthy fats: nuts, seeds, avocados, high-quality olive oil, coconut oil, and dairy products (in moderation).
      • Protein sources: chicken, lean beef, salmon, shrimp, beans, nuts, soy/tofu, and eggs.
      • High-protein, low-sugar breakfasts reduce cravings, make you feel balanced, and leaves you less likely to snack on sugary things during the day.
    • Fiber helps to slow digestion and stabilizes your blood sugar levels.
      • Whole-grain bread, oats, peas, quinoa, skin-on potatoes, spinach, and almonds are all high in fiber.
    • While artificial sweeteners reduce the overall calorie count of a dish, they should be used with caution. There are several mixed studies on if they provide benefits or cause harm, so we recommend talking to your health care practitioner before consuming large amounts or switching over from regular sugar.
    • Simply not eating enough. When you’re hungry, your body wants energy quickly, which usually leads to fast snacks.
  • Dehydration.
    • When you start becoming dehydrated, sometimes your body confuses thirst for hunger. You reach for the chocolate bar instead of a glass of water- and now your blood sugar is too high, and you still need fluids!
    • Here are some of our tips on keeping hydrated.

 

Decreasing your sugar intake:

 

When you plan your meals out in advance, it allows you to make sure your food variety is balanced, nutritious and enough substance for each day. This way, you can reduce extra snacking while still feeling satisfied!

 

Try drinking a glass of water when you start craving sugar. It could be your body telling you that its dehydrated. If the water doesn’t do the trick, have a cup of herbal or naturally sweet tea (without additional sweeteners). It will give your taste buds the satisfaction they require without causing your blood sugar levels to fluctuate. If the tea doesn’t work, eat a piece of fruit or a sweet veggie. They have naturally occurring sugars in them, but they are easier for your body to process than an Oreo!

Wait about ten minutes after you feel your sugar craving before giving in to it. It might fade, especially if you distract yourself. Go for a brisk walk, dance around your kitchen, or our personal favourite is to do a quick, ten-minute stretch! ;P

 

There are three spices that help your blood sugar levels: cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric. They are great for regulating insulin sensitivity, which keeps your blood sugar levels more consistent. Try sprinkling cinnamon on banana slices or putting a pinch in your morning coffee. With ginger and turmeric, try making a golden latte, eat a nice curry, or mix a little bit into your smoothie.

 

If you would like to try confusing the sweet-tooth craving away, try eating something sour instead. It acts as a distraction and reduces the craving, especially if you aren’t actually hungry. Try putting a slice of lemon in water (or eating it directly if you’re a masochist) or even taking a forkful of kimchi or sauerkraut.

 

Lastly, since trying to quit something overnight can be exceedingly difficult, here are a few swaps and tricks to first reduce the amount of sugar you consume:

 

  • The first step is noticing.
    • A great teacher repeated this daily. The first step to changing nearly anything is that you must notice what is going on first. Once you recognize how much sugar you consume, you’ll be able to reduce it easier!
  • Kombucha instead of pop.
    • This fermented drink is great for improving gut health, it has less sugar than most other drinks out there, and it often has the bubbly texture that we enjoy in pop.
  • Make cookies at home instead of buying them at the store.
    • While you will still probably add sugar to them, you can control the amount you put in, versus just accepting the insane amounts that come in store-bought snacks.
  • Dark chocolate instead of milk or white chocolate.
    • It is full of antioxidants and it has less sugar than the sweeter types of chocolate. Eat with moderation, but you don’t have to lose chocolate completely.
  • Whole-grain bread instead of white bread.
    • When your starches like bread, pasta and rice come in a white colour, versus a more brown/ yellowish colour, it is because they are processed more and they often have more sugar added to them to make them more appealing. Choosing the whole grain or brown option is better for your health and blood sugar levels.
  • Gradually ask for less sweetener with your fancy drinks.
    • Have you ever looked at what goes into a Starbucks drink? A grande chai latte has four pumps of chai syrup, which is FORTY-TWO grams of sugar. Assuming that the sugar comes from the syrup alone, if you get just three pumps, that drops about ten grams of sugar from your cup.
  • Smaller portion sizes.
    • If you normally have two chocolate chip cookies for an afternoon snack, try having just one and have a few berries and almonds instead of the other one. After supper, have a smaller piece of cake than you were going to eat, or share it with someone.

 

We want you to feel your absolute best and to enjoy life to the fullest! Reducing your sugar intake can prevent the onset of type II diabetes, increase your energy levels, and even help you lose weight. See if you can make a change and gradually reduce the amount of sugar you consume in a day. Besides- we already think you’re sweet enough! ;P