Oh, sugar cravings. These frustrating, confounding, cravings pop up like clockwork. We struggle against them, try to avoid them, hate them, and ultimately, too often, succumb to them.
They keep us frustrated with out health goals, keep the adult acne popping up, and yet, we just can’t seem to stop them.
We know sugar is “bad” for us — it keeps the weight on, makes us crave more sugar, makes us tired and cranky, makes us break out, makes a period worse, ends up turning into a yeast infection … and more.
So why do we keep having these cravings if sugar is so freakin’ bad for us?
First, we crave sugar because we’re human. Craving sweetness is built into our taste buds and bodies, so there’s really no point in railing against what nature intended.
Think about our ancestors. Without anyone to tell them what to eat, early humans discovered a basic truth: in nature, sweet foods (like berries, fruits, vegetables, and herb) are safe to eat and give us the energy and nutrients we need to survive.
Not only that, when our ancestors ate those sweet foods, our brains released a hit of dopamine, the best pleasure chemical we produce. So sweet foods became strongly associated with joy and satisfaction.
Pretty cool, huh?
So we associate sweet with safe and pleasure.
Babies demonstrate this so beautifully. Mother’s milk is sweet, which makes babies happy to feed and be close to their mamas. If we didn’t like sweet, if we didn’t crave sweet, we wouldn’t be compelled to suckle and grow, and we wouldn’t thrive and survive infancy.
As human history progressed and civilizations grew, insights about health and our bodies were passed down. In ancient China, doctors and healers learned that the stomach feels calmed and soothed by sweetness. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners will prescribe naturally sweet foods to mellow an upset stomach.
If you have a history of upset stomach or digestive issues, you may naturally crave sweet as a way to soothe your gut.
Yet our cheap and easy access to refined sugar has led to very unnatural health issues. Obesity, pain, and illness are all related back to sugar consumption, and these problems are ravaging our modern population.
While sweet cravings are normal, natural and part of being a healthy human, our current relationship with sugar is killing many of us, if not just making us miserable.
The answer is not to try to avoid all sugars at all cost. That would require too much willpower and keep you from one of the great joys in life, sweet flavors.
Instead, you can include naturally sweet flavors throughout your day so that you get the pleasing tastes you desire, without the nasty health side-effects. Add berries to your morning breakfast routine. Include sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, fennel or bell peppers at lunch and dinner.
The more healthy sweet foods you include, the less refined sugar you’ll crave.
One of my favorite ways to transform a sugar craving into something healthy is to keep a few herbal, sweet-ish, iced teas on hand, especially in summer.
If you crave sugar like I do, you can help your taste buds get the flavor they love without the sugar by keeping iced herbal teas on hand.
I boil a big pot of water, then steep my favorite flavored teas of the day for a few minutes before pouring them into glass jars.
After the tea cools to room temperature, I’ll put lids on and child them in the fridge for a while before drinking.
My favorite recipe is below.
A Vanilla Rooibos Tea To Beat Your Sugar Cravings
Caffeine free, antioxidant-rich, and full of minerals like magnesium, zinc and iron, this red tea is slightly honey flavored without being sweetened.
Steep 1 tablespoon rooibos tea in 2 to 3 cups hot water.
Once the tea is steeped, pour over a freshly cracked vanilla bean and allow the vanilla to flavor the tea. I leave the bean in until I’ve drunk every drop. Vanilla is so strong, you can use the same bean again for tomorrow’s batch!
Vanilla beans can get expensive, but I get them cheap in the bulk section of my co-op. For less than $3, I can get 2 to 4 beans, which is pretty good for the real stuff.
Sugar-free herbal teas are cooling, satisfying, lovely to look at, and quiet your sweet cravings without destroying your willpower.