These days, sugar is being recognized as the culprit for an increasing list of ailments, from heart disease to digestive issues to weight gain.
Most diets recommend a decrease in sugar consumption, but that's often easier said than done. Cravings for sugar can be as compelling as having fallen under a spell. But there are ways to address those cravings to keep your diet healthy and wholesome.
Here are some solutions to keep sugar cravings at bay and feel great while doing it:
1. Keep your stress in check.
You can’t talk about sugar cravings without talking about stress and emotions. For many of us eating—especially sweets—carries emotional ties, and many people use sweets as a way to fill a void.
These stresses and emotions then cause a physical reaction: Hormones such as cortisol and neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine are sensitive to stress and then cause sugar cravings.
So, what can you do about this? Pay attention to the cause of your cravings to determine whether they’re from physical hunger, indigestion, or are stress-related.
If you think your cravings may be stress-related, there are a number of ways you can deal with your stress, including mindful eating, meditation, and exercise.
With time, attention, and maybe some help, you can learn to identify the emotions that cause your sugar cravings, and with this knowledge, you can plan different responses to those stressors.
2. Make it easy for yourself to avoid sugar.
Don’t keep sugary foods in your home or at work.
3. Don’t start your day with a high-sugar breakfast.
When you eat sugar, your body starts to produce insulin, which then creates a yo-yo effect of alternating high and low blood sugar that is directly related to sugar craving.
If you start your day with sugar, you’re likely setting yourself up for more sugar cravings throughout the day.
4. Stock up on healthy whole foods that you can use for meals, snacks, and cravings.
This includes whole grains, proteins, vegetables, and low-glycemic fruits such as berries, lentils, beans, and healthy fats from nuts, olives, and avocados.
5. Take a multivitamin and mineral supplement.
This will ensure that you get the micronutrients that are known to curb sugar cravings.
Zinc, vitamin C, tyrosine, and niacin help in releasing serotonin to curb cravings. Or you can eat foods high in these nutrients.
Food sources of zinc include oysters, crab, and beef. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruit and strawberries. Niacin is in fortified cereals (avoid the ones that are high in sugar) and fatty fish.
6. Avoid getting extremely hungry.
When you sit down at the table ravenous, you’re more likely to overeat and eat mindlessly. Plan ahead and don’t skip meals.
7. Avoid getting extremely thirsty.
Dehydration is often mistaken for hunger, so before you go for that snack, have a glass of water.
8. Get enough sleep.
When we are sleepy, we tend to use food to give us an energy boost. In addition, getting less than seven hours of sleep a night is shown to prevent weight loss.
9. Make sure you eat protein with meals and snacks.
Protein stabilizes your blood sugar spikes.
If you have sugar cravings and are already eating enough protein, you may have low stomach acid, so make sure you're digesting it by adding a digestive enzyme supplement that targets protein.
10. Limit artificial sweeteners.
In an effort to decrease dependence on sugar, many people turn to sugar substitutes like Splenda, Equal, etc. These sugar substitutes may not add calories, but they still perpetuate your sweet tooth merely by being sweet.
11. Tone up your microbiome.
Eat fermented foods such as kimchi, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, as well as lots of veggies for fiber. That’s the way to keep your gut healthy. If you need to take antibiotics (which kill all good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract), take probiotics as well to restock your intestines with good bacteria.
If you find yourself eating too much sugar, be gentle with yourself, let go of the guilt, and keep trying. It takes many failures as well as victories to change a habit or rid yourself of this addiction.