Do you sometimes feel like you have absolutely no will-power or discipline when it comes to sugar? Does your sweet tooth seem uncontrollable? What if I was to tell you that it is actually not your fault that you feel this way, and that there are simple ways to banish sugar cravings- for good. It is actually easier than you think to get a handle on what you eat and drink each day, and completely possible to give up sugar without it being a struggle by following the following tips.
1. Eat naturally sweet foods
This might seem completely counter-intuitive if you are trying to give up sugar, but trust me on this one! The thing is, a sugar craving is simply the body asking for energy. If you meet that craving by eating an Oreo or candy or white bread- simple carbs- then the bloodstream will suddenly be flooded with sugars, providing a quick burst of energy. But shortly after, your blood sugar will drop and you will be hungry again.
Your body naturally wants to maintain balanced blood sugar, so it is telling you to eat something to bring the blood sugar back up. Most people go for more sugar and this experience of sugar ups and downs continues throughout the day. Blood sugar often drops around 3pm, a few hours after lunch- the time when most people seek sugar or caffeine to get them through the rest of the afternoon.
What it comes down to is that sugar cravings are as natural as our desire for air. Through our two million years of evolution, humans have been programmed to desire sweet tasting foods. Long before food processing, the only source of sweet tastes was plant foods such as sweet potatoes, fruits and grains. These foods are not only sweet tasting but also great sources of nutrients, energy and fibre, everything we need to maintain our health.
So the best way to alleviate intense sugar cravings is to provide the body with the sweetness it needs by regularly eating naturally sweet foods- NOT eating refined table sugar, or sucrose, which behaves differently in our bodies compared to the way natural carbohydrates from sweet foods are broken down in the body. If we are on a healthy, balanced diet, nourishing ourselves with milder forms of sweet vegetables, we don’t need a big hit from a candy bar or a soda to boost our energy.
2. Avoid Refined Sugar
Sugar qualifies as an addictive substance for two reasons:
1. Eating even a small amount creates a desire for more, and
2. Suddenly quitting causes withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, mood swings, cravings and fatigue
The problem is that sugar can be found in everything these days- not just cookies and cakes and candy but also in canned vegetables, baby food, cereals, peanut butter, bread and tomato sauce. It may come disguised in names such as corn syrup, dextrose, maltorose, glucose, or fructose.
Try and avoid these at all costs and instead use healthy sugar alternatives: brown rice syrup, date sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, stevia, and coconut palm sugar.
3. Eat whole foods
You can reduce your sugar cravings by eating foods that help to create balance by satisfying the body’s needs without relying on sugar-laden foods to meet your energy needs. Eat clean, whole foods such as grains, fish, sea vegetables, beans, root vegetables, nuts and seeds, leafy greens and winter squash. These foods are also very grounding in nature. Include them in your meals, and see if they help reduce your urge for desserts.
4. Eat healthy fats
The fats that come from foods such as avocado, coconut oil and nuts such as almonds are actually perfect for reducing sugar cravings. These healthy fats are made up of medium-chain fatty acids, or medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). These fats won’t make you fat- in actual fact they have the complete opposite effect by going straight to your liver to use as energy when you eat them. This gives you the effect of having an energy hit like sugar and other carbs gives you, but without causing the unhealthy spike in your blood sugar levels.
Be cautious about having a low protein intake as this can mask itself as a sugar craving. If you have a relatively low protein diet and tend to feel fatigue easily, try increasing your protein intake, or experiment with the type of protein in your diet. Besides meat, fish and milk, you can try nuts and seeds, good quality cheese in moderate amount, as well as eggs, and beans.
6. Keep up your nutrient intake
Sugar cravings can also be our body’s way of telling us that we need certain nutrients, besides protein. These nutrients include chromium, carbon, phosphorous, sulphur, and the amino acid tryptophan. Eating a wide range of foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables and healthy whole grains should mean you get plenty of all these nutrients.
7. Utilise herbs and spices
You can also use herbs and spices to help control your cravings. Coriander, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom naturally sweeten your foods so they can help curb your sugar cravings by satisfying your need for sweet taste. Cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar level, and also brings out the sweet flavour in foods .
8. Have a savoury breakfast
Don’t skip breakfast as this will lead to you getting low blood sugar which can cause you to reach for unhealthy, sugary snacks to stay energised. Having a hearty, alkaline and savoury breakfast containing fats and protein is a great idea for starting the day satiated.
9. Go Low-GL
You should also try and eat meals that provide sustained energy by eating foods that are low in glycemic load. To create a meal of low GL, whole unprocessed foods such as whole grains, vegetables, and beans are great choices. They are high in fibre, which is particularly important because it moderates the speed at which sugar is absorbed by the body.
10. Minimise stress
Stress can be a big reason for sugar addiction. The stress hormones exacerbate sugar cravings, because sugars and sweets stimulate our brain to create feel-good chemicals. If you find yourself under stress and reaching for sweets, literally take a step back from the cookie jar, take a few deep breaths, get some oxygen into your brain and get in touch with the reason that you are craving sweets
One great way to minimise stress is to exercise. Doing cardiovascular activity also has the benefit of decreasing appetite and especially sugar cravings. This is because exercise leads to a dramatic reduction in insulin levels, with raised insulin levels being a contributor to sugar and carb cravings. So move that body for the double whammy of feeling great and keeping cravings at bay.
12. Avoid sugary drinks
One of the biggest culprits for hidden sugar consumption includes soda and fruit juices. These are nothing but liquid sugars which don’t help your body to feel full, and just cause you to you crave more sugar and simple carbs. Soda in particular has no nutritional benefit- try cucumber or lemon infused waters or green tea as an alternative.
13. Drink plenty of water
When we crave sugar, it is usually our body being thirsty, not hungry. Most people are chronically dehydrated, or under-hydrated. When you feel tired or have a headache due to dehydration, you will want a quick fix – and that most likely means you will reach for sugary foods. Next time you feel an urge to get sugary food, try drinking a glass of water, then give yourself a few minutes and see what happens.
14. Get enough sleep
If you are craving sugar or refined carbohydrates, then the reason for this could be because your body is looking for a quick energy fix. The need for extra energy can come when you are feeling tired, and is the reason we often crave sugary foods in the afternoons towards the end of our busy days. What the body is really wanting is a quick fix to help get you through the rest of the day. The best way to avoid having sugar and carbo cravings is to make sure you are getting enough sleep each day.
15. Follow the 90/10 Rule
Finally, follow the 90/10 rule. Eat well and healthy 90% of the time, and let yourself indulge without guilt 10% of the time. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip – this kind of guilt and beating yourself up does not help you stay on track.
Allowing yourself to eat what you love, and possibly finding healthier substitutes to satisfy your taste buds, is how you can make healthy changes that will bring you benefits for a long time to come. But don’t just take our word for it in following these tips to banish sugar cravings. You can also start getting yourself on track at our Thailand Fitness Bootcamp. At our bootcamp holiday our guests see a massive reduction in their sugar cravings by the end of their stay.