Do you find it almost impossible to stay away from the sweet stuff? Do you have a sweet tooth that makes you indulge in treats, one after another? If you answered in the affirmative, it helps to know that you are not alone.
More than ever, millions of people are consuming high amounts of sugar which explains, in part, the global problem that obesity is. In fact, research indicates that the average person consumes close to 100 pounds of added sugar each year. This impacts the body, not just at the organ level, but also at the cellular level. But how does this happen?
Once you have taken sugar, the body releases dopamine in the brain. Dopamine, as you may already be aware, is the chemical associated with pleasure in the body. Once the brain recognizes this, it starts to create more cravings. There is a very simple reason why sugar is known to be just as addictive as a drug.
This may come as a surprise, but sugar and hard drugs such as morphine and heroin work on the same brain receptors. It is part of the reason why sugar cravings can be difficult to deal with. In addition to this, the body’s response when high amounts of sugar are taken also comes into play. After consuming sugary foods, insulin is released into the body. The purpose of insulin is to convert the glucose to energy.
Consequently, the body experiences a surge of energy, usually followed by a sudden drop in blood glucose levels. This drop in energy triggers hunger, which in turn causes an intense crave for more sugar, leading to sugar addiction.
Research shows that sugar addiction not only results in additional weight, it also predisposes one to the risk of heart disease, organ damage and even certain types of cancer. The good news is that there are simple and natural ways to deal with sugar cravings. This reduces the risk associated with the negative impact of high sugar intake while promoting a healthy lifestyle overall.
1. Steer Clear of Processed Foods and Avoid Triggers:
Processed foods are engineered to cause cravings, and this is the fundamental reason why you should avoid them. Greasy foods, sodas and processed snacks have very high amounts of sugar. Avoiding these foods is one of the simple ways to deal with sugar cravings. There are two ways to go about this: go cold turkey or work it out gradually.
The former works for some people, although the first 24-48 hours are often incredibly difficult. For others however, going cold turkey has proven beneficial as it helps to retrain one’s taste buds.
In line with avoiding processed foods, it is also important to stay away from triggers that cause sugar cravings. Walking past your favorite fast food restaurant or stocking up on brownies is sure to trigger those cravings. Make a conscious effort avoid to avoid these foods.
2. Avoid Using Simple Carbohydrates:
Simple carbs are part of the problem as far as sugar cravings are concerned. This is because they are digested rather quickly, creating a spike in blood glucose levels.
After a short while, the blood glucose levels plummet, leading one to feel hungry and crave some more. Foods in the list of simple carbs include white rice, white pasta, sugar and white flour.
The best way to counter this is to replace simple sugars with foods such as whole wheat bread, raw sugarcane, brown rice as well as whole wheat pasta. As a general guide, it helps to read the ingredients in store-bought foods. You may want to avoid anything that has sugar or lists corn syrup (high-fructose) as an ingredient.
3. Reach Out for a Fruit:
Sometimes the energy boost your body needs can easily be obtained from a fruit. Fruits are packed with lots of fiber and nutrients that are a healthier option compared to processed snacks.
By adding natural sugars to your diet, your taste buds still get the sweetness without the negative effects. Some delicious fruits in this category include watermelon, ripe mango, bananas, strawberries and even sugar cane.
Another way to go around this is by mixing up foods with sweet treats to help curb your cravings. For instance, add thin strips of mango to your BBQ chicken, or add some natural jam to your whole wheat sandwiches. You may also melt some dark chocolate, mix it up with peanut butter and use it as a spread. Make sure you stock up on dried fruits, seeds and nuts which you can munch on when the cravings strike.
4. Introduce a ‘Cheat Day’:
This may seem counteractive, but one of the best tricks to curb sugar cravings is to include a cheat day. Just as the name suggests, this is a day when you can indulge in a few treats without going on a guilt trip.
Have you ever realized that the fastest way to sabotage your progress is to realize you will never have your favorite treats? This is the quickest way to get back to your cravings. By introducing a cheat day weekly, you give yourself a goal to work towards and this helps minimize the cravings.
5. Make a Plan Ahead of Time:
One of the ways to deal with sugar cravings is to make a plan well ahead of time. Doing this and writing it down gives you mental fortitude to eat healthily. The best time to do this is prior to carrying out grocery shopping. Make a list that contains healthy foods before going shopping.
This should typically cover your week’s intake so that you are able to eliminate unhealthy eating from your diet. Make sure you include healthy foods, nuts, seeds and fruits. Once you get home, get down to preparing healthy snacks before the week begins. This way, you have an accessible option whenever the cravings strike.
Tip: Do not go shopping when hungry because this is a known trigger that makes it more likely to snack unhealthily and buy foods that you do not need.
6. Stay Hydrated:
Sometimes you experience sugar cravings because the boy is dehydrated and actually craving for some water. Drink enough water throughout the day to avoid feeling thirsty. What’s more, water enhances satiety which makes it easy to eat less.
If you still feel the need to munch on something after gulping a glass of water, then reach out for the fruits and snacks to ease the craving. Remember, carbonated drinks are not a substitute for water as these are packed with sugars which have the opposite intended effect.
Tip: If you are not accustomed to the ‘plain’ taste of water, consider adding some mint leaves and chopped cucumber for a refreshing mix. Other optional additions include freshly squeezed lemon juice, ginger or stevia (a natural substitute for sugar).
7. Eat More Frequently:
Waiting for far too long in between meals has been shown to increase the intensity of cravings which often lead to unhealthy eating. Instead of eating three huge meals daily, settle for five smaller meals about four hours apart. This also has the advantage of preventing spikes in blood sugar levels and preventing erratic eating patterns.
Make sure to include healthy snacks in between meals – things like apples, nuts, protein bars and whole grain biting. The most important thing to note is that eating regularly does not equals overeating.
To do this effectively, break up your meals. For instance, instead of having fresh fruit juice, toast with peanut butter and egg, save the fruit juice for mid-morning. Do this for the three traditional meals so that you not only eat more than enough, but have energy to carry you throughout the day.
8. Take a Walk:
Whenever you get a sugar craving, how about taking a walk, literally? Walking away, say taking a walk around the block, or taking the stairs to smell the roses not only changes the scenery, it also gets your mind off the craving.
This works to distance your mind from the craving. If you have a little more time, some 20 minutes of cardio will not hurt. Whether this means brisk walking, jogging or skipping a rope, you can be sure the brain responds by turning off the craving centers. For those who do not mind, take up body weight exercises such as bur pees, squats and push ups.
9. Meditation and Stress Management:
Stress is closely related to sugar cravings for a very profound reason. Stress causes the body to release a hormone known as cortisol. One of the effects of this stress hormone is that it increases the amount of sugar in blood circulation. Consequently, this creates sugar cravings by creating sugar cravings.
Meditation has been shown to be an effective tool for countering stress. At the scientific level, meditation alters the brain by increasing the amount of gray matter in the brain regions associated with cravings. Find ways to incorporate meditation into your daily schedule. This helps the body relax and curbs your sugar cravings naturally.
10. Make Sure you get Enough Sleep:
Sugar cravings are known to be more heightened following poor sleep and fatigue. Getting proper sleep refreshes the body and helps cut off sugar cravings. When you do not get enough sleep, you are more likely to eat irrationally as well as make poor food choices.
It also helps to write down your health goals in order to accomplish this and keep sugar cravings at bay. Write a list of why you want to remain healthy and stick it up somewhere where you will always see it. This is helpful because it helps with visualization and is actually a proven way to stick to a healthy lifestyle. In addition to this, you may want to grab some sugar-free gum as chewing has been shown to keep sugar cravings away.