Trust me, I know what you’re going through. It’s 11p.m. and you are standing with the refrigerator door open looking for something sweet to eat. Or it’s late afternoon and you begin to feel that lull, when you reach for a quick candy bar or cookie to get you over the hump. We know that is not really going to help for very long, but it does seem to make you feel better for a short time.
Foods high in sugar taste very good, which is probably why it's so easy to become addicted to sugar. We often crave it when we feel down, when our energy levels are low, when we are under a lot of stress, when we feel exhausted because of lack of sleep but also if our diet is low in nutrients. Let’s face it, sugar is comforting to us. Although sugar does help you feel better, this is only a temporary improvement as you'll soon experience a sugar crash. This is a sudden drop in energy levels that happens after you have consumed a large amount of sugary foods. This is just like an illegal drug. You feel better for a short time and then you want more. In the end you are never satisfied, but you keep using the drug. Or, as in this case, you keep eating a lot of sugar.
When you take too much sugar, you force your body to rapidly produce high amounts of insulin in order to keep the blood sugar level consistent. This rapid rise in sugar and then insulin leads to a lot of rapid metabolic changes and can begin a roller coaster of blood sugar changes.
No matter the cause of your deep desire to eat and drink sweet things, be wary of excess sugar consumption, as it is incredibly addictive. While sugar addiction can be very difficult, there are many ways to help limit your problematic sugar intake, and move to a healthier diet of natural sweetness.
Why is sugar bad for your health?
Well, small amounts of sugar are fine. We deal with this very well. However, with our current food and grocery industry it is almost impossible to eat only small amounts of sugar. Sugar makes food taste better. It can cover up bad tasting or low quality ingredients and make the food seem like it is better quality. The food industry has one goal. That is to sell you more food. They know that if it tastes better then you will buy more of it. And they have gotten very skilled at adding sugar to our food, which makes it progressively more addictive.
8 ways sugar damages your health:
· Sugar is very bad for your teeth.
· Sugar contributes to weight gain.
· Sugar can be a direct cause of many serious conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, etc.
· Sugar boosts the growth of cancer cells. This is why the first thing cancer patients are advised to do is give up sugar. Cancer cells are very metabolically active and they feed on sugar for quick energy to grow and spread. Removing sugar from your diet is a natural way of “starving” cancer cells.
· Numerous studies suggest that sugar contributes to aggressive behavior in children.
· Sugar is as addictive as cocaine – the so-called “reward” centers of the brain react the same way when you take sugar or cocaine. They increase Dopamine.
· High sugar diets lower some essential vitamins and minerals.
· Sugar suppresses your immune system for a couple of hours after consumption.
Now, how can we fight these cravings for sugar?
Take your cravings seriously. No diet will work if you are hungry. It is important to avoid binging on any food, especially sugar. So, try to indulge within reason. Don’t feel guilty about treating yourself in moderation. This is great practice in listening to your body and indulging in appropriate amounts. Having a sweet treat now and then can prevent sugar binges down the road. The trick here is to have a stopping point. I would suggest eating only half of a cookie or donut instead of turning yourself loose with a whole box.
Plan your meals.
We always tend to overeat when we go somewhere spontaneously. And it is usually a less healthy option when we eat on the go, or on short notice. When we plan and prepare our own meals, they are generally much lower in sugar and healthier overall. When we are really hungry we generally reach for the quickest most satisfying thing we can find. This is usually a high sugar treat.
You can’t go wrong with good protein and healthy fats!
Frequently, food cravings are caused by eating too many processed carbohydrates and not enough protein and fats. Carbs can be healthy in moderation and give you a quick boost of energy, but when you eat too many of them, the resulting blood sugar fluctuations can cause cravings. Try adding more healthy fats and proteins, like meat, fish, eggs, avocados, olives, and nuts to your regular diet. Protein and fat help to reduce hunger and prevent overeating. And another tip is to add fresh vegetables as a side, while trying to avoid multiple carbohydrate options with meals, such as fries, rolls, sugary dips, and chips.
Get plenty of sleep.
Lack of sleep stresses the body and promotes fat storage to protect us. Studies show that if you don't get enough sleep your body starts producing more ghrelin, the hormone that triggers hunger. And when you feel hungry, you are much more likely to reach for sweets or other junk food.
Supplements that might help with those cravings:
L-glutamine is an amino acid that many nutritionists believe can regulate blood sugar and keep you satisfied for longer, keeping sugar cravings at bay.
Chromium works to stabilize blood sugar levels, which lessens the brain’s demand for excess sugar when you’re feeling hungry. The positive role it plays in fat metabolism can also help to reduce “bad” cholesterol. It is an essential trace element that seems to stabilize blood sugar. The process quiets the brain’s cries of sugar when you are hungry.
Gymnema Sylvestre is a plant from central and southern India that has been used to help regulate blood sugar for centuries. This supplement can not only reduce your urge for sugar but temporarily alter the taste of sugary treats to make them less desirable to you. Further, it shuts down receptors that trigger your desire to indulge.
White Mulberry Leaf is a supplement with the capability to stabilize blood sugar. Some take this to naturally reduce high cholesterol and high blood pressure, but clinical studies are not conclusive on the medical benefits.
Magnesium can also help decrease cravings. As a bonus, it can also help with cramping, depression and anxiety, constipation, and insomnia.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid is an organic compound with powerful antioxidant abilities. It helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, speed up carbohydrate metabolism and reduce the desire to overeat.
Cinnamon. This spice helps your body control the amount of sugar in our blood, evening out the highs and lows that lead to cravings. One study found those who took 3 grams of cinnamon a day maintained lower blood sugar levels after a glucose-tolerance test than those who did not take the cinnamon.
5-HTP, short for 5-hydroxytryptophan, is a chemical that is found in the brain and is involved in the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. The primary culprit for cravings for carbs is a decrease in serotonin levels. *Research shows that supplementing with 5-HTP helps to keep serotonin levels in balance, decreasing cravings for carbohydrates and your appetite in general. A study in the November 1992 “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” reported that obese women who took 900 milligrams a day of 5-HTP ate fewer carbohydrates and lost weight.
***This is for informational and educational purposes only. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician or healthcare provider. Depending on your individual circumstances this information may not apply and could be detrimental to your health. This information is also subject to change at any time.