Are visions of cookies dancing in your head? Do you need a sweet treat after every meal? Chances are you probably have experienced the power and intensity of sugar cravings (yes, it's a real thing and even nutritionists get them). This month, I have taken a vow to finally quit ALL sugar. Even the "healthy" stuff like maple syrup,raw honey, and blackstrap molasses. So as I say goodbye to my $10 gourmet dark chocolate bars and finally put an end to my sugar cravings, I wanted to share with you a few tips so you can join me on this movement. Trust me your waistline and wallet will be thanking you.
By now, many of us are familiar with the dangers of sugar including increased risk of obesity, type-2 diabetes, and heart disease.
A study of more than 40,000 people, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, showed that those with the highest sugar intake had a four-fold increase in their risk of heart attacks compared to those with the lowest intakes. One 20-ounce soda increases your risk of a heart attack by about 30%... yikes!
So why are Americans still eating an average of 153 grams of it a day? Well it turns out that part of the reason is that our brains actually become addicted to the natural opioids triggered by sugar consumption. In fact, one study concluded that sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine! Sugar activates the reward center of the brain in the same way that other pleasurable activities do too. Additionally, sugar creates an additive cycle of hunger by spiking blood sugar, causing us to feel energized and happy. But since it is virtually devoid of any nutrition, blood sugar quickly plummets, leaving us tired, hungry, and moody. So what do we do? Reach for more sugar.
WHAT TO DO:
Eating high-carbohydrate, sugar-rich foods provides an almost instantaneous energy boost, which is why many people prefer and even crave these foods throughout the day. The cycle of highs and lows from the initial “sugar-rush” is hard to break if you are not focusing on nutrient dense foods. Here are 5 simple tips you can do to get off the sugar roller coaster and help overcome the sweet addiction.
1. Add more protein: Protein- rich foods helps balance blood sugar by proving a steady and balanced source of energy for the body, which helps to reduce sugar cravings. Focus on eating high quality protein at every meal. These include grass-fed beef, organic chicken or turkey, organic eggs, wild fish, yogurt, lentils, and beans.
2. Consume more healthy fats: Healthy Fats helps to keep us satiated longer. I recommend adding 1 serving of healthy fat to every meal. This includes extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, nuts and seeds.
3. Increase your fiber: Fiber helps us stay fuller longer and unfortunately most Americans do not consume adequate fiber. Fiber from the pulp of plants- such as beans, carrots, apples, and berries, helps to control your blood sugar. Eating foods rich in fiber is less likely to cause a spike in high blood sugar, keeping sugar cravings at bay. Women should aim for 25 g of fiber and men should aim for 38 g of fiber per day.
4. Consume more probiotic rich foods: Eating more probiotic rich foods such as fermented foods and drinks, is an effective way to reduce or even eliminate cravings for sugar. This is because probiotics fight off any “bad” bacteria that may be overgrowing in the gut. Eliminating this bacterial overgrowth and balancing your gut flora is key to overcoming sugar cravings. Try adding probiotic-rich foods like kombucha (fermented tea), kefir, cultured vegetables, and yogurt. As the probiotics from these foods enter your small intestine, their presence will help kill off the microbes and yeasts that fuel your sugar cravings.
5. Plan ahead: Always have healthy meals and snacks ready and waiting to go at home or in the office, so you’re less tempted to eat the office sweet treats or head to the café for dessert.
The World Health Organization says that we should only consume just six to nine teaspoons of sugar daily for optimum health. Or, in other words, no more than 25g and 36g of sugar for a man (4g of sugar = a teaspoon of sugar). If you follow these guidelines, you will be able to reduce the amount of sugar you are consuming and tame your sugar cravings. If you find it challenging to resist sugar, allow yourself something sweet that's less than 100 calories but doesn’t contain sugar substitutes. (Two squares of dark chocolate is an excellent option).