Sugar cravings are simply that, when your mind and body goes, “I need something sweet. RIGHT. NOW.”
Your organism will crave that quick boost of energy that it can give you.
It can be distracting and frustrating, especially when you have weight issues.
The Science Behind This Process
Extreme need for something sugary can be caused by the different hormone and neurochemicals that affect your body. Your organism depends on certain levels of these substances, so when these drop, it puts out a signal to replenish your stores, and therefore you start to crave for sweets.
Your hormones and neurochemicals are in a constant state of flux, so your needs to binge can come at different points of the day for different reasons. Other factors that affect your hormones are menstruation and puberty.
When you undergo stress, your body signals the need for serotonin. This is a hormone that is found in your intestinal track, blood platelets, and pineal gland.
Serotonin inhibits impulsive behaviors such as sexual needs, pain perception and appetite. If your levels are low, you show more signs of aggressive behavior, such as irritability, less impulse control, and insomnia.
When you eat foods high in carbohydrates, insulin is released into your bloodstream. This substance will remove all the sugar and amino acids from your blood, with one exception: Tryptophan.
Tryptophan is what actually helps create serotonin. Without the other amino acids in your blood, it’s easier to trigger serotonin production, so when your organism needs this hormone, you will crave for something sweet. While it does fix the solution in the short term, the nutrients we normally eat when we have those needs cause even more trouble in the long run.
Endorphin is the brain’s natural narcotics, and its production is triggered by sweets. When you become stressed, release of this substance will relax you.
But there are other ways to trigger the release of endorphin, such as exercise or sex.
Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is a neurochemical that makes sure your body gets enough carbohydrates for energy. When blood sugar drops, NPY is released, which causes you to crave carbs.
What is more, Galatin is released when fat stores are depleted, you are crash dieting or stressed.
What You Can Do About It
Don’t give up your hope! There are many healthy alternatives to grabbing a candy bar or bowl of ice cream.
Whether it is the right foods or just tricking your mind with distractions or a little exploration, you can easily find out which methods are working for you.
1) Know Your Nutrition
Ignoring the nutritional information on the food labels is a bad habit many of us have a hard time breaking. It is important, though, in your quest to better health, to know what you are putting into you.
Look out for labels that say “Added Sugar”. It is defined as anything added to processed foods to sweeten it, including:
- Raw, Brown & Invert Sugar
- Natural Sweeteners
- Corn Syrup
- Turbinado Sugar
You should expand this extensive list even with anything that has “-ose” added to the end.
Be Aware!!! *Note that the higher an ingredient is on the list, the more there is present in the food. So if any of these appear first or second, chances are they are very high in sugar!*
2) Empower Yourself With Protein
This is the best source of fuel for your body. There are times when you think you are craving sweets when in reality you are craving protein.
That is more, protein is great to have as a first thing in the morning. The burning of energy that comes from it is on a slower curb than that from sugar, and this means that you are much less likely to crash later in the day.
There are many options for your protein intake, for both meat eaters and vegetarians as well:
- Seafood, usually low in fat. Salmon has higher fat content but contains a lot of healthy oils and omega-3 fatty acids.
- White meat like chicken or turkey is an excellent source for lean protein. The skin has a load of saturated fat, so remove that before you cook it.
- Milk products are excellent sources of calcium, and vitamin D as well.
- Eggs, especially the yolk, have a lot of it in them.
- Lean beef is an excellent source of this substance as well as zinc, iron and vitamin B12 (which also helps elevate moods)
- Vegetarians and vegans can get their daily dose by eating beans, such as soy, or even nuts. Eating fifty grams of soy protein can lower your cholesterol by 3%.
3) Regular Meals
Eating smaller portions of food more often is better for you than a large meal. It keeps your blood sugar levels stable and where it should be, which stops you from cravings.
Smaller meals will also decrease the possibility of indigestion from overeating. Most people prefer to have five smaller meals a day, with two snacks, to keep energy levels high all day.
You should also plan meals out, and eat at the same time every day. Your body gets used to a set schedule, and deviating from your schedule can push it into a stress response.
4) Fiber Is Your Friend
Fiber will help you by slowing down the absorption of carbs. It fills you up better than anything, so it is good to snack on fiber-rich foods.
Eating a bowl of cereal, oatmeal sweetened with fruit, a granola bar, or banana will fill you up and satisfy your needs much better than a candy bar. Other foods rich in fiber are:
- Whole Wheat Breads
- Baby Carrots
- Sweet Potatoes
- Sunflower Seeds
- Unbuttered Popcorn
5) Dump The Sweets
Get rid of all your sweet stuff by cleaning out your pantry and fridge. It is better to not have the temptation than to stress yourself by pushing your willpower.
If the option to snack on something bad isn’t there, then you are more likely to pick something that takes less effort to get to, like the healthy snacks you did keep at hand.
Also, cleaning out your cabinets is very relaxing, gives you something to focus on, and having your kitchen organized can help lower your anxiety levels.
And remember to never shop when you are hungry as you are more likely to get throw-away snacks that are high in carbohydrates. Eat a snack before you go, ideally something that is rich in fiber.
6) Fill Up On Healthy FruitsFruits are easier to process than those artificial sweeteners found in processed foods or candy. Fruit also has many additional nutrients you need:
The fiber in the fruit also slows down absorption of ingested sugar so it doesn’t hit you as hard. There are so many fruits and berries to choose from.
Some of the best are:
Instead of getting a bowl of ice cream, you can grab some veggies and eat them raw or throw them into a blender with some ice and yogurt and make a smoothie, or freeze and mash bananas or grapes as a cool ice cream replacement.
7) Eat Good Fats
Just the word “Fats” is enough to make most people cringe, but it isn’t always the dirty word we give it. Our bodies do need a healthy dose of fats, as long as it is the right kind.
Any fats that are known as monounsaturated or polyunsaturated are considered good fats:
- Olive Oil
- Eggs & Nuts
- Peanut, Almond, Hazelnut & Coconut Butter
These are healthy choices that give you the right fats and carbohydrates.
Please Note!!! Ironically, foods that say they are “low-fat” are actually high in sugar, so avoid these!
8) Distract Yourself With Exercise
Exercise boosts your energy and serotonin, and releases endorphins that make you feel great. So if you feel yourself craving sweets, get active.
Focusing on the physical activity will also distract you from tempting thoughts of sweets. Some excellent stress relieving exercises are:
- Walking – Including jogging & running.
- Dancing - Especially those forms involving your whole body such as belly dancing or hip hop.
- Yoga – It is very calming and relaxing.
- Martial Arts – Especially forms like Tai Chi or Kempo as these will help you form discipline and boost your will power.
9) Water, Water, Everywhere
Often, what we think is a craving is in reality a case of dehydration. Instead of grabbing a soda, grab a bottle of water.
Drinking eight 8 oz. glasses of water a day will keep your stomach full and your body well hydrated. This also applies to herbal teas.
10) Dark Chocolate (70% Cocoa)Dark chocolate has high antioxidant levels that help with preventing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and tooth decay. Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, which is a hormone that your organism produces when you are in love.
More precisely, this hormone promotes happy feelings, which increases serotonin levels and hence cutting short your cravings. Choose a dark chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa, the more cocoa present, the higher the antioxidants.
Remember, be sparing, there is still such thing as too much of a good stuff!
11) Improve Vitamin B Levels
Your adrenal gland plays an important role in your body’s stress responses. Stress is one of the main causes of these needs for sugary stuff.
B-complex vitamins are key to adrenal gland health, so taking a B-complex vitamin or eating foods rich on this substance will keep your adrenal gland functioning properly.
Rich on B-complex are:
- Whole-Grain Cereals
- Leafy Green Vegetables
12) No Artificial Sweetners
Artificial sweetners have not been proven to curb your needs for sweet stuff, and have been said to actually increase these at some times. They also pose their own health risks, like a higher risk of cancer, and has been linked to brain damage in children under five. Look for and avoid foods that have ingredients like:
Keep In Mind!!! Most common stuff where you can find artificial sweeteners are diet sodas and foods labeled as sugar-free.
13) Add Chromium Daily (Not For Diabetics)
Chromium is a chemical that helps to maintain and balance your blood sugar. Taken as a supplement, it is most effective to curb cravings at 600 to 1000 mcg a day, divided and taken in three doses.
Pay Attention!!! **Chromium may lower blood sugar, so diabetics should not take it as a supplement**
Rich sources of chromium include:
- Black Pepper
- Green Beans
- Romaine Lettuce
14) Bring In The Power Of CinnamonInstead of sweetening your tea, oatmeal or cereal with sugar, use a spice like cinnamon.
It normalizes your blood levels, so taking even 1/4 teaspoon daily can help reduce insulin spikes and control LDL cholesterol, which cuts down on your needs.
Sleep cures many ills, and in today’s busy age, many of us get way less than the amount required to keep our energy up. So when we feel tired, instead of taking the time to rest, we reach for an energy drink or candy bar, something with lots of carbohydrates.
Of course, while this works in the short term, once you come down from your sugar high you are more tired than ever and craving even more, simple as that. It’s a perpetual vicious cycle.
Instead of grabbing something rich in carbohydrates, take the time to relax. Meditate, take a long soak, close your eyes, or just sit and listen to calming music. The best thing to do, though, is just go to your bed and have a nap.
The average adult needs 6 to 8 hours of sleep to stay healthy and lower stress levels. If you suffer from insomnia, it might be a good idea to try some over the counter sleep supplement like melatonin or valerian root.