Written By: Nutritionist Elizabeth Mersereau, CNC
Sugar cravings and addiction are something many people struggle with. Addiction to sugar often begins at a very young age due to the Standard American Diet (SAD) of processed foods. It’s no surprise sugar stimulates the pleasure/reward centers with the release of dopamine (You can read more here). Feeling short term pleasure from consuming sugar is a primal reaction. However, eating sugar (especially refined sugar) doesn’t trigger the normal satiation cues in our body which leads to over consumption and associated cravings. So.. consuming sugar makes you want MORE sugar! That’s why it can feel impossible to have just one cookie.
Unfortunately sugar is in most packaged foods. Even the packaged foods we think are healthy (i.e. protein bars or nut-milks) can have numerous sugar sources hiding on the ingredient list. There are at least 61 different names for sugar that you will find on ingredient lists. If you are eating packaged foods daily – it’s likely that you are over-consuming sugar.
Over-consumption of sugar can lead to many physical and mental health issues, including:
- Anxiety, irritability and depression
- Suppressed immune system
- Mineral imbalances
- Stressed liver, kidneys, and heart
- Advanced aging
- Disrupted sleep
- Hormonal imbalance
- Tooth decay
- Type II diabetes
- Increased fat storage
- Gut dysbiosis/GI issues
- Advanced aging
- Disrupted sleep
Inspired to reduce sugar consumption?!
TIPS to BEAT your next/current sugar craving (when it hits):
- Eat/drink minerals – sea salt or bone broth
- Drink licorice root tea – satisfies craving with the natural sweet taste
- L-Glutamine – this amino acid helps with sugar cravings and gut health – we have this at Shine! call us if you’d like some
- Move your body – to increase blood flow and oxygen to your brain (breathe deeply, go for a 5 min walk, do 10 jumping jacks)
- Give someone you love a hug! Research shows that hugging increase production of dopamine.
Ways to AVOID sugar cravings:
- Reduce consumption of processed packaged foods, especially processed carbohydrates (replace with whole foods). Processed carbs can cause blood sugar fluctuations that lead to sugar cravings
- Eat a protein rich breakfast – the amino acids will support production of neurotransmitters and healthy blood sugar levels
- Increase healthy fats – your body can use fat as fuel instead of sugar.
- Nourish the body with – chromium, B vitamins, magnesium, L-glutamine
- Eat fermented foods – try sauerkraut and fermented veggies to feed your beneficial gut bacteria
- Eat fiber with every meal – veggies, nuts, seeds, berries, legumes! (ideally 30-50 grams per day) Fiber slows the absorption of carbohydrates and stabilizes blood sugar
- Check your caffeine dosing – a caffeine crash can cause sugar cravings
- Sleep – the most underrated tool for reducing sugar cravings. Dial in your sleep and watch your sugar cravings disappear.
Although the over-consumption of refined sugar has a negative impact on our health, consuming naturally occurring sugar in healthy foods like pomegranates and tomatoes can be health promoting and has wonderful place in a healthy diet.
Note: If you’re already implementing these 8 tips and still feel like your sugar cravings are bigger than you, ie. running to grab dessert in your pjs – you could have an overgrowth of Candida albicans. Candida is a yeast that lives in the digestive tract. This organism relies on carbohydrates to thrive, and causes major sugar cravings. If you suspect you have this overgrowth talk to your health practitioner about candida testing.