Whenever we see something sweet, sugary and coated with chocolate, the jig’s up ! Isn’t it ? Don’t you get overwhelming sugar cravings ? But it’s not our fault. It’s the fault of our primate heritage. We, humans are naturally drawn to sweet stuff because we are primates, animals that evolved eating fruit in the trees.
Everything is good in moderation. Once it moves out of control, it becomes addiction. Here I am talking about “SUGAR ADDICTION.” Do you know, sugar is four times as addictive as cocaine ? No wonder, we get addicted to it.
Let me share one of the story of my friend who had sweet tooth. She used to think about sweet treats all the time – to the extent where sugar had started controlling her life and affecting her health. She always had an urge of eating something sweet like cake, cookies, chocolate or ice cream after every meal – and usually more than a little bit at a time. Sometimes she even skipped dinner and just splurged on dessert instead. I really didn’t like the way she craved for sugar because she is in bad shape now. So I thought of writing this article on how to control sugar cravings.
WHY SUGAR IS BAD FOR HEALTH ?
- Sugar leaves you undernourished : It contains empty calories with no essential nutrients and actually causes your body to steal vitamins from other vital organs in attempt to process the sugar.
- It causes many health problems : Excess sugar can damage the ability of pancreas to function properly. When people eat a lot of sugar, it can cause resistance to the hormone insulin, which can contribute to many diseases like Diabetes, Kidney and Heart Problems.
- It suppresses the immune system : Sugar interferes with the body by overtaxing its defenses.There is considerable evidence that sugar, due to its harmful effects on metabolism, can contribute to cancer.
- It makes you fat : The researchers suspect that, unsurprisingly, people who eat sugar get more calories than they burn off with physical activity. All this leads to weight gain.
- It leads to stress : There is a clear link between excess sugar and disorders like anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia because of extreme levels of insulin and adrenalin.
- It kills your teeth : It causes tooth decay and erodes enamel by feeding the harmful bacteria in the mouth.
- It increases aging effects : It causes your skin to look and feel older than it is. Diet high in sugar, damages collagen and thus leads to wrinkles.
WHY DO WE CRAVE FOR SUGAR ?
After eating something sweet, sugar activates the reward system or stimulates a region in your brain to produce dopamine, the pleasure neurotransmitter which makes you feel happy. Dopamine is actually incharge of your pleasure-reward system.
It is what makes you think “I want more!” and “let’s do this again!”
The brain recognises, likes this feeling and begins to crave more. Cravings are driven by the brain’s need for “reward” – not the body’s need for food. It is important to realize that a craving is NOT the same as hunger. It’s not your body calling for energy, it is the brain calling for something that releases a lot of dopamine in the reward system.
If you find it difficult to control your cravings, it’s not your fault and it’s not a matter of willpower. Sugary junk foods are developed to be intentionally addictive. And your brain is only reacting accordingly to this very powerful stimulus.
Did you know that sugar and processed foods are as addictive as drugs ? Heroin, cocaine, morphine etc. – they all stimulate the same receptors in brain.
HOW TO CONTROL SUGAR CRAVINGS ?
Exercises are best way to distance yourself from the food that you are craving because any sort of physical activity releases endorphins, some “feel good” chemicals in your brain, which can help turn the craving off.
Move out for a brisk walk or do some running or jogging, whatever you are interested in. If you don’t have time to move out, do some exhausting sets of lunges, burpees, squats, push ups or any other body weight exercises.
So next time, when sugar craving hits, go outside for a run instead of running to your refrigerator.
CONSUME PROTEIN-RICH BREAKFAST
Protein is great for satiety, may help with cravings as well. Do you know, 90% of sugar addicts skip breakfast ? When you skip breakfast, your blood sugar drops down to dangerous levels. This causes you to crave sweet treats later.
Increasing protein intake may reduce cravings by up to 60% and cut the desire to snack at night by 50%. For these reasons (and many others), it’s important to consume a protein-rich breakfast.
No need to fill your stomach with sugary foods just to suppress your cravings. Sometimes cravings can be caused by dehydration and body can mistake thirst for hunger. Before you give in to a craving, try drinking a glass of water. Wait for 10 minutes. You may find that the craving fades away, because your body was actually just thirsty. If you still want, take a little and ask yourself if that really going to satisfy your need.
Drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water throughout the day will trick your body into thinking it is satisfied.
GRAB A FRUIT
Fruit is much healthier option so stock your fridge with fruits. Having a piece of fruit may help satisfy sugar cravings for some people. Dietitians always advise to snack on fruit instead of candies, cookies etc. because the natural sugar found in fruit is much better and it is full of fibres and other nutrients. Moreover, it keeps your blood sugar level stable.
Try to add this naturally sweet stuff like healthy whole or dried fruits likes dates and raisins into your meal. This way you can trick your taste buds into thinking they are getting sweets. Bananas, apples, oranges work great. But go easy on grapes and cherries as they high sugar content.
SKIP ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
Try to stay away from artificial sweeteners. These might seem like an acceptable alternative to sugar, without the calories and weight gain but they don’t lessen cravings for sugar. Some studies have shown that artificial sweeteners do not satisfy our biological sugar cravings in the same manner as sugar, and could therefore lead to increased food intake.They have strong sweetness that make us more dependent on sweet flavor. This could increase our desire for sweet foods in general.
“Artificial sweeteners may sound like a great idea but haven’t demonstrated a positive effect on our obesity epidemic,” says Grotto, author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life.
KEEP YOUR HOUSE FREE OF JUNK FOODS
Toss all junk, processed and sugary foods out of your house. Don’t even keep them within close reach because then you are just asking for a trouble. If your house and office are full of sugary temptations, it will make it that much harder to resist. So it’s better to surround yourself with healthy options.
NEVER IGNORE FOOD LABELS
You need to know how much sugar you are actually eating in a day. There are plenty of hidden sources of sugar. People really pay no attention to the sugar content in those food items. That is why, I always suggest to read food labels.
It is most likely present in a box, can, bottle or package you buy from stores. Some of the savoury food items which are not obviously sweet like pasta sauces, breakfast cereals (even healthy ones) etc. but have added sugar in them. Keep a critical eye on ingredient labels on these condiments, sauces, and salad dressings—all sneaky sugar sources.
AVOID EXCESS STRESS AND MEDITATE
Being under stress may induce cravings, eating and weight gain, especially in women. Many people turn to sweet foods when they’re stressed, depressed, or angry. But food doesn’t solve emotional issues. To take your mind off the food you’re craving, get up and go. Get support and talk to a friend. Call or meet someone who understands your problem. Explain that you’re going through a craving and ask for a few words of encouragement.
Meditate and control your mind first because cravings and addictions start in your brain.
Sleep deprivation may disrupt normal fluctuations in appetite hormones, leading to cravings and poor appetite control.
Getting proper, refreshing sleep is important for overall health and can help prevent cravings. Then you won’t need the sugar fix to counteract tiredness.
CHEW GUM OR BRUSH YOUR TEETH
If you want to avoid giving in to a sugar craving completely, try chewing a stick of gum. Studies have shown that chewing gum can reduce food cravings. If you are at home, try brushing your teeth, this would help you too.
GIVE IN A LITTLE
It’s okay to give into your cravings occasionally. Eat a bit of what you’re craving, maybe a small cookie or a fun-size chocolate bar. Enjoying a little of what you love won’t leave you deprived. But try to stick to a 150-calorie threshold only.
Learn to incorporate small amounts in the diet but make sure to go for less sugary and (healthier) options like if you are craving for an ice cream, try child size frozen fresh yogurt with fruits and honey. If you want to indulge in chocolate, dip a banana in chocolate sauce or mix some almonds with chocolate chips. Basic idea is to combine the craving food with a healthful one.
With these few small changes to your daily habits, you can conquer your sugar cravings. I have given you several tricks, choose the ones that you think will work for you and try others as needed. Food cravings, like other habits, don’t change overnight, so go easy on yourself and it’s better to cut down on sugar gradually.
Do you struggle with sugar cravings? How do you manage to control it ?