The love hate relationship with SUGAR: How to break up with SUGAR

Today we are talking about sugar cravings. I have always craved sugar. Ever since I could remember I was known to have the biggest sweet tooth. Any opportunity I got to eat chocolate or baked goods, I would take it, without thinking about how it impacted my body. Each celebration called for sugar. I can remember eating handfuls of mini eggs during Easter, cinnamon hearts at Valentine’s day, Ferrero Rocher during Christmas, and any candy or chocolate you can think of during Halloween, in smaller packaging of course! I sound like a sugar monster. The number of cavities I have can prove it! But this was a regular diet for me and almost everyone around me.

I think most of us do not realize how much sugar we eat on a daily basis and how it can impact our health and well-being. Even to this day, having changed most of my eating habits, I crave a baked good made with honey/maple syrup/cane sugar or a good quality dark chocolate. Even though they are considered to be natural, it ends up still being processed similarly to sugar in the body. I am human though. I cave into my sugar cravings sometimes, but I try to keep it in moderation. It is all a work in progress, being mindful and recognizing what you can do to nourish your body.

Why do we crave sugar?

🍭By HABIT – once we create a habit the brain forms a deep connection and it can be hard to take it away. Dopamine – our reward hormone is released when you feel happy and results in a sense of euphoria. I remember feeling so satisfied after having my morning caramel macchiato each morning at Starbucks. Does anyone feel the same? Desiring sugar as a habit is similar to the way the brain desires drugs, such as cocaine, or alcohol. It can be hard to break and becomes a true addiction.
🍭Creating sugar as a REWARD. As early as I can remember, being good as a child resulted in receiving candy. This reward system in the brain is called the mesolimbic dopamine system. Activating this system can cause intense feelings of reward and addiction. ⁣

What Causes Sugar Cravings?

  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Insulin resistance – Sugar can be very detrimental to PCOS

Different Types of Sugar

  • brown sugar
  • corn sweetener
  • corn syrup
  • sugar (dextrose, fructose, glucose, sucrose)
  • high-fructose corn syrup
  • invert sugar
  • malt sugar
  • molasses
  • any syrup (brown rice syrup, malt syrup)
  • Cane sugar
  • Splenda
  • Honey – choose raw honey, honey does have some additional benefits such as enzymes, minerals, and vitamins in small amounts. It is moderate on the glycemic index.
  • Maple syrup –  make sure you buy 100% maple syrup. Aunt Jemima’s is not going to cut it! It is moderate on the glycemic index.
  • Coconut sugar – It is moderate on the glycemic index, and is made up of fructose.

5 Ways to Beat Your Sugar Cravings

1. When you are hungry, eat a balanced meal – eating a meal packed with protein, fat and fiber will keep you fuller for a longer period of time so that your body doesn’t need to give in to your sugar cravings.

2. Balance stress – when you are stressed, this can increase cortisol, our stress hormone, which will cause us to crave sugar, sugar will actually produce serotonin our happy hormone but this can be detrimental in the long run.

3. Go cold turkey – starving the body from sugar can be one of the best ways to curb your cravings. It can help with weight loss, acne, improving sleep and your mood. However, this can lead to withdrawal symptoms. Be careful and go slow if you need to! If you are able to tolerate removing it altogether, even just 10 days of going cold turkey can help to reduce the cravings.

4. Drink some water – we are made up of mostly water. So it is important to replenish your stores of water every day!! Sounds simple, but this is something we often forget. Dehydration can cause sugar cravings. So before you reach for that donut, check in to see if you are thirsty first!

5. Get your sleep – the more sleep deprivation you experience the greater the increase in a hormone called ghrelin. This hormone sends a signal to the brain that we are hungry. Ensuring you get a good night sleep will ensure that your body has reset for the day and won’t be too tired to lean into your sugar cravings.

Sugar Swaps

  • Sugar drinks (ie. soda, juice) with lemon water or sparkling water
  • Yogurt with high fat no sugar yogurt or unsweetened coconut yogurt
  • Chocolate cravings typically mean you are deficient in magnesium, so opt for magnesium-rich foods like almonds, if chocolate is the only thing that will do it for you, opt for 70% dark, the richness makes it easier to be satisfied with less
  • Sugar with unsweetened apple sauce in baking
  • Store bought salad dressing with a simple, make it at home dressing with olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice

When in doubt, eat fruit. Even though there is fructose in fruit, which is also considered sugar, there is fiber in fruit as well making it slower to digest. This will not spike your blood glucose as much as pure sugar will! 

Balanced Snacks to Beat Sugar Cravings

  • Almond butter and apple slices
  • Cucumber and guacamole
  • Hummus and bell peppers (or any vegetable)
  • Celery and sunflower seed butter

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