Does that morning Danish you’ve just enjoyed leave you craving another treat two hours later? Do you grab a bar of chocolate to cope with your afternoon slump — and then reach for a fizzy drink to get out of your post-slump slump?
If you’ve found that munching sugary snacks just makes you crave more sugary snacks, you’re not alone. Eating lots of simple carbohydrates — without the proteins or fats — can quickly satisfy hunger and give your body a short-term energy boost, but just as quickly they leave you feeling famished again and craving more.
Why do we crave Sugar?
Appetite may be hardwired. “Sweet is the first taste humans prefer from birth,” says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, a dietitian and American Dietetic Association (ADA) spokeswoman. Carbohydrates stimulate the release of the feel-good chemical in the brain called serotonin. Sugar is a carbohydrate, but carbohydrates come in other forms, too, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The taste of sugar also releases endorphins that calm and relax us, and offer a natural high. Sweets just taste good, too. And that preference gets reinforced by rewarding ourselves with sweet treats, which can make you crave it even more. With all that going for it, why wouldn’t we crave sugar?
The problem comes not when we indulge in a sweet treat now and then, but when we over-consume, something that’s easy to do when sugar is added to many processed foods, including breads, yogurt, juices, and sauces. And all over the world we are now over-consuming, averaging about 22 teaspoons of added sugars per day, according to the American Heart Association, which recommends limiting added sugars to about 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 for men.
Numerous factors may be contributing to sugar cravings, including nutrient deficiencies, certain foods and emotional factors. Although moderate intake of added sugars, such as cane sugar, brown sugar or corn syrup, is generally harmless, consuming excessive amounts can lead to weight gain, tooth decay and nutrient deficiency – not to mention a host of chronic illnesses. For best results in constructing a diet that is right for you, seek guidance from a qualified professional.
1. Cut Back on Artificial Sweeteners:
Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose, are calorie-free food additives used to add sweetness to sugar-free sweets, low-calorie foods and diet soft drinks. Artificial sweeteners may also trigger cravings for additional sweets and lead to you making poor dietary decisions. If you are consuming lots of products that are high in artificial sweeteners I would suggest that you start by reducing the amount of sweetener you use. You may also try omitting artificial sweeteners entirely for a time to determine if your sugar cravings reduce as a result.
The healthy alternative to sugar-free soft drinks include water (still and sparkling). Replacing artificial sweeteners with small amounts of natural sweeteners like honey can add substantial amounts of sweetness to your food while not triggering such excessive sugar cravings.
2. Eat Complex Carbohydrates:
Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and starchy vegetables, provide rich amounts of vitamins, minerals and fibre. According to Dr. Sanjeev K. Gupta and Sanjeev Gupta, authors of Kick Your Sugar Habit, sugar cravings may stem from trace mineral deficiencies and blood sugar imbalances. For this reason, increasing your consumption of complex carbohydrates may help you stay sated between meals, enhance blood sugar balance and reduce your cravings for sweets.
Examples of nutrient-rich complex carbohydrates include 100 percent whole-grain pasta and cereals, brown rice, wild rice, air-popped popcorn, butternut squash, baked and sweet potatoes, pumpkin and squash. Replace simple carbohydrates, such as commercially prepared biscuits, cakes, pastries and sweets, with complex carbohydrates regularly for optimum benefits.
3. Avoid Hidden Sugars:
Hidden sugars are sugars added to foods that we generally do not consider sweet. Cutting back on hidden sugars may also help reduce or prevent sugar cravings. Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, glucose, mannitol, molasses, xylitol, sucrose, sorghum and fructose are examples of sweeteners that may be hidden among food ingredient lists. Eating a diet based on whole, natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, can help reduce your intake of hidden sugars since they are generally found in processed foods. Preparing homemade baked goods and snacks using natural ingredients like applesauce and whole grain flour can add nutritional benefits to you diet and potentially alleviate sugar cravings.
4. Mindful Eating:
Sugar cravings can also stem from emotional causes. When you feel stressed from work, school or personal situations, you may find yourself being drawn to comfort foods — foods eaten to satisfy emotions rather than physiological needs. It is important to heighten your awareness during meals and eating with healthy intentions rather than grasping for convenient foods that often contain processed carbohydrates and added sugars. The more habitual mindful eating becomes, the less likely you will be to crave sugar or other less-than-healthy foods. If emotional factors trigger your sugar cravings, dealing with your emotions in other ways is also important.