By Dr Isaac Jones: Are you ‘high’ right now as you read this article? Think twice before you deny it. Tell me what you’ve had in the last couple of hours…a caramel frappuccino or a creamy donut or a chocolate candy bar or an icy soda?
In the “health world” it may be less obvious. Like an ultra sweet snack bar, a bag of dried fruit or a smoothie made with juice, high sugar fruit and way too much sweetener.
If those things have been on the menu recently, you might be going through a ‘sugar high’ right now.
Almost one in three people in the US are sugar addicts. Studies reveal that nearly a quarter of our everyday caloric consumption (which is roughly 325 calories a day) comes from soda, baked foods, sugared juices and desserts.
Why do we do it? It’s those cravings! Yet most of us feel helpless to them.
Before we discuss how to curb sugar cravings, let’s talk about what causes them in the first place and how they negatively impact our health.
Why Do We Crave Sugar?
There are numerous reasons behind that intense “need” to eat sugar when we get a craving.
As human beings, we are somewhat attached to sugar and carbohydrate right from birth. And there’s a good reason behind it. Breast milk is usually sweet by nature and has essential carbohydrates. When you feed a baby with breast milk, you also promote friendly gut bacteria.
Perhaps the most challenging thing about sugar is that it doesn’t take long to notice that sugar doesn’t just taste good it also feels good.
Your body gets a psychological sense of satisfaction or reward after eating sugar, thanks to dopamine the “feel-good” chemical released by the reward center of our brain. It’s actually the same chemical released when people drink alcohol or take drugs.
(See why sugar can be so addicting?)
The thing is that sugar cravings aren’t bad in and of themselves. In the right context, a craving for sugar tells your body that you need energy – for example if your blood sugar gets too low.
But today we have fifty different types of sodas and a hundred different candy bars available at almost every checkout counter. So, in this context you can see how craving sugar can be very different…and very detrimental.
And apparently we listen loud and clear to those cravings. According to the American Heart Association, the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugars every day via food, sweets and drinks.
Why Is Excess Sugar Bad for You?
So what if we want sugar every meal? Why does it have to be a bad thing? When you cave into those sugar cravings, your body responds right away – and it’s not good.
- Promote weight gain and disrupt leptin and insulin signaling
- Accumulate and cause damage to your liver
- Raise uric acid levels (which can lead to heart disease and kidney stones)
- Cause chromium deficiency
- Increase bad cholesterol and triglycerides
- Decrease the quantity of vitamin E
- Raise anxiety, hyperactivity, depression, and adrenaline
- Disrupt your ability to learn, focus, concentrate and be productive
- Decrease emotional stability
- Increase antisocial behavior
- Cause crankiness and drowsiness in kids (And in the grownups too, if we’re being honest)
- Up your chances of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and dementia
- Affect your hormones and lead you to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
You get the picture – it’s bad.
So you know logically that you need to cut down on the sugar, but try explaining that to your brain during a sugar craving. It doesn’t care about the logic at that point; it wants that sugary latte pronto.
That is why you need to set yourself up for success with these 7 tips below. If you want to know how to curb sugar cravings, read on!
How To Curb Sugar Cravings
Okay, here I am going to educate you on how to curb sugar cravings naturally. Nobody says it’s always fun or easy (otherwise nobody would be addicted to sugar), but in no way is it impossible!
Sugar may feel good in the moment, but a healthy body feels good always.
Keep Your Blood Sugar Stable
Tell me if you’ve ever experienced anything like this:
- 9AM: A piece of fruit
- 1PM: A few chips or a handful of nuts
- 5PM: Grilled chicken and veggies
- 9PM: All the chips and cookies and ice cream in the house
Many people have good intentions when they try to eat “lightly” throughout the day. But all they’re doing is setting themselves up for a massive sugar craving frenzy.
Why? Blood sugar. It’s not only diabetics who need to pay attention to blood sugar; every human being does.
Stabilized blood sugar will lead to fewer food cravings, a feeling of satisfied fullness throughout the entire day, and even a better mood. Plus, you are not going to get as many of those aggressive sugar cravings when your blood sugar is stable.
Here’s how to curb sugar cravings through stabilized blood sugar:
- Eat a good breakfast (chia seed pudding, protein smoothie, avocado bowl, eggs) right after you wake up. Don’t wait too long – you need to “break” your “fast.”
- Have a real lunch and dinner where you sit down and consume protein (plant-based or animal) with plenty of veggies and healthy fats like nuts or avocado
- Have high-protein/high-fat snacks throughout the day. Apple and almond butter, nuts and a few strawberries, or carrots and hummus.
- Check in with yourself throughout the day to see how you feel. Getting hungry? Grab a healthy snack. Don’t wait until you’re famished to re-up. Otherwise, you may be setting yourself up for a high sugar meal or snack that you’ll end up regretting.
The point here is don’t allow yourself to starve. When you stay ahead of your hunger, you can also stay ahead of your sugar cravings.
Eat Different Foods
We know that you have to eat frequently, but what exactly should you be eating if you want to know how to curb sugar cravings?
Top choices include:
- Foods high in healthy fat: Avocado and avocado oil, coconut oil, nuts, eggs, and wild caught fish
- Fermented foods: Sauerkraut, kimchi, organic yogurt, and kombucha
- Food high in protein: Lean, organic, and grass-fed meats are a great choice for meat-eaters. Lentils, beans, and non-GMO tempeh are great choices for meat-freers.
If you still want to eat grains, make sure you choose options that are gluten-free, low-glycemic and high in fiber like organic quinoa or buckwheat.
Rice is not going to help somebody trying to tame the cravings.
Make sure you keep plenty of these foods in the house, so you can be prepared for a sugar craving situation well in advance. Maybe make a healthy meal in advance and keep it ready for the ‘hunger times.’
Keep It Out of the House
I know this might sound like a simple and obvious idea. But for anyone who wonders how to curb sugar cravings, this is an important answer – don’t have those foods in your home.
Why would you buy them when you are looking to avoid sugary foods? Be intentional about not having anything around the house that would make it easy to give in to a sugar craving.
So start today, clear your pantry and eliminate all the foods containing simple sugars – this includes refined flours. So, get rid of the Bisquick, snack crackers, cookies and candy. And don’t just limit it to that.
If you’ve convinced yourself that gluten-free cookies and treats don’t really “count” think again. These foods also contain just as much sugar as the conventional versions. Read the labels of the foods you are eating.
That marinade you love so much on your chicken may taste great because it’s high in sugar. That “all-natural” juice may be so high in sugar that your blood sugar will sky-rocket. And that protein bar may actually have more sugar grams than a candy bar.
And if you’re tempted to switch to artificial sweeteners as your way to indulge without guilt think again. Aside from the fact they are filled with chemicals, they can actually increase cravings.
We’ll share a little tip on how we keep sugar in check. Nobody wants to live in a world where they can never enjoy cookies or cupcakes, right? Some of those things are just part of life.
In our house, we don’t buy cookies and sweets by the bag. It’s too tempting to overindulge. If we decide we want to have something sweet, we make it at home. That way we have complete control over the ingredients and we’re not left with a package of 4 sleeves of cookies.
Plus, the effort of actually making the baked goods from scratch is a little unappealing since neither me or my wife are people that love to bake. So that means that we eat these types of foods even less frequently.
So, the rule for us is this: If we want sweets we’ve got to make them from scratch.
As we already know, one of the reasons we eat so much sugar is the way it makes us feel: happy (though that only lasts for a moment because the sugar crash follows).
But sugar is not the only thing that releases those “happy high” hormones called endorphins – exercise does too.
The exercise doesn’t always have to be intense. You don’t have to run long distances or do heavy weight lifting (though those options are great too). A simple, brisk walk is all you need to get the necessary endorphins to tame the sugar cravings.
Aside from keeping a regular exercise regimen, you can use exercise as a handy tool to keep your sweet tooth in check. When you start feeling that familiar sugar craving pop up, choose to do a short exercise instead. Do 20 squats, follow a short 5-minute yoga video on YouTube, swim a few laps, or take the dog for a walk.
You’ll distract yourself from the sugar cravings and give your body the boost of endorphins that you need – all without the negativity that sugar brings.
Exercise also lowers your stress hormones (like cortisol)… which is a great segway into tip #5.
Reduce Your Stress
Think about it for a minute. When sit down after a long, stressful day and anxious thoughts are running through your head, do you want to eat a plate of broccoli or a bowl of ice cream?
Most of our sugar cravings are not tied to hunger cravings (many times, we are already full – like the after-dinner craving for chocolate). Instead, most of our sugar cravings are attached to our emotions.
So when you are stressed (something that feels bad), we want chocolate or cookies or brownies (something that makes us feel good).
If you reduce those negative emotions, you then reduce the need to fix them with unhealthy sugar.
Outside of getting enough sleep (which I talk more about below) and exercising daily (which I talked more about above), you should try:
- Meditation, prayer, or yoga
- Diffusing essential oils for stress throughout the day
- Carving out time in your schedule for self-care activities like a massage or getting your nails done
- Unplugging from your phone, laptop, email
- Spending some time outside (the extra vitamin D from the sunshine can help too!)
Get Plenty Of Sleep
This is no secret. Sleep is extremely important for any and every chronic health issue. Sleep deficiency can cause:
- Heart attack, cancer and stroke
- Increase the risk of diabetes, kidney disease and blood pressure
- Increase hormone imbalance and obesity
Sleep is important for hormone balance (which regulates insulin levels) and managing blood sugar levels.
Just to tell you how important a good night’s sleep is to manage blood sugar – one night of poor sleep can raise your blood sugar levels to match readings of a pre-diabetic. Yikes!
Sleep also reduces stress and boosts serotonin (another hormone that contributes to happiness).
All of these factors added together will help you curb the cravings. So if you want to know how to curb sugar cravings, focus on your sleep and make it a priority.
What I’m about to say may make you roll your eyes (it’s okay…it sort of makes me want to roll my eyes too).
Sometimes you may think you want junky food, but what your body really wants is water.
Cue the responses: “Um no, what I really want is peanut butter brownie ice cream, the whole pint, thank you very much.”
That may be what your brain thinks you want, but that does not mean it is what your body actually needs. When you feel a sugar craving coming on have a glass of water before you do anything. It may calm the urgency way down.
A glass of herbal tea (sans the sweetener, of course) can be a great option too. It hydrates you, but also adds some flavor to appease your taste buds.
Bye-Bye Sugar Cravings
For some people, it’s perfectly fine to indulge in an occasional treat, unless you have other health complications. But even that comes with guidelines – monitor the amount you are consuming.
Sugar cheat day doesn’t mean, “Eat all the sugar you couldn’t have all week.” It means have a few bites, enjoy them, and be done.
Because the optimal health of your body depends on you to make the right decisions.
Also try to have a treat that has high quality and nutrient-rich ingredients such as homemade coconut milk ice creams, almond flour muffins, or oatmeal cookies prepared using healthy alternatives.
For other people, cold turkey is the way to go – at least for a while, until the intense cravings go away and your body feels healthy.
Do you have a unique idea on how to curb sugar cravings? Ever tried to battle your sugar craving before reading this article? If you have, and if you were successful in doing it, please let us know your magic formula. You can share your ideas in the comment section below.