Sugar consumption is one of the largest health risks to Americans. It is linked to an onslaught of symptoms including diabetes, tooth decay, obesity, cardiac issues, metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, energy crashes, mood swings, and headaches.
According to the American Heart Association, “the average adult in the United States takes in 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, while teens pile in 34 teaspoons a day.” The traditional American diet makes it very difficult to stay within the guidelines of 9 teaspoons, or 37 grams, of added sugars per day. Last year, the FDA amended nutrition label requirements to raise awareness of added sugars in packaged goods. By bringing attention to this, it will make it easier for consumers to see what sweeteners are being added. The good news is that by implementing some lifestyle changes, it is easy to improve overall health.
Here are some tips to quell your sugar cravings.
Stay Energized With Healthy Fats
In the 1960s, the sugar industry quietly paid scientists to downplay the effects sugar and switch the blame to fat. In an attempt to improve health and lose weight, the general public switched from whole foods—which contain higher amounts of fat, protein, and fiber—to low-fat processed foods which are loaded with hidden sugars and low in nutrients. Today, studies show that sugar is the real culprit behind the massive rise in diabetes, obesity, mental health disorders, cardiac disease, cancer, and many other health issues.
The two main sources of fuel for your body are carbohydrates and fats. If your body is running low, sugar cravings will kick in since it is the easiest to convert into calories for immediate use. However, if you allow yourself a steady stream of healthy fats, your body will become more efficient at converting stored body fat into energy. Try snacking on nuts, adding coconut oil to your morning coffee, or eating omega-rich foods and ditch the fat-free dressing, milks and meats. Some common “good fat” foods to incorporate into your diet include avocados, salmon, edamame, and eggs.
Avoid Processed Foods
There is a surprising amount of added sugars in packaged foods, which includes everything from bread to meats. Even some protein bars are packed with 30g of sugar, equivalent to a candy bar. Even if sugar is not listed on the ingredient list, tampering with whole foods changes the way natural sugars are processed in your body. For example, low-fat milk has been linked to higher obesity and diabetes even though it is lower in calories. You can avoid many of the health issues associated with sugar by choosing whole ingredients, making your own meals, reading ingredient labels, and overall being more conscientious of what you consume. An old rule to follow is if you can’t pronounce the ingredient, you shouldn’t be eating it.
Carb-Load Early in the Day
Your body needs and craves carbohydrates. If you can provide yourself with energy early in the day, when it needs it the most, you can avoid the late-night scramble for sweets. It’s great to start the morning with brown rice and eggs or easy oatmeal pancakes. For lunch or a post-workout meal, there is nothing more satisfying than a baked yam with avocado slices and roasted chicken.
Build Your Sugar Fighting Muscle
This may be obvious, but just say “no” to sugar. Say it for a day, a week, a month, however long you can. The more you teach yourself to turn down temptations, the more natural it becomes. The key is mental strength. Big hint: do not keep tempting foods in your home; The easier they are to access, the harder it is to say no.
Recruit Friends and Family as Motivators
It is much easier to build a new habit with friends and family to motivate you. Sharing in the process with someone else will help keep you accountable and they will also understand the struggle you are going through. Try a 30-day no-sugar challenge, such as the Whole30. It will allow your body to heal, reduce sugar cravings, and by the end, you won’t even miss it. (P.S. hint is Whole30 approved—here are some great Whole30 recipes to make with hint®!)
Bring on the Fruits
Instead of indulging in processed desserts, fruits will satisfy your sweet tooth and are packed with fiber, powerful phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Some yummy substitute go-to treats are bananas with melted almond butter, banana ice cream, dates or fresh berries.
Sugar is one of the most addictive foods in our diets but you may not be to blame for the cravings. The bad bacteria in our system, such as Candida and other harmful microorganisms, feed off sugar. When they overpower the good bacteria, they also take over our appetites. Cutting sugar for 30 days, while introducing probiotics such as fermented foods, will help quell the cravings, improve your digestion, increase nutrient absorption, and boost weight loss. There are multiple ways you can incorporate it in to your diet, such as taking probiotics by a capsule, eating yogurt, and drinking kombucha.
Get Fancy With Your Water
Hydration is essential to reducing cravings. In many cases, it is common to mistake dehydration and hunger, so make sure to drink the recommended amount of water throughout the day. When plain water gets a little old, adding fresh mint and lime is basically a mojito without the sugar, alcohol and calories. hint® is pure water infused with fruit essences, and is another great option because it’s delicious but has no sugar or sweeteners!
Do you struggle with sugar cravings? What helps you get through them?