Five on Friday: 5 Ways to Kick Your Sugar Cravings
Is sweetened coffee part of your morning routine? Are you raiding the chocolate dish at 3 pm? Searching for something sweet after dinner? You're not alone! But...why do we want sugar all the time?
When you eat sugar, your blood sugar rises. This sugar rush provides energy. However, soon after, you will have a sugar crash. This drop in your blood sugar makes you crave more sugar, so you eat more sugar....and the cycle continues.
We are addicted to sugar because it stimulates the release of dopamine (which provides pleasure) in the brain, similar to that of alcohol or drugs. With continued use we develop dependency and tolerance to its effects and crave it more.
The best way to kick a sugar habit is to break the sugar cycle and cut it out cold turkey. You will lower your threshold and recalibrate your taste buds. Here are 5 ways to kick your sweets habit:
1. Start your day with breakfast. A balanced breakfast creates a healthy foundation for the rest of the day and sets you up for success. Aim to eat within an hour of waking up. Read labels and avoid breakfast foods with sugar such as: sugar in your coffee, sugary cold cereals, brown sugar in your oatmeal, waffles or pancakes with syrup, flavored creamers, flavored milk, or honey. Good choices include steel cut oats with raisins and almonds, sprouted bread with almond butter, scrambled eggs and fruit or berries and plain Greek yogurt.
2. Eat regularly. Blood sugar imbalance is the foundation for most cravings. This is typically caused by a lack of food. When you go too long without eating so your blood sugar drops. Don't go longer than 3-4 hours without eating a healthy, balanced meal or snack.
3. Don't use artificial sweeteners as a substitute. Artificial sweeteners are 100's of times sweeter than table sugar. Those who use them routinely may have a fundamental change in their preference for sweets. Healthy foods that are less sweet (such as fruits and vegetables) may become unappetizing. New research shows that artificial sweeteners may disrupt the body's ability to regulate blood sugar. If that's not enough, there is some research that shows it may cause weight gain and stimulate the development of new fat cells.
4. Pick protein. Make sure you have some sort of protein every time you eat a meal or snack. Protein can come from meat, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, soy, milk, cheese, yogurt, quinoa, nut butter, nuts or seeds. Protein stabilizes your blood sugar and slows your digestion so you'll feel full longer.
5. Replace sweets with fruit. Fruit does contain natural sugar, but you'll get fiber and nutrients along with it. The fiber slows the absorption of the sugars so you won't get a huge sugar rush. Fresh fruit like mango, pineapple, berries, grapes, apples and citrus fruits are delicious options. Unsweetened dried fruit, such as figs, dates, apricots, mango, strawberries and gogi berries are great candy substitutes.