Many people have sugar cravings, and we have biology to thank for that!
Humans, particularly those who are still growing, have a natural preference for sweetness because sweet things are typically calorie dense and thus favourable for growth and providing energy. We are hard-wired, especially as children, to like sugar, and although there is merit to this instinct, as we get older it can be more “damaging” if our sugar cravings go unchecked.
Compared to our ancestors, we live in a world where sugar is far more abundant and far less energy is required to obtain it. Hello vending machines, convenience stores, trips to the cafe for a quick coffee and doughnut pick me up! We are running into some problems. Namely, the cycle of craving sugar and the overconsumption of processed food or junk food.
Here are a few ways you can curb and/or better manage those sugar cravings.
Avoid Processed Foods
These foods can be just as addictive as drugs. Eating processed, high sugar foods artificially stimulates your brain to produce dopamine, the pleasure neurotransmitter. Shortly thereafter, dopamine levels will drop, and we start to feel that crash or “down” feeling. Then the cycle will continue and we crave that pleasant, good feeling again — so sugar leads to addiction.
Drink Plenty of Water
Sometimes you think your body is craving sugar, when in fact it's dehydrated and begging you for water! Try these sugar craving beverages: In 8 oz. of water, add the juice of ½ lemon and a couple drops of Stevia, or a cup of green or herbal tea, sweetened with Stevia. This way your sweet taste is satisfied, and you are improving hydration.
Feed Your Microbiome
Adding fermented foods and drinks to your diet may be an important way to reduce or even eliminate cravings for sugar. Our gastrointestinal (GI) microbiota (bacteria in our GI tract) are highly influenced by our diet. Diets high in sugar wreak havoc on the gut microbiome, significantly decreasing the microbial diversity after just one week. Try to get in those probiotics drinks (e.g. kefir, kombucha) or even cultured vegetables (e.g. sauerkraut) my sweet friends!
Avoiding all foods with naturally occurring sugars would be very difficult, and may lead to major nutritional deficiencies because many of those foods (e.g. fruits, grains, starches) also come with essential nutrients. However, utilizing some of these strategies will help with minimizing “junk” foods with added sugars and in my opinion would probably be one of the healthiest dietary changes you could make (and trust me, this is not an easy feat).
Article written by Courtney Chisholm, Registered Dietitian.