Did you know the addictive nature of sugar rivals that of cocaine, morphine, and cigarettes?
I know. Ugghh.
It’s no accident recovering alcoholics often turn to sugar as they cut out alcohol—it’s an easily available drug. According to a 2008 study out of Princeton University, “rats eating large amounts of sugar when hungry, a phenomenon [known as] sugar-bingeing, undergo neurochemical changes in the brain that appear to mimic those produced by substances of abuse.”
In addition to the detrimental effects of sugar shown in these studies, sugar has been linked to weakened immunity, even feeding certain cancers! Found in most processed foods, fruit juice, and sports drinks (in the form of high fructose corn syrup...Gatorade is NOT a healthy "sports" drink. Make your own here.), and many of the desserts we grew up with and enjoy at holidays and birthdays, it’s hard to resist this ubiquitous substance’s seductive spell.
Fortunately, there are healthful ways to beat back even the most powerful sugar cravings.
Cutting Cravings Naturally
Cravings are a method by which your body communicates with you, and they should not be ignored. However, what you think is a call for sugar is likely something else:
Protein – eating protein-rich foods like clean, organic, pastured/grass fed meat, nuts, and plant-based sources gives your body a steady source of energy, therefore dampening signals for quick (empty) energy found in sweets.
Healthy Saturated Fat – adding coconut oil or grass-fed butter to your diet provides solid sustenance for your body and brain, which can help beat back cravings.
Omega-3s – a deficiency of alpha-linoleic-acids (ALAs or bioavailable omega-3s) can cause sweet foods to taste less sweet, which means you crave more of them to satisfy the flavor.3 Up your intake of flax, flaxseed oil (never heated), and walnuts to prevent this.
Water – dehydration can trigger sugar cravings; drink 12 ounces of water when your next craving hits. Or herbal teas can be a wonderful replacement during a craving. Chai with coconut creamer is a personal favorite.
Sleep – fatigue stresses your body, but the quick boost you seek in sugar only provides a temporary lift. Instead, take a 15-20 minute nap if lack of sleep is the culprit.
Exercise – moving your body (especially walking outside) helps keep cravings at bay because you get a potent hit of serotonin—a feel-good chemical that’s also released when you eat sugar. When a craving hits, go take a walk. Get some sunshine.
Love – cravings for sugar-laden comfort food often point to a psychological yearning for companionship. Spend more time socializing or engaging in your favorite activities and your cravings may fade.
Food for thought: Is it OK to give your kids a mainline of artificial food and sugar that is so highly addictive, we as parents, can't seem to kick it? All in the name of giving them "treats"? They're kids after all...they deserve it, right? Wrong.
We have been keeping a close eye and heightened awareness on our sugar consumption in our house recently. As parents, one of our biggest weaknesses with our kids is the thought of, "But they're kids; they can have treats!" We are by no means perfect, but awareness is the first step. By crowding out with good healthy "sweets" like fruits (not fruit juices) and sweet potatoes, we can teach our kids that good foods are treats as well.
And the real treat?
A long, healthy, productive life without chronic illness and disease.
Get the Sugar Out: 501 Simple Ways to Cut the Sugar Out of Any Diet, by Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., C.N.S.