11 Tips on How To Stop Sugar Cravings
Sugar has been called a substance that is more than or just as addictive as cocaine. Although not all experts agree there is such a thing as sugar addiction, the consensus is that the brain is hardwired for pleasure, and sugar is a major pleasure, associated with significant cravings.
One doctor who believes there is such a thing as sugar addiction is Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, author of Beat Sugar Addiction Now. Based on his more than 30 years’ experience working with patients, he states that “There are changes in our metabolism, in the stress hormones, that drive us to eat sugar. I would classify it as an addiction.”
Even experts who don’t think people can become addicted to sugar believe that our love affair with sugar is a huge problem and is associated with heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other serious health problems. Since babies are introduced to a sweet taste (in breast milk) at birth and parents typically nurture the desire for sweets by introducing sugary foods and beverages (especially fruit juices) early in life, it’s easy to see how sugar cravings are born.
The fact that processed foods often contain sugar in some form (e.g., high fructose corn syrup) and are a major part of many people’s diet makes the quest to beat sugar cravings a challenge. So what can you do to help stop sugar cravings?
Tips to stop sugar cravings
- Banish artificial sweeteners. Use of artificial sweeteners may save you some calories in the short-run, but they can increase your craving for sugary foods. To make matters worse, artificial sweeteners have been associated with allergic reactions, neurotoxicity, cancer, and other health issues.
- Chew, chew, chew. How many times do you chew your food before swallowing? Chances are, not enough. You need to chew your food thoroughly—30 to 50 times depending on the food. This allows your digestive enzymes to better break down starches into sugar. When you eat whole, natural foods and chew them well, you will begin to appreciate their natural sweetness. You also will enjoy better digestion!
- Try L-glutamine. This amino acid supplement has demonstrated some impact on alcohol and sugar cravings. Talk to a knowledgeable healthcare provider before taking this supplement.
- Eat more protein. Cravings for sugar rise as intake of protein falls. Including some protein at each meal (and snacks as well) can ward off the desire for sugar as well as make you feel more satisfied, since protein takes longer to metabolize than sugar.
- Consume real food. Real food is whole, natural foods and not refined, processed products, which often contain sugars as well as artificial ingredients. People who eat a lot of sugary foods can become accustomed to lots of sweetness, which dulls the taste buds. As you gradually reduce the amount of added sugar in your diet, you allow your taste buds to get reacquainted with real food.
- Get adequate sleep. Research has shown that sleep deprivation is associated with gaining weight and sugar cravings.
- Drink more water. Drinking water can help suppress sugar cravings. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, squeeze some lemon into your stainless steel water bottle and bring it along with you!
- Fill up on vegetables. When you eat lots of nonstarchy veggies, such as leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, mushrooms, and the cruciferous group, you will feel satisfied because they provide lots of fiber, complex carbs, and water. Limit your intake of starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, beets, and winter squash.
- Celebrate natural sugars. Instead of reaching for a candy bar or pint of ice cream, grab a piece of fruit. You can make your natural sweet experience more enticing by trying frozen grapes and berries, or whipping up frozen bananas into an ice cream-like dessert.
- Be physical. Exercise—especially something you enjoy doing—is a great way to fight sugar cravings. If the overwhelming desire hits while you are work or somewhere else where you can’t get away to dance, jog, swim, play tennis, or walk, stretch at your desk or at your work station.
- Destress. Experiencing a sugar craving can be stressful, so pull the plug by practicing something soothing, such as deep breathing, meditation, progressive relaxation, yoga, tai chi, or visualization. Some people burst into song, watch funny videos on their tablet or phone, or listen to favorite music.
ABC News. Is your sweet tooth an addiction?
Hyman Mark MD. Top 10 big ideas: how to detox from sugar.
LiveScience. Is sugar a drug? Addiction explained.
Simpson CW et al. Glycyl-L-glutamine injected centrally suppresses alcohol drinking in P rats. Alcohol 1998 Aug; 16(2): 101-7
University of California, Berkeley. Sleep deprivation linked to junk food cravings.
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