So where do they crop up for you?
10am? 3pm? After lunch or dinner? Before your peroid? After a crummy day?
Sugar cravings - your body (or mind) engaging a strong desire for carbs or sugars. that has you dreaming of chocolate, doughnuts, pasta or bread, the consumption of which can often turn into a reality
And while many people common report sugar cravings, they aren't normal, and you don't have to live with them taking you on a daily blood-sugar rollercoaster, or hampering your efforts to eat a healthy diet.
A very useful and proactive way to look at sugar cravings is that they are a message from your body telling you that a metabolic imbalance is present, deficiencies in nutrients could be a factor, your diet may not be optimal for balanced and healthy blood sugar control, or that an addiction to sugar has firmly rooted itself within your brain pathways!
But whatever the cause, please don't think caving to sugar means you simply lack willpower or motivation - there is something at play here that we can look at some tools to combat.
So if its time to kick your sugar cravings for good, follow my 7 naturopathic tried-and-tested steps below which address the various causes and triggers of sugar cravings. I personally use them myself and also discuss them with my clients, who notice big reductions in their cravings even within a few shorts days!
Step #1 Cross-Examine Your Daily Carbohydrates & Sugars
To get started with a solid foundation, reflect on your daily or weekly intake of carbohydrate and sugar-rich foods/drinks.
Let the prompts below guide you. At each meal, do you consume?
Breakfast: Toast, cereal or oats, fruit, pastries or sugar in coffee?
Morning Tea: Muffin, biscuit/cookie or coffee?
Lunch: Crackers, wrap, sandwich, rice, pasta, soft drink, energy drink or iced tea?
Afternoon Tea: Chocolate, confectionary, fruit or baked goods?
Dinner: Pasta, rice, bread or soft drink
Dessert: Ice-cream, chocolate, lollies, confectionary or fruit?
Keep your tally in mind for the next steps!
Step #2 Understand Sugar & Carbohydrates
So I’m glad we’ve got an idea about how many carbohydrate and sugar-rich foods you may be consuming; now we’ve got an excellent foundation to work from. From this, it's really important to then understand what both of these are doing in the body.
The Difference Between Sugar & Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates: found in grains, legumes and starchy vegetables, and are complex molecules that are broken into glucose (sugar) by the body for energy.
Sugar, therefore, is the simplest form of carbohydrate, and can come in three different ways:
1. Glucose – the main energy source in the body, found in carbohydrate-containing foods and makes up 50% of white table sugar.
2. Fructose – the sugar found in fruit. It is difficult for the body to metabolise and is classically found in fruits but also makes up the other 50% of white table sugar.
3. Lactose – the sugar component of milk.
Therefore, sugars and carbohydrates can today be labelled either High GI or Low GI depending on the effect they have on your blood sugar levels. For example, red cordial would high a much higher GI than dark brown rye bread, as the simple sugars in the cordial in comparison to the complex carbohydrates in the rye bread will hit the bloodstream a lot faster.
Step #3 Meet Insulin
So once we’ve consumed our carbohydrate (which we know now includes sugars) rich food, the body metabolises them into simple sugars and passes them into the bloodstream. This signals the hormone insulin to be excreted, so it can come and examine the sugar level of the blood.
Insulin is the gatekeeper that decides where these sugars will go. It’ll shuttle some into cells to be used for energy, however, if there is an excess beyond what the cells need, Insulin triggers the conversion of the glucose into fat for storage. If we can balance this out with an optimal diet and exercise, this isn't necessarily an issue at all. However, if we continue to eat a diet rich in carbohydrates and sugar (which happens a lot in Western culture), you can see why we may not be calling on those stores anytime soon, and instead just continue to add to our waistline!
!!! CRUCIAL PLOT POINT !!!
Once the sugar has left the blood to be stored, and we haven't eaten in a little while, our blood sugar levels drop below normal levels.
The body, wanting to keep things stable and even, kicks in a massive alarm bell that tells you that it's low in sugar and it’s time to ingest some more.
This quite often takes the form of a sugar craving so the body can get a quick hit and equalise it’s blood sugar levels once more.
And so the cycle continues.
Sugar craving =
Sugar consumption =
Blood sugar spike =
Sugar/carbs stored as fat =
Blood sugar crash =
Step #4 Befriend Protein & Good Fats Instead
So, now we know that regardless of what carbohydrate or sugar you’re eating, they're going to be spiking our blood sugar levels, which inevitably leads to them crashing etc.
Something I’ve seen time and time again is how poorly and sapped of energy people feel from riding this perpetual sugar/carbohydrate rollercoaster, day in day out. This is a massive stress on the body +and is a huge double-edged sword: once we’re stressed we crave sugar and carbs for quick energy to burn!
Instead of sending your blood sugar through the roof, protein and good fats instead take longer to be digested by your stomach, which means they are broken down and enter your bloodstream slower. On top of this, as they don't contain sugars, they don't increase your blood sugar levels!
These two facets combine to mean that protein and good fats help to balance your blood sugar levels and provide you with a nourishing and long-lasting energy source.
It's like stepping off the rollercoaster and instead riding a bicycle on a long and flat path - calming and consistent!
Replacing your blood-sugar spiking carbs and sugars with protein and good fats can be done – and it feels great!
How do you do this? Well, you swap the carbohydrate and sugar-rich foods you reflected on in your diet in Step 1 out for foods rich in protein and good fats.
Full fat dairy,
It's actually very simple and quite easy once you get started. A nut-based granola for breakfast instead of cereal, almond butter and apple slices for morning tea instead of cookies, a salad with protein for lunch instead of a sandwich, hummus for afternoon tea instead of chocolate and meat and veggies for dinner over pasta! Doing this has a HUGE impact on balancing your blood sugar levels, and that in itself can dramatically reduce if not eliminate sugar cravings.
Step #5 Gather Your Support Team: Foods, Nutrients & Herbs That Regulate Blood Sugar
You can now think about supercharging your efforts with the below medicinal foods and nutrients, as they will also help you to regulate your blood sugar levels and keep those sugar cravings at bay!
Cinnamon: This delish spice has great evidence backing it’s ability to decrease blood sugar levels + enhances the action of insulin – the hormone that metabolises sugar. Sprinkle it on foods, in smoothies + use it in cooking/ baking.
Fibre: Slows the gastric emptying and quick digestion of a carbohydrate-rich meal, so included foods with ample fibre content can keep sugar entering the bloodstream at a steady and even rate. Win!
Chromium: This mineral aids the transport of glucose into cells, making it essential for carbohydrate metabolism and cells remaining strongly responsive to insulin.
Magnesium: A deficiency in this vital mineral has shown to aggravates insulin resistance (when cells become unresponsive to insulin) and elevates fasting blood glucose.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid: Works within every body cell to convert glucose into energy.
Gymnema: When taken on the tongue, this herb actually binds to sweet taste receptors, leaving you unable to taste sweet aspects of a food. Internally, it reduces the absorption of glucose, stimulates insulin secretion and is a tonic for the pancreas.
Fenugreek: This herb is great for anyone with insulin resistance or diagnosed diabetes, as it reduces absorption of glucose and mimics insulin, allowing cells to increase their response to glucose.
Step #6 Know The Great Carbs and
When it comes to eating carbohydrate-rich foods like grains, it makes a whole lot of sense to eat them in their least processed form as possible. As the closer the food is to its whole form, the more fibre and nutrients it will contain, which help to slow the breakdown of carbohydrates into the bloodstream, keeping that blood sugar level nice and even.
So, make brown rice, whole wheat, sweet potato, rye, spelt, quinoa and legumes your friends in place of their refined or processed forms every single time.
Additionally, when baking or cooking, natural sweetening agents such as raw honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, molasses or rice malt syrup will have a low GI reading, meaning they will not cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels as plain white will.
Step #7 Make It Easy For Yourself
If you know you'd eat anything with sugar in it come 3 pm (or after dinner, or morning tea time!), then it's time to replace that chocolate in your office drawer and ice cream in the fridge with your blood sugar friendly alternatives. You will feel so much better for it - your body will undoubtedly thank you.
So an excellent way to ensure you always have access to wholefood carbohydrates, healthy sweeteners and sources of protein and good fat is by knowing yourself and being prepared.
Is there isn't currently space in your morning schedule to be making big salads or wholefood lunches and snacks, show yourself and your sugar-craving-free goal some respect and self-love by doing some work beforehand to ensure you’ve got some blood sugar balancing meal and snack options ready to go.
This looks like trying some new snacks from a health food store/the health food aisle at Coles or Woolies, making up a healthier version of your favourite vice (ie. muffins or raw chocolate) or doing meal prep on a Sunday or Monday night so you know you won't have to resort to take away throughout the week.
Having new and friendlier options in your office drawers or pre-made snacks in the fridge is honestly the handiest thing in the world, and saves you another day of riding a roller coaster of sugar cravings and feel flat from eating sugary or carby foods.
So there we have it! My 7 steps for kicking your sugar cravings - part empowered education, part practical tips, I hope you know more fully understand what is happening within your body to trigger a sugar craving, and have some useful tools to implement for banishing them.
Let me know if you have any further questions below, I read and reply to all of them :-)
All my wishes for your health,