When you’re feeling that afternoon slump, does a sugar boost often greet you in the form of a soft drink, candy bar, or pastry?
When life gets challenging, do you tend to reach for something sweet to boost your mood?
I know I used to use sugar as my go-to mood and energy booster for years, and my propensity to reach for something sugary was mainly subconscious- meaning, I would be close to finished with that pint of Ben and Jerry's before I realized I had almost scarfed the whole thing. I love sugar. I don't think this desire will ever go away for me as it was a huge part of my life up until I hit my mid-20s.
When I was in my 20s, I had a sugar drawer full of candy and lollipops- That's how serious I was in my relationship with refined sugar. I never thought about the damage it was doing to my liver, pancreas, and vascular system at the time, and often wonder if I had been educated on the effects sugar has on the endocrine system if I would not develop PCOS. Alas, I am grateful to have learned that refined sugar such as that in this lollipop has zero nutritional value. Once diagnosed with PCOS, I knew I had to cut sugar from my diet for good.
First, I would like to address why we crave sugar in the first place.
According to science, human beings are hardwired to crave sugar from birth. Carbohydrates are the brain’s preferred fuel source for energy generation because carbohydrates are broken down and converted to glucose- a viable and quick source of efficient energy. Carbohydrates, namely simple carbs, also stimulate the production of serotonin (mainly manufactured in the GI tract by bacteria), leading to an elevated mood and an increase in energy. The taste of sugar also leads to the release of endorphins and dopamine which stimulates the same chemical responses as opiates. It is no shock that sugar is considered as addictive as some narcotics and has even been studied with cocaine addiction.
So, what can we do to curb sugar cravings?
Five Tips To Curb Sugar Cravings
1. Moderation! The 80/20 rule is an excellent place to start when we become increasingly attached to and crave sugary foods and drinks. The more we consume sugar, the more we strengthen those neural pathways in our brains that are becoming dependent on the chemical release of dopamine and endorphins, which increases aka reinforces cravings.
2. Make your sugar consumption count! It’s almost impossible to eat entirely sugar-free these days, so instead of attempting to remove it from your life, find healthier swaps such as switching from refined white sugar to a less advanced version and one that is lower on the glycemic index (food lists that influence blood glucose levels). Some healthy white sugar alternatives include
• Coconut sugar
• Maple syrup
• Monk fruit
3. Beware of artificial sweeteners. Consuming large amounts of artificial sweeteners like aspartame and erythritol is linked to adverse health consequences and can also trick the body’s ghrelin levels (a hormone that stimulates appetite) into believing it is still hungry.
4. Eat regularly throughout the day and balance macronutrients in whole food form by consuming healthy protein, carbohydrate, and fat sources. This will help the body receive all the proper nutrients while keeping blood sugar levels stable- thereby reducing the likeliness that sugar cravings will arise.
5. Stop using sugary foods as rewards! This sets the mind up for failure due to processes explained in step one. Food is fuel and shouldn’t be used to reward ourselves or our children. This behavior has been associated with the development of eating disorders like binge eating and bulimia.
I am curious about what methods you use to curb your sugar cravings. I would love to hear!
For further information or to add to the topic, please comment below.