How to Kick Your Cravings to the Curb

What’s Wrong with Sugar?

I mean…it tastes SO good and makes us happy, doesn’t it?

Sugar was my BFF for years. Even though my family ate really healthy and sugar was hardly allowed in the house, it became my go-to as I got older and was able to access it on my own. We lived close to a convenience store called “The Little Store” back when one dollar went a long way! My sister and I and often neighborhood friends would ride our bikes down to the store and load up. One of those lunch sized paper bags they had would easily get pretty filled up with all the penny, nickel and dime candies a chubby little kid could handle.

Truth be told, as I went through the end of elementary school and into middle school my family went through some pretty rough times. Food, and especially sugar was my solace. I was very shy and really didn’t know how to deal with what was going on. There were many afternoons where a bowl full of homemade cookie dough was what got me through.

I am here to say that, as addictive as sugar is, it is also quite possible to let go of that relationship! I never thought I would be where I am now in terms of rarely having it and free of the control I felt it had over me. It may not be easy, bit its so very doable and worth it!

Table sugar, also called sucrose, is extracted from either sugar cane or beets and then refined. During the process, it is striped of its vitamins, minerals and fiber. It actually requires extra effort from the body to digest and assimilate. The body must deplete its own store of minerals and enzymes to absorb sucrose properly. Therefore, instead of providing the body with nutrition, refined sugar creates deficiencies.

Sugar has a lot of negative health impacts: it can suppress the immune system, weaken eyesight, cause hypoglycemia, cause weight gain, exacerbate arthritis, contribute to the development of osteoporosis, increase cholesterol, lead to prostate and ovarian cancer, contribute to development of diabetes, speed up skin aging, increase fluid retention, cause poor concentration, and lead to mood swings and depression. Sugar is also related to ADD and ADHD, in both adults and children.

If sugar causes us so much trouble, why are we still hooked? The reason is, sugar is an addictive substance, because:
1. Eating even a small amount creates a desire for more; and
2. Sudden quitting causes withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, mood swings, cravings and fatigue.

It is important to realize that sugar is an addictive substance – just like caffeine and even alcohol – because then psychologically you won’t blame yourself for being “weak” and give up when you try to “quit” and fall off the wagon. It’s not just about willpower – your cravings have a physical cause

Let’s talk about getting to the root cause of your cravings, and then you can wean off your intake gradually and painlessly.

Sugar Cravings Root Cause 

When it comes to sugar, it is not simply that we don’t have the willpower or discipline to control our cravings – there are some deeper, physiological and biological reasons behind our urge.

Let’s dig deeper to understand why we have those uncontrollable cravings, and what we can do to reduce them naturally and gradually over time. When we understand the reason behind those cravings, we have a much better chance to outsmart them and curb them using ways other than sugar.

 

Energy Quick Fix
Cravings for sugar or refined carbohydrates can happen when our body needs an energy fix. Our body can extract energy from sugar very quickly, and is therefore the “food of choice” when a quick fix is needed.

To avoid the need for an energy quick fix, eat for sustained energy. Eat meals that are low in glycemic load – whole unprocessed foods such as healthy fats, vegetables, and proteins are great choices. High fiber foods {veggies}, moderate the speed at which the sugar is absorbed by the body. Good fat and protein will slow down stomach emptying and increase satiety.

To support the body’s energy production, increase intake of foods rich in vitamin Bs – they are vital in our body’s energy production cycle. Good choices are grass fed beef, avocados, sunflower seeds, turkey breast, spinach, asparagus, eggs, liver, tuna, pork and dairy, to name a few. {Sounds like a well-balanced, whole foods approach to a good diet if you ask me!}

Dehydration
Cravings and fatigue can be caused by dehydration. Our body often misinterprets the sensation of thirst as hunger. Next time when you feel your cravings coming on, drink a glass of water, wait 15 minutes, and see if you are still hungry.

Nutrient Deficiency
Cravings can be a sign of nutrient deficiency. Cravings for different flavor or texture can translate to a lack of various nutrients. If you crave sugary food, you may look into deficiencies in chromium, sulfur and the amino acid tryptophan.

Chromium is abundant in brewer’s yeast, as well as beef, liver, rye, fresh chilies, oysters, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, green bell peppers, eggs, chickens, apples, butter, bananas, and spinach. Sulfur is readily available in protein foods – meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk and legumes are all good sources. Egg yolks are one of the best sources of sulfur. Tryptophan is an amino acid readily available in animal foods, eggs, dairy products, and some nuts and seeds, and is particularly rich in turkey meat.

Chromium supplement has been found to help some people suppress their sugar cravings.

Low Protein Intake
If you have a relatively low protein diet {and are not following a ketogenic or high fat/low carb approach} and tend to crave sugar and feel fatigue easily, try increasing your protein intake, or experiment with the type of protein in your diet.

Aside from meat, fish and milk, you can try nuts and seeds, good quality cheese {go for hormone free} in moderate amount, as well as eggs, full fat yogurt and beans. For vegetarians, and particularly vegan, pay more attention to food combining to get a complete protein profile from various plant sources.

Cravings can be a way that your body is telling you something. Honor your cravings by getting to the root cause of it, and find out what your body really needs. Here are some possible nutrient deficiencies associated with different kinds of food cravings, and healthy food choices that will provide the nutrients that may be lacking, helping you curb your cravings.

Bread/toast – Nitrogen – try high protein foods such as fish, meat, nuts, and beans.
Coffee or tea – Sulfur – try egg yolks, red peppers, muscle protein, garlic, onion, cruciferous vegetables.
Soda and other carbonated drinks – Calcium – try mustard and turnip greens, broccoli, kale, legumes, and cheese.
Salty foods – Chloride – try raw goat’s milk, fish, and unrefined sea salt.
Acid foods – Magnesium – try raw nuts and seeds, legumes, and fruits.
Cool drinks – Manganese – try walnuts, almonds, pecans, pineapple, and blueberries.
Cravings related to PMS – Zinc – try red meats (especially organ meats), seafood, leafy vegetables, and root vegetables.
Chocolate — Magnesium

[source: http://www.naturopathyworks.com/pages/cravings.php]

Lastly, remember that sleep and changing seasons are two big ones as well. When we are tired, we tend to gravitate toward foods that will excite our brains and help keep us awake, even if that means a crash later on. In the same sense, our bodies naturally want to slow down during the darker months of the year. If you don’t allow for extra rest, you will be fighting natural patterns in your body and will very likely experience certain food cravings when your body really just wants to rest and restore.

Jessica Parker
MA, Health Psychology
certified holistic health coach

 

 

 



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