Sugar can be a nasty thing for your body that impact both physical and mental health. Sugar in excess in the body may lead to obesity, diabetes, cancer, suppressed immune function, skin problems digestive disorders and blocks the absorption of essential nutrients in the body.
Sugar is very addictive. Cutting out sugary snacks can take some time if it has been a regular presence in your life, and for many it's best to go cold turkey. Have faith that you can do it, even though it can feel hard at first changing your habits for the better.
Here are some of my top tips to reducing your sugar cravings and helping you reduce sugar in your diet:
TIP 1: Stabilise blood sugar levelsStart treating the problem at its cause. People on a blood sugar roller coaster find it hard to control their appetite and portion sizes. Maintaining your blood sugar within a narrow range will help you eliminate your cravings. How you can do this? Here are ways:
- Exercise Regularly.
- Eat fresh foods and avoid junk and processed foods in your diet that hide lots of sugar.
- Eat a low GIycemic-load diet or choose low GI food alternatives. You can lower the GI-load by 1) Having protein as part of your meals 2) Chose high fibre and low carb vegetable options 3) Balance out your meals with healthy fats
- Increase Your Fibre Intake. Even add in a fibre supplement to your routine
- Drink plenty of water
- Always have healthy low-calorie snack alternatives ready to go
- Don’t skip meals
- Plan your meals in advance. Make your own meal plan to help you stay in control
TIP 2: Get sufficient sleep and reduce stress
The stress-sugar connection often come down to poor sleep quality or lack of sleep due to stress. When we lack sleep, or have poor sleep quality, our bodies produce more of the hormone ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone that controls our cravings for carbohydrates like sugar. It’s a way for our body to compensate- since it didn’t get the rest it needed, it will consume high energy food to wake up!
Leptin is another hormone that is affected by poor sleep. Leptin stimulates satiety and the feeling of being full, and when the body doesn’t get enough rest it wants to eat more instead.
TIP 3: Adequate levels of minerals like Magnesium, Calcium, Zinc and ChromiumSugar blocks the absorption of essential minerals which may lead to further elevated sugar cravings. Increase foods high in these micronutrients or take as a supplement.
- Magnesium can help you with insulin sensitivity and aid with sleep and muscle soreness after training. Poor insulin health trigger sugar cravings. High magnesium foods include darkleafy greens, seeds, beans, whole grains, fish, nuts, dark chocolate, yogurt, avocados, bananas and more.
- Calcium is depleted by a diet high in sugar- calcium can be found in foods such as Spinach, Kale Okra, Collards, Soybeans, White beans and some fish-like sardines, salmon, perch, and rainbow trout.
- Zinc is needed for proper insulin and glucose utilization and a deficiency can also lead to cravings of sugar. Find zinc in seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts pumpkin seeds, garlic, sesame seeds, chickpeas, squash seeds, watermelon seeds
- Chromium is a trace mineral needed in smaller amounts by the body. Low chromium levels lead to carb craving due to blood sugar problems. Lack of chromium can also lead to elevated cholesterol, metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Food sources including chromium include Meat, Cheese, Black pepper and thyme
TIP 4: Eat enough calories but of the right types of foods, and chose foods that will keep you fuller for longer
Under-eating can lead to extreme bursts of hunger which makes portion sizing and staying away from sugar difficult. Consuming too little calories will also push your body into survival mode and make it hold on to fat. But you need to eat the right type of foods. Eat as much fresh food as possible and limit empty calories that are low in nutrients.
- Protein is the most thermogenic macronutrient, meaning that you use the most energy to break it down in comparison to the other macronutrients. You will also feel fuller for longer and can help you control your blood sugar levels and help with bad food cravings.
- Healthy fats will help with feeling fuller for longer and minimize damage from free radicals in the body. It sounds strange- but good fats will help you lose fat! It will also help you build lean muscle mass, aid with memory function and support a healthy immune system. Some healthy sources of healthy fats include: Almonds, Walnuts, Avocado, Flaxseed oil, Salmon
- High Fibre carbohydrate choices helps you keep fuller for longer which will help you manage your food intake and resist from grabbing the sugary alternatives. Get your fibre from colourful salads, fresh fruits and berries, roasted vegetables, beans, wholegrain products etc.
TIP 5: Supplementing amino acids to reduce cravings: Glutamine, Tyrosine and 5-HTPGlutamine, tyrosine and 5-HTPare amino acids that help reduce sugar cravings. You can increase foods that contain these or take as a supplement.
- 5-HTP is an amino acid normally produced in the body. Low levels of the brain chemical serotonin induce cravings. Serotonin is produced in the body and 5-HTP is an important step in the process of becoming serotonin. However, insulin resistance or excess cortisol blocks the conversion of tryptophan to 5-HTP before it can be converted into serotonin. Supplementing the amino acid 5-HTP has been shown to help with production of serotonin and help with sugar cravings. Alternatively, you can supplement saffron extract as it has similar effects.
- Glutamine is an amino acid that acts as an energy source for the brain. It can help with your cravings for sugar and can treat the desire for carbs associated with decreased mood or sugar addiction. Glutamine can help remove obsessive thoughts about food and therefor help you tackle your cravings
- Tyrosine is an amino acid and a building block of protein. Tyrosine has been shown to encourage the brain to release the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine which help avoid cravings. When less dopamine is stimulated, sugar cravings naturally kick in to compensate. You can find tyrosine in eggs, Spirulina, cheese, milk and sesame seeds.
TIP 6: Vitamin B Complex Supplement
Vitamin B complex vitamin boost to the adrenal system which decrease cravings for sugar. Especially Biotin and Riboflavin are important as too much sugar in your diet can block the absorption of these vitamins.
Biotin supports the metabolism of your macronutrients and can be found in eggs, beans, cauliflower, banana, mushrooms.
Riboflavin aids in the metabolism of fat and lack of it leads to sluggish fat burning. You can find it in food such as Asparagus, Banana, Meat, Eggs, Green beans, Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Almonds
TIP 7: Spices and herbs that help your sugar cravings
Use natures medicine and incorporate herbs and spices in your cooking that help curb sugar cravings
Cinnamon can naturally help with sugar cravings. It’s loaded with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and polyphenols that help reduce sugar cravings by controlling blood glucose levels. Use it in smoothies, sprinle on fruit, vegetables or in your coffee.
- Fenugreek is another herb that can be used to control blood sugar and sugar cravings effectively. Add ground seeds to spice blends, tea blends, or on vegetables.
- Cloves help with sugar cravings by boosting blood sugar regulating properties. Use in tea, on vegetables, in sauces and marinades.
- Ginseng help boost the immune system, relieve stress, reduce the risk of certain cancers, improve mental performance and help with sugar cravings.
- Other herbs and spices good for sugar cravings include:
TIP 8: Apple Cider vinegar part of your routine
Apple cider vinegar can help with sugar cravings. Its contains acetic acid which has antimicrobial properties that may help with glucose and insulin resistance. Have a teaspoon in a glass of water with some squeezed lemon first thing in the morning/ mix in in your large water bottle to sip on throughout the day or sprinkle on your salad for extra zest.
TIP 9: Find healthy alternatives and stay prepared
Finding alternatives to snacks high in refined sugars will help you stay on track! Chose fresh foods and low carbohydrate options like carrots, celery or if you really crave a sweet taste opt for berries or high fibre dates. Sipping on amino acids also tends to help me keep away from sugary snacks.
TIP 10: Reduce Alcohol consumption
Alcohol should only be consumed in moderation- it stimulates your hunger and inhibits your body to break down and digest nutrients in your foods effectively. Alcohol will induce sugar cravings. Try to pick nights of drinking wisely, take the car fr a change or challenge yourself to not drink for a few weeks whilst getting rid of your bad sugar habits.