Highly refined sugar, in the form of table sugar or high fructose corn syrup, is kryptonite to optimal health. Your energy, immune system, metabolism, hormones and inflammatory markers are all negatively affected. The overwhelming availability of this ingredient in the developed world has given rise to obesity and diabetes.
With increased sugar intake, the signs of aging, weight gain, fatigue, bone loss, poor sleep, mental fatigue and depression escalate. Key nutrients, such as magnesium and calcium, can also be lost by consuming refined sugars.
Believe it or not, sugar cravings have been described by some as similar to those for highly addictive drugs. Optimal health, and the restriction of these foods, requires a dedication to better nutrition. The following tips will help limit cravings and sugar intake.
- Get adequate amounts of protein. Many people make the mistake of focusing on sweets, breads and starches before considering their protein. For those with significant sugar cravings, make an effort to include more protein in the diet. For animal sources, choose free-range and hormone-free options. Fish should be wild-caught to decrease the intake of pollutants. Black beans and chickpeas provide an inexpensive, toxin-free protein source.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Focus on more protein and vegetables in a more programmed structure. Plan the week’s meals. Don’t allow yourself to graze on junk food. Instead, incorporate a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack consisting of things like vegetables and hummus, or organic nut butter on sprouted grain bread. Vegetable and protein-based meals, without refined sugars, should foster weight loss.
- Consider chromium. This mineral is used to help the body balance blood sugar. Studies have shown that many patients found it also helped lower sugar cravings. The effective dosage range is 600-1,000 mcg a day, in divided doses, with meals. Chromium is generally well tolerated, but please use caution if you have a history of hypoglycemia or take insulin. Chromium may lower blood sugar, so diabetics who require insulin should monitor their blood sugar closely.
- Check thyroid function. Low thyroid activity may contribute to sugar cravings. Signs of this condition include dry skin, fatigue, cold hands and feet, brain fog, constipation and hair loss. Thyroid function can be checked using simple blood tests under the care of a physician. Thyroid function can be affected by low levels of selenium and zinc.
- Out of sight, out of mind. Cravings will always be stronger if sugar is accessible and there is nothing else to eat. Avoid keeping sweet things at work and in the kitchen, and don’t put sweets in the shopping cart. Instead, have plenty of healthy snacks available to help satisfy your appetite.
- Take vitamin B complex. B vitamins help feed the adrenal gland, which has many functions. One of the most important is assisting in the body’s response to stress. Stress drives sugar cravings, especially as the adrenal gland becomes more fatigued. B vitamins are very well tolerated.
- Opt for dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has antioxidant properties that are showing promise in helping the heart and arteries. Look for a brand with at least 70 percent cocoa content. The higher this percentage, the healthier the chocolate. Enjoy in moderation by itself or dipped in organic almond butter.
- Make the decision. Health does not dramatically change until you decide it should. As your sugar intake declines, your preference for whole, nutritious foods will increase. A healthy weight, mental sharpness and optimal aging are the sweet rewards for your efforts.
What about artificial sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners like SplendaTM may actually increase sugar cravings and should be avoided.
What about more natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup?
The body is going to handle these sweeteners in much the same way it does highly refined sugars. If you have a craving, these are preferred, along with the natural sweetener stevia. Always enjoy in moderate amounts. Remember, the more you feed yourself with unsweetened, natural foods, the less you will crave the sweet stuff.