By Dr. Joey Shulman, D.C., RNCP
Do you suffer from sweet tooth syndrome? Do you crave something sweet after eating your meals? If so, you are not alone. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the average North American consumes approximately 20 teaspoons of sugar per day! This translates to 7,300 teaspoons of sugar per year! Unfortunately, over-consumption of refined sugars is a one-way ticket to weight gain and fatigue. There is, however, a way to curb your sugar cravings naturally, enjoy the occasional sweet treat and still lose weight successfully.
Find your balance
Sugar cravings are often an indication that the body is not balanced biochemically. Refined sugars often sneak into the diet without consumers being aware. Refined sugars are found in cookies, cakes and candy, and in less obvious items, such as cereal, ketchup and peanut butter.
Learn to read
Become an informed label reader to detect if a food product contains a large amount of sugar. If you see an ingredient that ends in "ose", it is probably a form of sugar. Common sugars are sucrose, dextrose, lactose, maltose, fructose and high fructose corn syrup. Ingredients are listed in order from most to least; therefore, if you see sucrose as the first ingredient the food contains more sucrose (table sugar) than any other ingredient in the product.
Why Do Sugar Cravings Happen?
The rise and fall of blood sugar levels is one of the main causes of sugar cravings. For example, if a sugary cookie is eaten, blood glucose (sugar) levels are elevated. The pancreas secretes the hormone insulin to transport the blood glucose into the cells. Unfortunately, if the diet is filled with refined sugars, the body will secrete too much insulin, dropping blood sugar levels too low. Low blood sugar, otherwise called hypoglycemia, causes feelings of fatigue, fogginess, headaches and irritability. In order to counteract these feelings, the brain signals the body to crave more sugar to once again bring up the levels of glucose in the blood. Grabbing another sugary treat such as a cookie, chocolate chip muffin or cappuccino will indeed raise blood sugar levels, but will also start the vicious cycle all over again.
The eat sugar-craving-eat sugar cycle causes you to eat extra calories and gain weight. If you are looking for a sweet treat as an occasional indulgence (see the 80/20 Rule), refer to our list of hormonally balanced desserts that do not elevate blood sugar levels and help to keep energy up!
Tips to Counteract the Cravings
The following tips will help you to cut back on your sugary treats and finally put an end to those powerful cravings.
1. Fat, protein and fiber put the brakes on blood sugar levels, controlling the amount of insulin secreted. In order to ensure your diet is properly balanced with fat, protein and fiber (the 40:30:30 Method of Eating), refer to Truestar's tasty meal plans.
2. Take your favorite sweet juice and water it down (¾ of the glass water, ¼ juice). This will help to satisfy your sweet craving without adding too many excess calories.
3. Try berry herbal teas, such as raspberry, blueberry or strawberry, after a meal. Not only will they help to eliminate cravings, they will aid with digestion.
4. Freeze small squares of dark chocolate and eat only one per day following a meal or when a craving strikes. Current research shows that a small amount of dark chocolate per day has antioxidant benefits that can protect the heart.
5. When craving something sweet, try chewable vitamin C. In addition to pumping up your immune system, vitamin C has been shown to be effective at curbing cravings.
6. In addition to chewable vitamin C, other supplements to help you ease off sugar are chromium, magnesium and vitamin B complex. See the Truestar Vitamin section for more information on vitamins and supplements.