Sugar cravings, an issue that a vast majority of people struggle with on a daily basis. As we all know sugar is detrimental to our health, and is a main cause for many diseases; such as diabetes, as well as making our bodies susceptible to cancer.
Why do we crave sugar?
Simply when sugar is consumed a message is immediately sent to our brain releasing dopamine, which is a natural chemical leading to feelings of pleasure and happiness.
Dopamine drops when blood sugar declines resulting in fatigue, leading to craving more sugar to increase the blood sugar levels. This cycle results in the addictive behavior of constantly craving sugary foods.
Research has also shown that when sugar is consumed it has the same effect as cocaine on our brain, which explains the addictive behavior caused by sugar consumption.
There are many different reasons that contribute to sugar cravings; such as:
–Adrenal fatigue where the body is overworked; so sugar temporarily supplies the body with an energy boost, to overcome this fatigue.
–Bacterial overgrowth in the gut, yeast “candida”, and parasites already present in the stomach already feed off sugar; so the more sugar is consumed the more these organisms increase and throws our system off balance.
–Hormonal changes in women, such as PMS and pregnancy. These changes lead to sugar and simple carbohydrates cravings, such as: chips, cookies and chocolate as these foods provide comfort; hence being given then name “comfort foods”.
–Mineral deficiencies; specifically zinc which results in low insulin levels, magnesium which results in chocolate cravings, as well as vanadium and chromium. Frequent dieters usually face such deficiencies, which eventually leads to sugar cravings and weight gain. It is best to consume foods containing those minerals, or take supplements to replenish the body and help curb those cravings.
|Which foods to eat
|Toxicity is likely to occur, if intake exceeds 40 mg.
-Oysters & lobster
|-Women: 8 mg
-Pregnant women: 11 mg
-Men: 11 mg
|If you suffer from kidney problems, take muscle relaxants or osteoporosis medications, please consult a physician.
|-Women: 320 mg
-Men: 420 mg
|If the upper tolerable limit is exceeded it becomes toxic. Consult your physician if you suffer from kidney problems, take diabetic medications, have high cholesterol or suffer from anemia.
|-Women & Men:
-Upper tolerable limit: 1.8 mg
|Do not exceed the RDI, as excess chromium can interfere with blood sugar control, cause irregular heartbeats and liver damage. Also refer to your physician if you take any medications.
|-Women: 20-25 mcg
-Pregnant / breastfeeding women: 30 mcg
Men: 30-35 mcg-
*RDI: Recommended daily intake
Tips to control sugar cravings:
-Avoid processed foods.
-Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
-Replace white sugar with natural sweeteners, like stevia which has zero calories and tastes sweeter than sugar.
-Increase serotonin levels “happiness hormone”; by eating a balanced diet, which includes: eggs, cheese, salmon, nuts and turkey. It is also advised to exercise regularly, and maintain a proper sleeping schedule.
-Replace simple and refined carbohydrates (white bread, white pasta, and rice) with complex carbohydrates (ex: oats, whole-grain bread, brown rice, baladi bread) to keep blood glucose levels in check and curb the cravings.
-Consume enough green vegetables.
-Consume lean protein every meal.
-Consume foods rich in probiotics daily; such as: yoghurt, rayeb milk, miso, some types of cheese (Gouda, cottage cheese, mozzarella and cheddar). Another option would be taking a probiotic supplement. It has been found that probiotics balance the bacterial flora in the gut, which results in a drastic decrease in sugar cravings.
-Avoid carbonated drinks, as they are full of sugar.
– Avoid fat free foods, as they are loaded with sugar to compensate for the taste.
-Make sure to consume 2 healthy snacks a day between your main meals. Examples of a healthy snack would be:
-1 cup low-fat rayeb milk + handful of raw almonds
-1 cup green tea + 2 small dark chocolate squares (85% cocoa)
-200g low-fat yoghurt + 1/2 cup strawberry slices + 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
Added sugar shouldn’t make up more than 5% of the total daily calorie intake, obtained from food and drinks. Below is the maximum daily allowance of sugar intake, for both women and men.
– Women: 6 teaspoons (24g.) of sugar / day.
-Men: 9 teaspoons (36g.) of sugar / day.