We’ve all suffered through it: that mid-afternoon urge for a candy bar, or the blues that make us reach for a cupcake or brownie. Those strong sugar cravings that pack the power of all the Avengers rolled into one moment of weakness.
We’ve known for a while that sugar is a dieter’s worst nightmare, but everyday we’re learning more about how sugar is not only bad itself, but actively works against meeting your health and wellness goals. For instance, sugar:
- Is immediately stored as fat in the body, leading to weight gain and obesity.
- Causes blood sugar spikes, increasing the presence of insulin in your blood and leading to diabetes.
- Communicates with your brain and makes you crave more of the simple sweet stuff that leads to overeating and weight gain.
Researchers have determined that the chemicals in sugar communicate with the same parts of the brain as morphine and heroin. In fact, some studies actually indicate that sugar may be moreaddictive than cocaine!
The reason we suffer from such strong sugar cravings comes down to a hormone called leptin, which regulates your craving for sweet foods. Basically, when sugar is metabolized and stored as fat, it releases excessive amounts of leptin into your blood. Too much leptin, and you become resistant to it. Once that happens, your body has difficulty communicating to your brain that you aren’t hungry. Combine that with the sugar telling your brain that all you want is another Twinkie, and you end up eating even more sugar, which is stored as more fat, which releases more leptin. And so on and so on and so on.
So beating those strong sugar cravings is essential to living a healthy life and achieving and maintaining your goals. But as anyone who’s ever been addicted to anything—be it drugs, alcohol or cigarettes—will tell you, kicking an addiction is hard. While it certainly isn’t easy, here are a few tips to help you along the way.
- Say no to “low-fat” or “fat-free”: When trying to kick strong sugar cravings, you need to be label conscious. Pay extra attention to the sugar content of your favorite low-fat and fat-free foods. They may be doing you more harm than good.
- Don’t “sweeten” anything: The goal is to retrain your palate not to want sweet things. So adding sweetener, whether artificial or natural, is self-defeating.
- Exercise!: The endorphins released by exercise give you a feeling of wellbeing similar to that experienced when you pop a handful of M&Ms. The only difference is the high you get after exercising is for real. Time your workouts to when you crave a sweet snack.
- Make sure you eat: The best way to handle strong sugar cravings is to head them off at the pass. Eat balanced meals at regular intervals. For your mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks, go for a handful of nuts and some berries. The berries provide a bit of natural sweetness—not to mention fiber and antioxidants—while the nuts contain protein that will keep you fuller, longer.
As you know, living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy diet aren’t easy. It requires careful attention to the details of what you’re putting in your body. If you suffer from particularly intense cravings for certain foods—chocolate, for instance—it’s possible you’re suffering from a vitamin deficiency. Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet and you’re halfway to kicking your strong sugar cravings for good.
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