To kick things off with some ‘sweet’ news, if you find yourself craving sugar, don’t worry; absolutely everyone experiences some degree of sugar cravings during their lives.
Sugar, with its sweet taste and pleasant flavour, can have addictive properties that make it difficult to resist for everyone. One reason sugar is addictive is its impact on the brain's reward system. When we consume sugar, it triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This dopamine release creates a pleasurable sensation, reinforcing the desire to consume more. Over time, the brain can become desensitised to the effects of sugar, leading to a need for larger quantities to achieve the same level of satisfaction, much like with other addictive substances, including drugs.
Unfortunately, sugar can also influence our body's hormonal balance, specifically affecting the hormone leptin, which regulates hunger and satiety – the feeling of being full. High sugar consumption can disrupt the normal functioning of leptin, leading to decreased sensitivity to the hormone. This can result in an increased appetite and cravings for more sugar, creating a vicious cycle of overeating and further reinforcing the addictive behaviour. Furthermore, consuming sugar can trigger fluctuations in blood sugar levels, leading to energy crashes and subsequent cravings for sugary foods, perpetuating the addictive cycle.
However, there are simple ways to address these cravings. Below are four actionable tips you can start today that will minimise your sugar cravings:
Consider the TIMING of your meals. Start the day with a breakfast that is not sugary and then aim to eat every three to four hours including protein and vegetable with each meal and snack. We usually see weight gain from incorrect timing because our metabolism slows down and we start to store food as a safety mechanism to have a ‘reserve’ knowing a ‘famine’ is ahead. Unchecked fasting for numerous waking hours can lead to you becoming over hungry and then of course craving easy, convenient, unhealthy options!
Secondly, monitor the TYPE of food intake; carbohydrates are the prioritised macronutrients to prevent and treat sugar cravings, therefore choose natural, high fibre carbohydrates that provide long lasting energy and stablise moods, for example Low GI rather than fast releasing high GI naturally sugary carbs. These can include fruits and vegetables, beans, unprocessed grains, pasta, low-fat dairy foods, and nuts.
Again, VEGETABLES make the list as are present a key tactic in fighting sugar cravings due to their low-calorie content and high activation of digestive enzymes that increase metabolism.
Aim to freely include a variety of predominantly green vegetables throughout the day to counter sugar cravings and maintain low blood sugar levels. Veges will satisfy our cravings and still maintain calorie control.
Lastly, consider your SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT; it’s hard to stay strict when you are constantly surrounded by temptations. If you can’t control your cravings just yet, eat a protein rich snack before going out so you can feel satiated longer, and then just join in by snacking on something small while socialising.