Have you ever wondered what a craving is? IT's pretty simple, a craving is your body's way of telling you you're lacking something.
Among all cravings, sugary ones can be particularly hard to handle.
Craving a glazed donut, a chocolate sundae or a red velvet cupcake doesn't mean you should eat any those.
Why? Because munching a sugary snack will soon make you crave for more sugary things. Simple/refined carbs satisfies hunger and give the body a short-term energy boost, but they as quickly leave you famished again, craving for more.
So how to control them? Here's a breakdown of what your sugar cravings really are and how to get a hang of them.
Why do we crave sugar?
There are many reasons why we want to reach for sugary stuff during the day. Most of the time because sugar, being a carbohydrate, stimulates the release of seratonin, the feel-good brain chemical. That’s not all, the taste of sugar also releases endorphins that calms and relax us, offering a natural "high”.
With all that going on, why wouldn’t we crave sugar? Also, sweets just taste good that is why we get easily addicted.
On a more scientific level, sugar cravings could implicate that our bodies are lacking chromium, carbon phosphorus, sulphur and/or tryptonphan, but let’s keep it simple here.
How to control them
The problem is not when we indulge in a sweet treat now and then, but when we over-consume sugar. That might happen easily because sugar is added to many processed foods such as breads, yogurt, juices, and sauces.
So what can we do about it?
- Reach for fruits or veggies: let’s not forget that sugar is a carb and carbs come in other forms as well such as whole grains, fruits and veggies. Keeping a fruit, some carrots or a celery stalk handy for when sugar cravings hit will do it. You'll also get some fiber and nutrients along and probably the craving will go away.
- Nuts, seeds and dried fruits: stock up on foods like nuts, seeds, and dried fruits and reach for them instead for the old sugary. Just be considered because those foods are energy dense thus pretty high in calories.
- At lunch/dinner eat foods that help stabilize your blood glucose levels for longer period of time: at mealtime choose foods that are high in fiber (both soluble and insoluble) such as sweet potatoes, legumes or green leafy veggies. They will help your body regulate your blood glucose levels for a longer period of time hence you’ll be less likely subject to sugar cravings.
- Make yourself some oatmeal: oatmeal is what I usually reach for when I have a craving. Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, meaning that it attracts fluid and stays in your stomach longer than insoluble fiber (like the one vegetables have) and will make you feel full for a longer time.
I recommend instant oatmeal for its convenience. I want you to buy the unsweetened, unflavored variety as preflavored oatmeal often comes loaded with sugars.
I like to make mine with water (instead of milk), diced apple, lots of cinnamon (that will regulate my blood glucose levels) and one teaspoon of stevia extract.
- Fat free Greek yogurt: that’s another option I resort to when I’m craving sweets. It’s low in calories, sugars and fat free but still tastes so unbelievably good. You can add some crashed nuts on top of it or mix it with berries if you want to mix flavors.
- Go for a walk: changing the scenery might be enough to take your mind off that sugary snack you wanted so badly.
- Have a bag of tricks to choose from: remember that one strategy might work one day but might fail the next one. The best thing is to have a whole range of tricks up your sleeves to resort to in case of need.
Cutting out all simple sugars works for some people, although at the beginning it might be tough.
For instance, my good friend and former roommate Alex V was completely hooked on sugars. I actually never met someone that was so sugar-depended. However, as part of a diet she followed before her wedding, she went off sugars and refined carbs for almost 4 months. She suffered (not in silence, if I may add) but she did it. It was ruff at the beginning but somehow she survived. Sometime she went off the righteous path (such as one night when she “secretly” ate a slice of chocolate-pear cake) but in the end she got off sugars and was much better off.
Of course, on the day of her wedding she rewarded herself with a huge slice of chocolate cake but at your wedding you’re allowed to eat/do whatever you want, am I right?
The Iron You