If you’re looking to lead a healthier lifestyle by cutting your sugar intake, here are a few tips shared by Dr. Hilary Chambers, ND on how to curb sugar cravings.
How much sugar are you eating daily?
Where is sugar hiding?
- Barbecue sauce and dressings: a 2 tbsp of barbecue sauce can have 11 grams of sugar
- Protein bars: one bar can have 22 grams of sugar
- “Healthy” smoothies: one banana has about 17 grams of sugar
- Juicing and juice cleanses: one juice can have 30 grams of sugar or more
3 ways to curb your sugar cravings
When you’re looking to cut back on sugar, it’s important to understand why you might be experiencing cravings in the first place.
Reason #1: Low energy levels
When we’re tired, our bodies seek out ways of boosting energy. The fastest way to make energy is by using sugar circulating in the bloodstream (glucose), and the fastest way to get them there is by eating simple sugars.
Solution #1: Understand why you’re tired and fix it.
Consider improving your sleep quality and or sleep quantity. It also means investigating other common underlying causes of fatigue, like dehydration (so simple, but so true!), nutrient deficiencies, or having an under-active thyroid.
Reason #2: Emotional eating and boredom
When we eat sugar, our brain releases a hormone called dopamine, which is our reward hormone. Research shows that over time this response becomes diminished, so that we need more and more sugar to get the same dopamine or “feel good” response.
Another source of emotional eating is often because treats were used to reward us as children or are associated with happy memories. We often seek out sweets as a way to comfort or reward ourselves as part of this learned behaviour from a young age.
Solution #2: Mindfulness
The key lies in recognizing these patterns so that they no longer have a hold over us. For the person who eats for comfort, it might be recognizing that and then engaging in positive self-talk, or finding another activity to release dopamine like going for a walk or hugging your partner/child/pet. For the person who reaches for sugar out of habit or boredom, try using a smaller bowl and eat one bite at a time, trying to savour each bite.
Reason #3: Blood sugar crashes
When we eat simple carbohydrates (foods that are easily broken down into sugars), our bodies digest them quickly and then dump a large amount of glucose (sugar) into the system all at once. This causes a spike in blood sugar, and a subsequent release of insulin to help metabolize the circulating sugars.
This will lead to a blood sugar crash and our bodies crave sugar again to boost these low blood sugar levels. The higher the high, the lower the low, and the stronger the craving after each crash.
Solution #3: Balance blood sugar
A good way of keeping blood sugar stable is to incorporate fat, fibre, and protein with every meal and every snack. These three macronutrients are harder for the body to break down, so they slow down what’s called our “gastric emptying time” or time to empty food from the stomach.
This means that instead of a quick spike and subsequent crash, it’s a slow-release of fuel into the bloodstream, with a lower insulin release, and slower utilization of circulating fuel. This prevents the crash from happening, and we avoid the subsequent sugar craving altogether.