Did you know that the same brain regions are activated whether we’re craving sugar or heroin? Sugar is one of the most addictive foods because it triggers the release of natural opioids. In fact, refined sugars may be even more addictive than cocaine. Causes of sweet cravings vary, but certainly adrenal insufficiency, hormonal imbalances, poor diets, and eating disorders are major contributing factors. How can we combat these sweet cravings? Here are a few strategies to address this issue.
- Eat more protein and fat at every meal. Protein is the macronutrient responsible for blood sugar regulation. Both protein and fat make us feel more satiated. This is especially important if you’re suffering with blood sugar problems, such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or diabetes.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners, as these only exacerbate sugar cravings. Believe it or not, studies have shown that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame can stimulate your appetite, increase carbohydrate cravings, and stimulate fat storage and weight gain.
- Substitute fruits for sweets (but don’t go overboard). The sugars in fruits are digested differently than refined sugar in candy and processed foods. Fruits contain fiber, which slows down the absorption of glucose. They also contain vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and phytonutrients, which can help to counteract the negative metabolic effects of fructose and glucose. While all this is true, the bottom line is that fruits contain sugar, and when over consumed, can cause the very sweet cravings we’re trying to avoid. Anyone who already is suffering with blood sugar problems should limit their intake of fruit.
- Drink some water with 1-3 ozs. of fresh lemon or lime juice. Typically drinking something sour will relieve the sugar craving in minutes.
- Don’t keep sweets and processed foods in the house. If they’re not available, you won’t be tempted.
- Focus on something else – go for a walk, read, plan a project, etc. When we redirect our focus, the craving will subside. Exercise, in particular, offers a second bonus. It will release endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals in your brain, which can squelch the craving.