It’s no secret added sugar is everywhere these days. It’s not just found in places you’d expect, like typical sweet foods. Sugar is in everything from condiments to pasta sauces. Even people who strive to eat a healthy diet are starting to experience unusual cravings for sweets.
Why is that? We don’t just crave sugar because it tastes good. It can actually be physically addicting. It activates opiate receptors in our brain, affecting the reward center. Every time you consume sugar, you activate these neural pathways. As a result, your brain becomes hardwired to crave sugar.
While the occasional candy bar as a treat isn’t particularly bad for you, regularly overindulging on added sugar can have serious effects on your overall health. Too much cane sugar increases your risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and more.
Giving up sugar – or even cutting back – can be challenging, especially as so much food contains hidden sugars. Even allegedly healthy foods, like whole wheat breakfast cereals and Greek yogurt, are often loaded with cane sugar. You may be training your brain to crave sugar without even realising it.
Eliminating sugar from your diet is no easy task. Due to sugar’s addictive properties, it’s about more than just willpower. Luckily, however, there are plenty of foods that stop sugar cravings by triggering similar responses in your brain. Below, we’ll talk over some foods to add to your diet if you’re looking to eliminate or cut back on sugar.
Eat More Fruit
Fruits are high in natural sugars so they can help satiate your sweet tooth without the same poor health effects. Plus, fruits also contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants – all of which boost your overall health.
Fruits with high natural sugars, like mangoes and grapes, can be a great substitute when you first begin to wean yourself off sugar.
Berries are also a good sugar substitute as they’re easy to snack on and have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
However, keep in mind that even natural sugars can be bad for you if you overindulge. Stick to two to three servings of fruit a day for optimal health.
Eat Dark Chocolate in Moderation
Chocolate cravings are common among those with a sweet tooth, but candy bars and chocolate baked goods obviously contain high amounts of sugar. Dark chocolate, however, tends to be low in sugar, especially if you aim for products with more than 70% cocoa.
Dark chocolate can be a good way to transition into a sugar-free diet, and it may even have health benefits in moderation. Dark chocolate contains nutrients like fiber, iron, and magnesium as well as plenty of antioxidants.
However, even dark chocolate bars with high amounts of cocoa do contain added sugar. If you’re using dark chocolate to curb cravings, stick to a few squares and opt for natural foods that stop sugar cravings whenever possible. You can also buy sugar free dark chocolate from most supermarkets. I know woolworths stock some. I occasionally choose lindt sugar free dark chocolate. It’s so good.
Chew On Seeds and Certain Nuts
Seeds can be a great source of key nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats, dietary fiber, and plant compounds. Plus, the type of fiber found in seeds absorbs water well, which forms a jelly-like substance in your gut. This can help you feel full longer, preventing cravings for sugary foods.
Fennel seeds can be especially helpful as they’re chewy and take a bit to eat. Oftentimes, people binge on sugar and other unhealthy foods out of boredom or habit, so having something to chew on can be beneficial. They also have a licorice-like flavor, which can help curb cravings for those who frequently chew gum. Tamari pumpkin seeds, toasted pumpkin seeds or a seed mix can also be great. If you get really hungry, macadamias on a low carb keto plan are ideal as they are high in good fats which will stabilise your blood sugar levels and lower your appetite. Also, tamari almonds and brazil nuts are great nutrient dense and low GI choices. Nut butters are a delicious and satisfying option too, especially yummy when added to icey cold summer smoothies.
Incorporate Sweet Spices
Natural spices are an excellent way to add sweetness to your foods without relying on table sugar.
Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, and star anise all add sweet flavor and even have health anti-inflammatory properties that can boost your overall health.
You can substitute sweet spices for added sugar in everything from coffee to fruit salad and coconut yoghurt. This is an excellent way to satisfy your sweet tooth without adding extra sugars or calories to meals and snacks.
You could incorporate spices with some stevia powder too for extra sweetness.
Other Ways To Stop Sugar Cravings
In addition to finding healthier alternatives to sugary foods, there are other ways you can prevent sugar cravings. Taking good care of your body and paying attention to its natural signals helps curb cravings. Exercise is great way to balance your blood sugar levels as exercise upregulates how well your cells absorb and metabolise sugar. The scientific term for this that exercise makes you more ‘insulin sensitive,’ meaning a balancing of your appetite and also fat loss.
Eat A Balanced Diet
Eating a diet high in vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains can help your body feel full and satisfied. It also stabilises your blood sugar levels, which helps prevent your brain and body from craving unnecessary table sugar. During a weight loss cleanse of course you would take a break for 14 days from some of these food groups to get into ketosis (fat burning state) faster.
Identify Your Triggers
Keep track of when you find yourself craving sugar. Some people tend to experience cravings at the same time of day. Knowing ahead of time when you'll be tempted can help you be prepared. For example, if you know you crave sugar before bed, stock up on high-protein snacks to go for instead.
Find Other Ways to De-Stress
While there’s definitely a physical component to sugar cravings, many people are emotional eaters. If you find yourself overindulging on goodies like ice cream after a rough day, explore alternative stress reduction strategies like meditation, yoga or going for walk or run around the block.
Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
Don’t be fooled by the “sugar-free” labels on products like soda, packaged cookies, and candy bars. Artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than natural foods like fruit, and therefore make you more likely to continue to crave sugary treats. Instead of going for a sugar-free brownie when your sweet tooth calls, reach for an apple, orange or banana.
The Bottom Line
Cutting back on sugar consumption is no easy task. The fact that sugar is physically addictive means your body craves it the same way former smokers crave cigarettes. However, quitting sugar has a litany of health benefits. It’s impossible to overstate what an invaluable commitment to yourself and your future health you’re making when you take steps to cut out sugar.
If you’re on the path to cutting out sugar, incorporating the above foods into your diet can definitely help. At Smart Cleanse, we have a 14 Day Detox Kit made from all-natural ingredients. Not only can this help boost immunity, promote weight loss, and improve overall health, it can help reset your tastebuds and put you on the path to a sugar-free diet. Learn more about how it works here.
Here's to a sugar free you, in balance and on top of life!
Your Naturopath & Coach,