Need new ways to slash sugar intake?
I crave sugar like the best of them…
Yup, I do.
Do I give in to it?
Yup, I do.
Whether I’m fortunate or unfortunate, when I do give in to the sugar habit, my mind and body let me know clear as day how they feel about my food choices. As the simple carbs diffuse through my system, I feel the inflammatory process kick into high gear – the rest of the day I crave more sugar, feel antsy and scattered, my joints hurt, my sleep that night stinks, and my irritability ticks up.
Sugar loads the gun.
We pull the trigger.
We know that inflammation is the root cause of nearly every metabolically related disease plaguing modern society.
We also know that sugar is its BFF.
But sugar is so good.
So what can we do to stem the cravings and prevent metabolic meltdown?
No, I’m not going to say have a carrot when what you really want is a donut.
But I will suggest switching out a complex, starchy carb in place of sugar.
In a 2015 study originally published in Obesity and later in TIME magazine, Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatric Endocrinology, Neuroendocrinologist and NYT best-selling author, simply replaced – calorie for calorie – all the sugar that a group of adolescents ate with a starch. Yes, the study was as simple as replacing a sugar carb with a complex, starchy carb.
The results were dramatic.
The adolescents in the study lost weight, went from insulin resistant to insulin sensitive, and had lower rates of liver fat.
So the next time you crave sugar, grab whole-grain pretzels and hummus, a whole grain piece of toast and avocado, or a whole grain rice cake with a slice of cheese or nut butter and apple slices. The starchy carb will still give you energy and satiety but it will be far more sustained.
Put your feet up
(AKA “Give Me 10”)
What does rest have to do with it?
Stress and fatigue jack up cortisol levels and cause cravings by messing with your blood sugar regulation. Fatigue also sends your body on a seek and destroy mission for quick energy. And there is no faster-absorbed form of energy than sugar.
Fatigue also lowers your inhibition and can impact your ability to make decisions you feel good about.
You don’t have to fall asleep or rest for long to calm the body and mind. Ten quiet minutes with your feet up can do wonders. Focus on your out-breath as you rest and imagine the tension draining from your head, down your torso, arms and legs, and out your toes. Breathe and let go for just a few minutes.
Before processed sugar, fruits were the sweetest foods generally available. They were also a source of hydration when drinking water wasn’t readily accessible.
Whether it’s tied to historical patterns of nourishment or not, dehydration can show up as sugar cravings. If you are very well hydrated – consuming at least half your body weight in ounces of water daily – you are far less likely to reach for sugary or high-carb foods.
I first heard the concept of consuming bitter foods to counter sweet cravings when I was researching Macrobiotics in the early 2000s. The idea is based on the balance of opposites – or yin yang – which dates back to China in the 3rd century BCE. The concept is if you want to counter sweet, you eat the opposite flavor which is bitter (not sour).
Recent research now validates this ancient nutrition concept. The Journal of Neuroscience published a study in March of 2015 in which researchers discovered that bitter substances can block sugar signaling in the brain to prevent flies from making questionable meal choices. Researchers in multiple animal models had found that the presence of a bitter substance in a sweet food can suppress the eating behavior, indicating some crossover between how these flavors are represented in the brain.
Bitter foods include cruciferous vegetables, unsweetened cocoa, coffee, and green tea, citrus peel, dandelion root, bitter melon, and dry red wine.