How to Tame Your Holiday Sugar Cravings
- Written By:Lauren Slayton
If you need proof that sugar addiction is real, know that rats will choose sugar water over cocaine. Sugar has a similar effect on our brains as cocaine, morphine, and nicotine. Sweets cause a spike in blood sugar, which in turn activates your brain’s pleasure center. While this may explain our sugar-seeking behavior, let’s talk about how to tame those cravings.
It Adds Up
The recommended amount of added sugar per day is nine teaspoons or 38g for men, and six teaspoons or 25g for women. This sounds like a lot until you realize that your flavored Greek yogurt has 11 grams, that one ounce of dark chocolate is eight grams, and that there are 10 grams in your “protein” bar. You don’t need to count grams indefinitely, but for one day tally your intake. Even clients who “don’t eat a lot of sweets” often see they are having more than they thought they were. It’s pretty eye opening when you start to see how much sugar you’re eating every day.
All sweeteners, whether it’s honey, maple syrup or icky artificial sweeteners with aspartame and sucralose, drive your desire for sweetness. A lot of Foodtrainers’ clients use stevia or monk fruit sweetener, but even with these sweeteners on everything you eat throughout the day you’ll still have sweet cravings .
We have an exercise we do with Foodtrainers’ clients called a “Savory Day.” For one day, have absolutely zero sweets. This includes stevia, fruit, wine, ketchup, and balsamic vinegar. If it tastes sweet, skip it. This helps you assess how dependent on sugar you are. If savory is a piece of cake (had to), you’re not dependent on sweets. On the other hand, if this is incredibly difficult, you likely have some work to do. Not to worry, most people do.
There are certain foods that will help you on your sugar-slashing journey. Consuming bitter food shuts down the receptors in our brains that drive us to desire and consume sugar. Examples of bitter foods are arugula, radicchio, Brussels sprouts, dandelion greens, citrus peel or zest. Many of our clients use add bitters in their water. Black coffee, espresso and green tea are bitter too.
Gut feelings and gut cravings
The microbes living in your gut affect mood and cravings. Lots of things, such as pesticides, antibiotics, birth control, NSAID medications and stress, adversely affect the messages sent to your brain from your gut. In order to short circuit these “eat more sugar, can’t get enough” messages we need to focus on the gut health.
Probiotic and fermented foods can decrease your sweet cravings. Try having a tablespoon of fermented foods, like kraut or kimchi, daily. If you’re not a fermented foods person, take a probiotic supplement and 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar a day, diluted in water. Apple cider vinegar is good for both gut health and blood sugar. Collagen protein is also excellent for healing your gut.
It’s perfectly normal to feel poorly, for a few days, when you start to slash sugar. Your body is adjusting. But after three or so days, it’ll turn around. Your energy will rebound, your skin will look clearer and you’ll be able to focus on other things, when you’re not sidetracked by sugar.
Lauren Slayton is a nutritionist and the founder of Foodtrainers.