This is the time of year that I find myself really wanting to deal with my cravings, namely for sugar. Summer is right around the corner, and that means it’s time to don the bathing suits. Who doesn’t want to shed a few pounds, or deal with some unwanted love handles, or even just have more energy of which to enjoy the outdoor season? I am sharing 5 tips today that can truly help to nourish your body so you won’t crave sugar.
When I say sugar cravings I really should broaden it to carb cravings, as all non-fiber forms of carbohydrate are sugar once metabolized by the body. This post is also assuming that you have already eliminated sugars and starches from the diet for the most part. If you haven’t done that yet, well hopefully this will inspire you towards doing so. Examples of the non-fiber carbohydrates I am speaking of, would be; bread, pasta, cereal, rice, potatoes, granola, dried fruits, juices, candy, chocolate, desserts, alcoholic beverages and even most fresh fruit. I am also assuming that it’s common knowledge to most people as to why they should want to curb their sugar cravings. If you are not fully aware of the detriments of sugar wreaking havoc on your body you need to get informed. (photo credit – right)
I personally struggle most with craving something sweet, namely chocolate. I find not a day goes by that I don’t want something sweet at some point in the day. I don’t always give in to it, but most often I do have a little bit of chocolate, or some honey in my smoothie. I have to really focus on a few key things in order to avoid sugar cravings. The more I implement these tips, the more successful I am. That emotional connection you feel when you crave something sweet, it’s actually a physiological co-dependency triggering you as you are missing some key nutrient. When we are low in amino acids that help produce the ‘feel good’ serotonin that our brains need to relax, often we will crave something in it’s place. There certainly are supplements you can take to help with this until you get your diet under way, but the ideal way to get natural serotonin is through real food, good sleep and exercise. If you have regular sugar cravings or even alcohol cravings this can be a strong indicator that you have serotonin depletion. Using these substances (sugars/carbs) over time can lead to further depletion of serotonin, so it’s really important to learn to curb those carb craving monsters.
To nourish your brain with all the essential amino acids you need to consume high quality grass fed/pastured meats and wild seafood. Additionally, to keep your brain nourished and your body satiated you need the right kinds of fats. To inhibit bad bacteria, yeasts and candida in the gut from causing sugar cravings consuming lots of fermented foods daily is key. I find if I eat a breakfast of 3-4 pastured eggs topped with plenty of cultured butter and a nice amount of sauerkraut I can make it through the day without a strong urge for sugar. If in the afternoon I get a hankering for something sweet, I often will take a spoonful of L-glutamine, or have some coconut kefir in a smoothie, or coconut oil in some tea. I have even found a homeopathic solution of serotonin that I can take by the dropperful and this helps my mood as well as nix my desire for a sweet snack. These few tips under my belt help me from going overboard with the sweets. It also helps to not keep sweets on hand. Exercise also helps me as it helps to boost my serotonin levels and I tend to want to eat healthier when I exercise. It also helps to improve insulin sensitivity. Getting ample sleep 7-8 hours per night will also help fight the battle of the sugar cravings. There are many more tips and supplements you can try to help with sugar cravings, as well as detoxes that can be done, however I find if you focus on these 5 as your core principles you will have great success. Not only will the sugar cravings dissolve, but your overall health will improve dramatically implementing these tips (or should I say lifestyle habits).
Eat More Fermented Foods
Preferably daily and at best at every meal. The best fermented foods to choose would be ones that are not sweet, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled green beans, or even some kefir. Whatever ferment you like that has no added sugar will be a great addition to your diet and aid your body in fighting off pathogens, yeasts and bacteria that will likely cause you to crave sweets and carbohydrates. I have several recipes for fermented foods on my site. (Kimchi, Cortido, Asian Veggie Medley, Cauliflower and Green Bean Pickles, Kefir, Coconut Kefir, Salsa)
If you are not yet making your own properly prepared lacto-fermented foods, you may want to consider a good quality probiotic. I recommend a transient type, such as BioDoph 7 and a native type, such as PreScript Assist (a full spectrum prebiotic, soil based probiotic).
Consume Enough High Quality Protein Daily
Eat protein at every meal. Pro-serotonin nutrients such as l-tryptophan can knock out carb cravings on the spot. L-tryptophan is an amino acid found in fish, turkey and most meats . Consuming the right type of meats such as grass fed/pastured and wild seafood are key. Read this article on why you should be choosing grass fed beef. Read this post all about the farm that I buy my pastured meats from as well how they raise their animals on pasture. A couple of ounces of protein per meal should suffice for the average person.
‘Proteins are digested much more slowly than carbohydrates; theirs is a steady breakdown into absorbable nutrients, whereas the ingested carbohydrate causes an immediate and potent spike in blood sugar that leaves you wanting more. You’re not going to binge on steaks and lamb chops like you would with potato chips.’ (source – Mark’s Daily Apple, Curb Your Appetite.)
Taking amino acid supplements can also be a good option until you get your protein consumption on track. Ideally you want to get your nutrition from whole foods, but sometimes you may need a boost. It also may be helpful if your gut is recovering from food allergies, or if you have health issues related to proper brain function. To learn more about amino acid supplementation, check out Julia Ross’s website, along with Nora Gedgaudas‘ site. Additionally, check out the Pain & Stress Center, they carry many supplements and their focus is deeper understanding of brain function through research in neurotransmitters and brain chemistry. They have lots of articles as well as pamphlets for sale on the various amino acids and what they do in the body. I also like Amino Acid Quick Sorb,great for kids and for when your blood sugar is running low. Amino Sport is a full spectrum amino acid supplement, good to use when trying to get your sugar cravings under control.
Consume Enough of the Right Kinds of FatsGorgeous golden ghee
Fats at each meal, enough to keep you satiated. Read more on why fats are indeed good for you, which to ditch and which to use. Also check out this Complete Guide to Fats & Oils. Make sure you consume enough omega-3 fatty acids. Getting adequate amounts of the vitally important omega-3s can calm or eliminate carbohydrate cravings, as well as enhances your insulin sensitivity. Fermented Cod liver oil is one way to get a good dose of omega 3’s. In my daily dose of FCLO, I get 800 mg of Omega 3’s, 150 mg. of DHA, and 250 mg. of EPA. DHA and EPA are important essential fatty acids, as well as GLA which I get in my Evening Primrose Oil supplement. Coconut oil and butter are great fats to utilize regularly in your diet. They are easy to incorporate as most people enjoy the taste of both. Be sure to buy high quality butter either cultured or from grass fed cows.
Get Adequate Sleep
Studies repeatedly show sleep deprivation as strongly correlated with decreased insulin sensitivity and unwanted weight gain, along with other problems. Try to get at least 6-8 quality hours of sleep every single night, as we were designed to do! (source – ‘Primal Body, Primal Mind’, Nora T. Gedgaudas) Also, check out this post on sleep – 5 Keys to Keeping Your Adrenal Glands Healthy: #1 Sleep, and 7 Tips to Better Sleep.
Get some exercise daily, or at least 3-5 times per week. Short bouts of high intensity interval training (or ‘bursting’), as well as resistance training are the most effective forms of exercise. Exercise has been shown to help improve insulin sensitivity. This type of exercise helps to burn off some of the sugar from a carb laden meal directly afterwards. Exercise raises your serotonin levels, so a good idea would be to exercise at the time of day that you are most likely to crave sugar. Instead of hitting the snack machine, coffee shop or that tub of ice cream in your freezer head outdoors for a quick walk, run up some stairs several times or hit the gym. You’ll be glad you did!!
Try L-Glutamine This amino acid (not recognized as essential but surely has an important role to play) can help to stop cravings for sweets, starches and alcohol instantly because the brain can temporarily use it for fuel. It is also the number one food for enterocytes, the cells that line the small intestine, and can greatly help regenerate gastro-intestinal mucosa. I purchase it in a free form powder with no fillers, place the serving under my tongue and let it dissolve. It actually tastes slightly sweet. It is best taken on an empty stomach.
*Disclaimer~ Please consult with your Dr. before taking any supplements, especially if you are on medications. L-Glutamine has been know to trigger a negative response in those who suffer with Bipolar disorder.
Gymnema Sylvestre – If taken in 4-gram (4,000 mg) increments, three times a day can usually eliminate most, if not all, cravings for sweets. In extremely addicted individuals, twice this dose may be needed to successfully eliminate cravings. This is a great tool to be likened to ‘bicycle training wheels’ while dietary changes are being made. After awhile this will no longer be needed once healthier eating habits are adopted. It also possesses compounds that may support the restoration of insulin sensitivity. (source – ‘Primal Body, Primal Mind‘, by Nora T. Gedgaudas)
Will power often isn’t enough – though I am finding more and more that I can talk myself out of some choices to indulge in simply cause I know I don’t want to feel lousy later. I am determined to not have gut issues, such as bloating or eh hem, flatulence (yes sugar causes that, mm hmm!) So if you are gonna eat something sweet, make it worth your while. Try snacks such as dark chocolate paired with nuts to make it a more wholesome nourishing snack. Try making homemade ice cream and reduce the sugar content. Experiment with stevia, maybe you are one of those that can stand it (I personally cannot, but if it’s mixed with a bit of honey or other sweetener to reduce the amount I can sort of tolerate it). Choose berries over other higher sugar content fruits. Whatever you do, do not allow yourself to feel guilt. That is pointless, instead make informed choices and equip yourself as best you can with these tips. Over time you will find that you can in fact avoid sugars and starches and as that occurs you will feel even more empowered to fight that sugar/carb craving monster that we all have to slay at some point or another to varying degrees. One day at a time is a good motto for me and as time goes on in my real food journey I slowly eek closer and closer to a more balanced nourishing diet that enables me to feel good most of the time.
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Lydia Joy Shatney is certified as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association. Additionally, she is a co-chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation in Delaware County, Pa. (Find the group here on Facebook). Lydia is also a member of the Nourished Living Network. Lydia founded Divine Health in March of 2010. You can find Lydia on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest.
Lydia offers specialized one-on-one counseling for those that are looking to transform their health through dietary advice (both food and supplements), learning cooking techniques, shopping guidance, as well as fitness inspiration and self-empowerment. These personal consultations are tailored to suit your specific needs and can be done over the phone, Skype or in person. Lydia will work with you in person locally or long distance across the globe. Lydia currently offer 3 & 6 month packages. In these packages you will receive phone consultations, email support, food journal evaluations, a thorough nutritional assessment, lots of handouts, supplement recommendations for your specific needs, information, recipes, tips, cooking ‘how to’s’ and more. Contact Lydia to sign up for your free initial consult call today!