We all know that too much sugar is not good for us. But how much sugar is “too much”? Do you know how to stop sugar cravings?
Part of that depends on your body type and how it reacts to sugar. It is recommended to have no more than 1 tbsp of sugar per day (including natural sweeteners like honey, coconut sugar or maple syrup). Shockingly though, most Americans get about 1 cup of sugar per day, about 16 times the recommended amount. This is partially due to the fact that sugar is added to so many packaged foods even if they’re not traditionally considered “sweet” like salad dressing, bread, tomato sauce, barbecue sauce and more. It all adds up pretty quickly.
It’s only relatively recently in human history that we’ve had such unprecedented access to so much sugar and sweet foods. It’s only natural for the body to want the concentrated fuel that sugar provides, but when we live such a sedentary lifestyle, it’s not necessary and is actually harmful to have so much concentrated “fuel”.
How Overconsumption of Sugar Affects Your Body
As referenced in this article, sugar affects our bodies in the following way:
- “Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, lung, gallbladder and stomach.
- Sugar can increase fasting levels of glucose and can cause reactive hypoglycemia.
- Sugar can cause many problems with the gastrointestinal tract, including an acidic digestive tract, indigestion, malabsorption in patients with functional bowel disease, increased risk of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
- Sugar can interfere with your absorption of protein.
- Sugar can cause food allergies.
- Sugar contributes to obesity.” (source)
Processed sugar is incredibly addictive. Studies show that the addictive intensity of sugar can be even greater than that of cocaine (source 1, source 2).
Sugar begets more sugar. Eating sugar clearly throws one’s body chemistry into a tailspin. Tag on poor sleep habits, adrenal fatigue, and an overload of distress, intense cravings for sugar (or other substance like alcohol or drugs) can easily develop. Insulin imbalances and a lack of the happy-brain chemical called serotonin are often the underlying culprits. Essentially, the sugar being consumed perpetuates the vicious cycle of more intense sugar cravings.” (source)
I myself have experienced the feeling of dependence on sugary foods.
I happen to be very sensitive to the addictive qualities of sugar, so i’ve come to learn a few ways to stop sugar cravings. Some people can have a small piece of cake and be satisfied with it, but this is a much bigger challenge for me. When I taste sugar, it becomes increasingly hard to avoid it, especially if it’s highly refined sugar. It’s not as easy for me to have a bite of a candy bar without wanting to eat the whole thing and then go buy 5 more candy bars to binge out on. My big weakness was resisting sugar in the evening…I would always want something sweet at night.
I first became aware of my intense reaction to sugar when I read this article about what sugar actually does to your body and your immune system. I decided to quit eating sugar except for a small amount of natural sweeteners.
I realized how much sugar affected me only after I stopped consuming it so much. Once I quit having so much sugar, I had more energy, I wasn’t tired all the time and I didn’t have so many mood swings.
After not eating sugar for a while I noticed immediately how it made me feel when I would slip and have a bunch of sweets at a party or something. I would immediately get a huge rush of energy and feel jittery like I was on caffeine pills, then 30 minutes to an hour later I would crash and get really tired with a huge headache.
If you’re not as sensitive to sugar as I am consider yourself lucky 🙂 You don’t have to worry too much about trying to cut it out completely, but for people like me, it’s hard to have it around at all without bingeing on it. As I always say, listen to your body and do what is right for you. Everyone reacts differently to different foods.
However, if you do find yourself relying on sugar or feel like it’s really hard for you to go a day without a bite of something sweet, learning how to stop sugar cravings is key.
How to Stop Sugar Cravings:
1. Cut out or lower sugar intake
I know it’s easier said than done, but cutting out sugar or drastically lowering your sugar intake is one of the best ways to stop craving it. Sugar is like a drug and its addictive qualities have been compared to cocaine (read more here).
Cutting it out of your diet for just 3 weeks can make a huge difference in stopping the addictive cycle.
After those 3 weeks, you can slowly add in small amounts (start at 1 tsp, then work up to 1tbsp per day).
2. Balanced Meals with Healthy Protein & Fats
It’s important to build balanced meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner instead of snacking all day. Leaving the opportunity for snacking open just gives you more chances to reach for a sweet treat.
If your body is satisfied and has gotten the proper nutrients, you won’t crave sweets as much. Make sure that you have plenty of foods that curb sugar cravings, like vegetables, protein and healthy fats with every meal. The balance of nutrients will help curb your cravings. Think organic meats, sauteed veggies and coconut oil.
Getting enough protein and healthy fats help your body stay satiated and full, so you are less likely to crave sweets or feel like snacking on sugary foods.
For healthy fats, see my article 6 Healthiest Cooking Oils.
L-glutamine is a nutritional supplement, more specifically, it’s an amino acid that can help stop sugar cravings. It is best used temporarily in order to help you during intense cravings.
If you have a strong dependency on sugar or would like to try to cut out sugar for 3 weeks in order to stop the addiction cycle, l-glutamine can be a big help, especially if you find it hard to go without sugar for a day or if it feels nearly impossible to say no to sweets.
Dr. Julia Ross recommends taking 500mg 3-4 times a day for a month to help you through the tough 3 weeks of quitting cold turkey. After you’ve gotten used to less sugar, you can usually get along fine without supplementation.
You can either get L-glutamine capsules here or get powder to put on your tongue whenever a sugar craving hits.
4. Crave Arrest
Crave arrest is another nutritional supplement designed to stop sugar cravings. It contains essential amino acids and adaptogenic herbs to help balance the production of neurotransmitters like seratonin and dopamine and to promote a healthy response to stress.
Like L-glutamine, this is another supplement that you can use to help you stop sugar cravings at particularly difficult times or times when cravings are strong.
While you are detoxing from sugar, it is recommended to take two capsules per day.
5. Don’t be fooled by “health food” marketing. Cut out sources of concentrated sugar.
Products like smoothies, juice and protein bars are constantly marketed as “health food”, but contain a lot of sugar that can affect blood sugar levels.
Even though “protein bars” have a lot of protein, they are usually very processed, have a lot of sugar and are designed for serious athletes who burn a lot of calories and need concentrated sources of fuel by way of carbs, calories and sugar. Unless you’re a marathon runner, professional athlete or a serious crossfit enthusiast, you probably don’t need these kinds of “meal replacement” foods.
Both smoothies and juices are extremely concentrated sources of sugar, which can affect blood sugar and cause a sugar rush just like one you would experience by eating a candy bar or a piece of cake.
This doesn’t mean that you can never have a smoothie, but make sure that you build a smoothie that isn’t just fruit and fruit juice. It’s vital to have healthy sources of protein, fat and fiber in a smoothie to mitigate the effects of the sugary fruit. Learn how to build a better smoothie here.
As far as juice goes, I’m not a huge fan of juicing for a few reasons. By removing the juice from the fruit you are getting a high concentration of the sugar and none of the fiber in the fruit. Adding vegetables to your juice can help, but it can be problematic to juice raw green vegetables because the concentration of goitrogens can affect thyroid function. Cooking green vegetables reduces the goitrogens. If you want to learn more about problems with juicing click here.
Make sure you consult with your doctor before starting any new supplement regime.
Information and statements regarding health claims on this blog have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.