Sugar cravings are the biggest challenge most of us have to face when choosing a healthy, nourishing diet. Even after learning about the negative health impacts of eating sugar, the thought of reducing or eliminating your sugar consumption can seem like an outrageous and impossible feat.
Phasing sugar out of your diet is possible when you use lots of nourishing support and a wide array of natural sugar alternatives. Once the sugar is gone and the withdrawal symptoms pass, you can focus more on health and nutrition. Without the sugar your immune system will be stronger, your energy and moods more stable and your cravings will fade. You won't miss the sugar or the bothersome symptoms it created.
Sugar is physically addictive. Studies at Princeton University find that sugar consumption leads to all of the identifying symptoms of addiction in rats -- increased intake, withdrawal, cravings and relapse. And many experts believe that breaking the sugar addiction is more challenging than getting off of nicotine or even heroin.
Of course, nicotine and heroin aren't ingredients in almost every food on the supermarket shelves. In addition to being the main feature in candies and desserts, sugar is also included in products from crackers and cereal to bread, condiments and soups. Unless you have made a conscious and diligent effort to avoid sugar, you have probably eaten it every day of your life. And with every serving, your addiction has been triggered.
"Refined sugar passes quickly into the bloodstream in large amounts, giving the stomach and pancreas a shock. An acid condition forms, which consumes the body's minerals quickly. Thus calcium is lost from the system, causing bone problems. The digestive system is weakened and food cannot be digested or assimilated properly. This leads to a blood-sugar imbalance and to further craving for sugar," says Paul Pitchford, author of Healing with Whole Foods.
Phasing the Sugar Out
Although freeing yourself from a sugar addiction can be challenging, it is also deeply rewarding. Phasing the sugar out of your diet will improve your immediate and long-term physical health, stabilize your moods and energy levels, and help you enjoy the pleasure and tastes of nourishing, natural whole foods even more.
Adjust to Milder Sweets
Excessive use of refined sugars has likely increased your tolerance and desire for sweets. Choosing milder natural sweeteners like stevia will allow your body to readjust and free you from the sugar cycle so you can begin to enjoy naturally sugar-free desserts as a special treat once again.
Eat Sweet Veggies and Whole Fruit
The sweetest whole food is fresh, ripe fruit. When eaten in this form, the natural sugars of the fruit are accompanied with the exact combination of enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and fiber that your body needs for healthy digestion and optimal utilization. Naturally sweet vegetables, like yams, parsnips, carrots and beets offer the same benefit. When eaten regularly, their mellow, sweet flavor can help to curb sugar cravings.
When whole grains and other complex carbohydrates are properly prepared and chewed well, they release a natural sweetness that calms the nervous system and alleviates the desire for excess sweets.
Balance Protein and Carbs
Protein and carbohydrate metabolism regulate one another and it's important to keep them in good balance. When you eat concentrated proteins (like meat and cheese) in excess, you'll naturally crave excessive quantities of concentrated sweets. On the other hand, if you don't get enough protein you may also find yourself with sugar cravings.
Drink Lots of Water
Dehydration is a common cause of cravings. Whenever you feel the urge to grab a sweet snack, drink a glass of water instead. This is a great way to intercept your cravings, re-hydrate, and bring your body back into a healthy balance.
Cook it Yourself
Most processed foods and restaurant fare is loaded with sugar, even when it's not "sweet." When you prepare your own food at home you decide exactly what goes into it. Substitute herbs and other sugar-free foods to kick up the flavor.
Cravings are your body's way of telling you that something is missing or out of balance. Given the state of our modern food supply it's no wonder so many of us struggling with cravings -- especially for sugar. The key to moving through any craving is to understand it and see it for what it is. Just because you can't stop thinking about ice cream doesn't necessarily mean that your body needs it. Consider the other factors at play and, most importantly, feed your body nourishing whole foods to keep it healthy and satisfied.