Do you find yourself often craving certain foods? Have you noticed that your cravings are stronger during particular times of day, months or seasons?
Perhaps it feels easier and rewarding to reach for that candy bar, bagel or donut. If you can relate to this, you definitely aren’t alone.
Emotional triggers can be at the root of this problem. Just as anything becomes a habit, as we get used to our patterns of eating certain foods and making certain diet and lifestyle choices, we become unconsciously addicted (whether physiologically, physically or both), and this can be a hard cycle to break. If your cravings are emotional in nature, the key is building proper awareness and developing mindful eating skills. While this takes practice, it is well worth it.
How to control cravings
First of all, notice why you seem to be craving foods. Are you tired, bored, or have gone too long without eating, so are therefore ravenous and unable to make healthy decisions? Also, begin to notice (and even journal about) how you feel before and after eating a meal or snack.
Observe your emotions, mental state and physical sensations before and after. Do you feel overly full, bloated or guilty after eating? Do you have physical reactions to foods you might be sensitive or allergic to (interestingly, we tend to crave the foods we are sensitive to)? Do you experience a sudden energy burst only followed by a crash an hour or so later, leaving you reaching for a sugary snack ?
If journalling isn’t your thing, no problem. Simply practice becoming truly aware of your bodies’ immediate and longer-range reactions to foods (symptoms of a sensitivity, for example, can show up 72 hours after eating).
Why we crave sugar
Eating sugar activates the same reward centers in our brain as opiates. There is also evidence to show that consuming sugar decreases dopamine (pleasure) receptors in the brain, hence the sudden burst of energy we might feel, quickly followed by an energy crash. A high sugar diet effects leptin (our hunger hormone), and leptin resistance causes us to overeat, as the brain can no longer effectively process the feeling of satiety (fullness).
A diet high in sugar can also lead to insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas, and allows us to use glucose (sugar) from dietary carbohydrates for energy, and it ensures that the body maintains healthy blood sugar levels. When insulin resistance occurs, our cells become almost immune to insulin, leaving us craving more sugar because we are unable to access the sugar already in our system.
Fill up on healthy fats
Our brain is made up of over 70% fat, and all of our cells and organs need fat to function and thrive. Fat also lines all of our nerves, and is necessary in endless bodily processes. However, not just any fats will do, we are talking about high quality, nutritious fats that fuel our bodies. Contrary to popular belief, a lack of fat in the diet (or the wrong types of fats) can be a major player in cravings and weight gain. Good fats are also key for cooling systemic and chronic inflammation.
Low carbohydrate diets have been shown to be an effective approach for those with insulin resistance (and therefore sugar cravings). Especially for those with blood sugar problems or even diabetes, adopting a lower carbohydrate and higher fat diet can be an excellent option. The amount of carbohydrates will depend on the individual, as some do better on a very low-carb diet (such as a ketogenic diet), and others need more carbs, ideally coming from starchy vegetables and fresh fruits.
Without enough dietary fat, leptin (the hunger hormone discussed earlier) fails to properly function, which often launches the body into starvation mode. This negatively affects our thyroid function (the gland responsible for regulating metabolism and metabolic rate), which can lead to sluggishness, fatigue, cravings and weight gain (among other symtoms). We also need fats to absorb fat souble vitamins A, D, E & K.
Studies have shown that higher fat, lower carbohydrate diet models are highly effective for weight loss. Furthermore, this type of diet has been proven to lower triglyceride levels, raise good cholesterol (HDL) and reduce insulin resistance.
The long story short is this: lack of dietary fat equals more body fat.
The specifics on what to eat to help with this …
First and foremost, replace sugary foods with foods high in quality fats, such as avocado, fatty fish and dishes prepared in grass fed butter and coconut oil. Oils such as olive and flax are great too, but be sure not to heat them above low-medium heats (which is why more stable fats such as butter and coconut oil are better for cooking). You can even try a spoonful of grass-fed butter or ghee, blended with your coffee or tea. I also add Brain Octane which is 18times more concentrated than coconut oil.
From Dave Asprey, the pioneer of butter coffee and why The Bulletproof ® Brain Octane ™ does the trick “Your liver does not need to process this rare type of MCT, and it only takes 3 steps for your body to turn it into ATP, the cellular fuel you use. Sugar takes 26 steps. This is why Brain Octane is so good at suppressing cravings.. You would need 18 tablespoons of coconut oil to get just one tablespoon of Brain Octane.”
My go to snack in the middle of day is this Avocado Dip that has put a full stop to my sugar cravings and does it for most of my clients too, besides following a protocol that helps create this sustained change for them.
Simple Avocado Dip
1 Organic Avocado
2 tbsp of Lime/Lemon juice
1/2 tbsp lemon pepper seasoning
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tbsp of Brain Octane
Mix it all together, and serve with some crunchy carrots/cucumber or home made sweet potato fries or plantain chips.
Helping kids with sugar cravings + kid friendly options
If your kiddos are still small that you have control over their diets, there is no better time than when they are building their nutritional base to set them up for success in the long run. This means a diet of nutrient dense, whole foods that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, high quality meats, wild fish and whole fat and organic dairy. Avoiding refined sugar and carbs will play a major role in developing their tastes once you no longer have as much control over what they’re eating.
Kids tend to naturally crave healthy fats, and need it for proper development. Try these options that your kiddos are sure to love, and check out this great resource for further ideas.
- Gluten free crackers (Marys Gone) with grass bed butter or coconut oil.
- Chocolate milk prepared with raw cacao powder, blended together with ghee or butter, stevia and organic, whole milk (or raw, if you’d like). Add a touch of honey instead of stevia, if you prefer.
- Berries with coconut cream.
- Avocado sprinkled with sea salt.
- Organic/nitrite free deli turkey wrapped with avocado.
- Cubed sweet potato roasted with coconut oil and sea salt.
Eating good quality fats will go a long way in reducing sugar cravings and balancing hormones. Remember, if your little ones are asking for sugary snacks, offer them one of the options above, and this will likely do the trick. Each and every time you experience a craving that is not compatible with the way you want to eat, think about how your body is actually sending you the message that something isn’t right. Once you get into the habit of eating a diet full of nutrient dense proteins and good fats (with the bulk of your carbohydrates coming from vegetables), you will find that your cravings significantly lessen.
Now, I would love to hear from you, do you struggle with sugar cravings? What helps you?
PS: Want to learn more about what is keeping you from staying energized, vitalized and high performing, schedule a complimentary session with me.Book a Free Discovery Session!