I should never divide posts into multiple parts because the time comes to follow-up and I want to write about something completely different. So I procrastinate. Seriously, it is a good thing that I have made a commitment to myself to post faithfully once a week or I’d be curled up in bed with a steamy cup of licorice tea reading Brené Brown right now. Or watching Gotham on Netflix (it’s my kids’ fault). Either or.
Halloween has barely come and gone and I imagine now, more than ever, some of you may need a boost of encouragement to throw the junk away and rein in the sugar habit. I looked around my home for sugar to photograph and the above is all I could find: some gorgeous homemade brownies I baked for my family (with hemp hearts, local organic eggs, and organic spelt); raw honey; coconut palm sugar; stevia packets; and a few YumEarth Organic Lollipops. Actually, I always have organic dark chocolate and dried dates on hand for a quick treat, too. But either way, this is a far cry from my sugar-craving days of the past mentioned in this previous post! All that to say that if you are tired and frustrated or even embarrassed by your struggle in this area – there is hope. And also, be gentle on yourself. xo
Lately, I’ve noticed various posts online along the lines of “Top Three Ways to Cure Your Sugar Cravings” or “Beat Sugar Addiction in One Week”. I disagree with the premise of these articles. Wholeheartedly. I do not believe there is a magic pill (or perfect 5 step process) to turn this behavior around, nor do I think you will overcome years of habits/cravings in just one week. I am of the belief that real, lasting change comes from slow & steady movement forward or small steps with consistency. I think the truth is that it will take some time to find true freedom in this area and you may experience highs and lows (or falling off the wagon) along the way, but you can get there.
And I believe those people who are willing to combine quality nutrition WITH consistent self-care strategies will not only find themselves free of sugar cravings but also healthier and happier overall.
I have already given you 13 tips to date, and have yet another 5 to share today, to help you overcome your sugar cravings. It could be argued that all these steps are not specific to sugar cravings alone. And this is true. But the fabulous thing is, these life and nutrition strategies will not only provide relief to your immediate pain (the sugar cravings or addiction) but will also help address underlying causes that are most likely contributing to other health issues as well.
A Recap (there are affiliate links in this post; I only promote products I use myself):
- Add Ceylon cinnamon into your diet to lower blood glucose levels
- Eat protein with each meal
- Consume plenty of healthy fat
- Load up on colorful produce (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber)
- Swap whole (complex) carbs and natural sweeteners for refined grains and sugars
- Include fermented foods in your diet (or take a probiotic supplement)
- Engage in regular joyful movement
- Ensure adequate quality sleep!!!
- Build stress-management practices into your life
- Determine if you are a Moderator or an Abstainer
- Slow down and take the time to nourish yourself well
- Remember that soul-care is non-negotiable
- Stock your home with supportive foods (or planning is key to success)
And Now, My Final Thoughts On This Topic:
Mineral Deficiencies Can Lead To Sugar Cravings
Five particular minerals (and their co-factors) are extremely important to blood sugar control. These include chromium, vanadium, zinc, magnesium, and manganese (source). Chromium supplementation itself has been found very useful in normalizing blood sugar and helping with sugar cravings. People (women) often crave chocolate, especially around their period, and this can be resolved by boosting magnesium stores. Not that a bit of quality dark chocolate shouldn’t be a welcome part of anyone’s life! You can supplement, as mentioned, with chromium, magnesium, or a general mineral supplement. But first I recommend looking to your food for help. Consider adding red teas to your life (ex. red rooibos) along with sea vegetables, seafood, and sea salt, garlic, and homemade bone broth and/or organ meats to naturally boost the mineral content of your diet.
Skip The Artificial Sweeteners
There is a positive correlation between artificial sweeteners and weight gain. In fact, sweet taste, whether delivered by sugar or artificial sweeteners, enhances human appetite; Not exactly helpful when trying to curb sugar cravings. Furthermore, when we continually feed ourselves sweet tastes, whether, by artificial or natural means, we encourage sugar craving and sugar dependence. Repeated exposure trains flavor preference (source). What’s a girl to do? You avoid fake foods for a start. You wean yourself off all sugar (it is hidden in so many packaged and processed foods) and give yourself time to habituate to a clean, whole food way of eating. Then you thoughtfully reintroduce some natural sweet sources back into your diet (ex. dark chocolate, dates, sweet potato, honey).
Cut All Bread, Yeasts, And Sugar
Even healthier versions. And alcohol. For a time. This is a bit of a continuation of the previous point. In order to re-establish balance in this area of life, and develop the ability to taste and savor the natural sweetness of a whole food diet, we need to remove those things which keep us in a perpetual state of desiring sweet or which unbeknownst to us trigger cravings. Bread and other yeast-containing foods (like alcohol) can massively feed sugar cravings. It doesn’t matter if it is your favorite local craft beer or home-ground, home-made sourdough spelt bread. If you struggle with sugar cravings, you need to let these go for a time. For some, this might mean a 2-3 week sugar ‘detox’ while for another person this might mean a year or more of consciously limiting sugar. And for some of us, this might mean that for the rest of our lives we joyfully limit certain trigger foods (ex. bread or wine) because we are aware that they do not serve us well (I am in this camp). Remember, first there should be a weaning process unless you don’t mind paying for family counseling afterward.
Such a simple point but one which bears repeating over and over and over. We need to hydrate well with filtered water; (I love my Berkey water filter and have used it for years; I have also recommended it to friends and clients who now love theirs!) If we are exercising or sweating a lot or drinking caffeine, we need to drink more than we otherwise would. We can crave sugar, or just overeat in general when we are dehydrated. If you dislike water straight up, infuse it with citrus or berries or drink more caffeine-free tea (ex. red rooibos, cinnamon, licorice, peppermint, or Pau d’Arco) – hot or iced. Note, too, that using caffeine regularly to artificially boost energy levels can, itself, mess with our adrenals and lead to carb/sugar cravings. So be conscious of your caffeine intake.
Add In Adaptogens
Continuing the discussion of adrenal health, or stress in general, we need to understand that our adrenals play a huge role in our wellbeing including (and in no way limited to) the balancing of our moods, hormones, and blood-sugar levels. When we constantly run on empty (physically or emotionally) or are chronically stressed, our adrenals must work overtime to protect us. We can eventually experience a syndrome referred to as adrenal fatigue (not recognized as a true medical condition) or eventual adrenal insufficiency (“the inability of the adrenal glands to produce a normal quantity of hormones, which leads to a reduced ability of the individual to cope with stress. Adrenal depletion is a milder form of insufficiency.” source) But long before that, stress can absolutely contribute to feelings of uncontrolled cravings for sugar. The point I hope to make here is that managing stress in your life is critical to overcoming sugar cravings.
Adaptogens are an amazing class of plants that can help our bodies normalize adrenal function and adapt to stress. I currently use Reishi and Tulsi (Holy Basil) but there are many adaptogens to choose from. These adaptogenic mushroom drinks are lovely. The author of this great article on the topic indicates that adaptogens work best when taken for a minimum of 3 months. So in addition to managing stress via lifestyle habits, you could consider experimenting with an adaptogen or two.
Phew! We made it through my not very succinct list of “18 ways to kick your sugar cravings”. Maybe you are at a place in life where you can dive in and implement all of these changes at once. Otherwise, pick a few and just start where you are able.
Remember that the goal is progress, not perfection.