If you ever find yourself subconsciously reaching for a sweet snack during your afternoon slump, or can be found rifling around your cupboards post-dinner to curb your desire for dessert, then you might be suffering with a case of sugar addiction.
Many a scientific study has shown that the brain undergoes a greater neurological reward after having something sweet than it does after cocaine; furthermore, when cutting out sugar from the diet the brain displays similar neurological symptoms as when undergoing withdrawal from nicotine, morphine and alcohol – which in turn helps to explain why when our sweet tooth cravings kick in, they’re almost impossible to ignore.
Like any serious dependency though, going cold turkey is often a lot easier said than done. So, the question is: how can we satisfy our need for sugar? We reached out to top nutritionist Emma Olliff - here are her top 10 tips on how to curb your cravings for good.
1. Practise healthy habits
Begin each day with a cup of hot lemon, water and a pinch of cayenne. This will help cleanse the liver and stimulate the gallbladder to remove waste from the intestine. Eat within one hour of waking up to stabilise your blood sugar for the day ahead. DON’T make up for overeating by NOT eating - it will only encourage a late-day binge! Always have a healthy snack on hand whether you’re at home or on the go.
2. Exercise often
Dopamine receptors love sugar! Working up a sweat encourages dopamine production in the body, which is why you often crave healthier foods after a workout. In addition, lack of sunshine in the winter leaves us with less of the ‘feel good’ hormone, so we often crave sweets that stimulate serotonin production. So, get your heart rate up to boost serotonin naturally and beat the winter blues.
3. Get enough sleep
Sleep deprivation raises ghrelin (hunger) hormones and lowers leptin (satiated) hormones, increasing cravings after a bad night's sleep. So, be sure to sleep in a completely dark room to promote greater levels of the sleep hormone, melatonin, for a more restful night .
4. Stay satiated
Combine protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates at every meal/snack to feel satisfied and avoid blood sugar (insulin) spikes. Protein releases the PPY hormone that tells you when you are full and halts cravings. Healthy fat sources include avocado, olives, coconut/olive oil, nuts/nut butters and seeds. Sorry guys – peanuts don’t count, as they are not nuts. Opt for Brazil nuts, walnuts, or almonds, which don’t contain aflatoxins like their legume counterpart.
5. Avoid artificial sweeteners
Insulin is the hormone that stores energy (and sugar) as fat. Artificial sweeteners may be calorie-free but they create a surge in insulin that leads to more hunger and sugar cravings . Substitute with stevia or xylitol instead or avoid all together and opt for a green juice or a serving of low-sugar fruit (green apple, kiwi, green grapes, papaya, or berries). Cinnamon makes a great substitute for sugar in coffee as does oatmeal, which has the added benefit of boosting your metabolism with just 1 tsp. Honey, maple syrup, and date/coconut sugar are okay in moderation, but avoid agave syrup - it contains more fructose than sugar!
6. Eat dark chocolate
A piece or two (at least 70% cacao) will curb your sugar craving and increase serotonin, not to mention it is loaded with antioxidants and packs a nice little caffeine punch.
7. Consider supplements
L-Glutamine , £6, is an amino acid that acts as brain fuel and can aid in reducing cravings for sugar and carbohydrates among other benefits when taken regularly. Support your adrenal glands with herbs like Ashwagandha , £12.29 and Rhodiola , £13.99, which help to lower the stress hormone cortisol, controlling appetite and encouraging restful sleep.
8. Read labels
Eliminate packaged foods with corn syrup, dextrose, and fructose - these are the enemy. Eat whole, unprocessed foods and limit simple carbohydrates (sugar in disguise).
9. Choose wisely
Eat more fermented foods like sauerkraut and kefir that contribute to good gut bacteria (or take a high quality probiotic supplement ). Sugar cravings are often due to imbalances such as candida (yeast). Bitter greens like arugula and dandelion greens retrain the taste buds and reduce sugar cravings. Incorporating acidic foods into meals (tomato sauce, ACV) also reduces blood sugar spikes and blunts the increase of insulin.
10. Watch and learn
Watch the movie FED UP . This documentary is sure to turn anyone off refined sugars for good.
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