Why sugar is a problem and 5 ways to control cravings
Have you ever taken a good hard look at the candy aisle at the supermarket? Based on the sheer amount of real estate candy bars command, it is pretty clear that sugar is quite a popular commodity - and beyond that, an unhealthy, problematic addiction. Here is an alarming statistic - in the 1700’s sugar consumption, on average, was about 4 pounds per year. Today, it is about 1/2 pound per day, or 180 pounds per year.
Why is this gluttony of sugar consumption such an issue? The reasons are countless. In lieu of trying to name them all, here is a (very) limited list of 15.
Sugar is linked to various types of disease and is especially harmful to children.
Sugar depletes the body of vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
Sugar reduces the body’s ability to defend against bacterial infection.
Making the blood thick and sticky, sugar inhibits blood flow into the micro capillaries that normally supply our gums and teeth with vital nutrients.
Sugar is linked to diabetes.
Sugar can produce a significant rise in triglycerides, lower HDL and raise LDL.
Sugar causes a decline in tissue elasticity and function.
Sugar is one of the dietary causes of gallstones.
Sugar interferes with the body’s absorption of calcium and magnesium.
Sugar may make eyes more vulnerable to age-related macular degeneration.
Sugar disrupts the chemical processes in the brain and can lead to mental fog and erratic emotional behavior.
Sugar can cause fatigue, moodiness, nervousness, and depression.
Sugar can cause premature aging.
Sugar can contribute to osteoporosis.
Refined sugar is a chemical extracted from plant sources, very similar to the chemical make up of cocaine. Addiction to it is even more powerful than that to narcotics.
Why can’t we stay away from sugar?
From an evolutionary point of view, humans are wired to crave sugar and carbohydrates from birth. The first thing a baby ingests after birth is naturally sweet and carbohydrate rich breastmilk. It nourishes the baby and feed’s its gut bacteria, stimulates the release of serotonin, endorphins, and promotes relaxation. Breastmilk also contains proteins and fats necessary for proper growth and development.
This natural propensity towards sweet during times of scarcity served a purpose during ancient times of fight or flight. Today, we rarely find ourselves in such extreme situations and yet our habitual overindulgence of sugar perpetuates a dangerous cycle of craving. A growing number of people are suffering from the afflictions on modern day living - hormone imbalances caused the consumption of processed foods, lack of quality sleep, artificial light and lack of movement. This creates the perfect storm for cravings.
What can we do about it?
Do you struggle with sugar cravings? If so, a sugar detox may be in order. It can help reset a sweet tooth so that even the taste of cinnamon registers as sweet to the taste buds. Talk to us if you would like help with this.
The top 5 things we have found powerful in kick sugar and carbohydrate cravings are:
Protein and Fats. In order for the body to produce sufficient neurotransmitters which are vital for balancing hormones and avoiding cravings, protein is necessary. Healthy fats are a source of energy for the body, are satiating and will help with hunger cravings.
Move. Movement releases endorphins similar to those released when sugar is consumed. We say movement - and not exercise - to enforce the idea that it does not need to be a full-on workout in order for this to happen. A brisk walk, a few body weight squats and/or pushups are enough to do the trick.
Plan meals in advance and eat when hungry. With a little advance planning, and a fridge and pantry full of healthy food options, you will be ready when hunger strikes. This, along with clearing empty calorie foods out of your fridge (freezer) and pantry will make healthy choices easier to make. Need help learning how to design a healthy pantry or with recipes and cooking? We offer Kitchen Pantry and Food Prep Consulting. Contact us for more info.
Sleep. Getting enough good quality sleep is a crucial part of leading a healthy life. Lack of sleep can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, obesity and hormone dysregulation. With regards to cravings, when you are tired, you have less will power to make good decisions - and you will really need it. The lack of sleep amplifies sugar and carbohydrate cravings. Sleep is also critical for balancing blood sugar and managing insulin. We’ve written about sleep in the past. Read more here.
Vitamin B Complex. A fat soluble vitamin B complex can help the body utilize carbohydrates, minimizing the body’s craving for more.
CoEnzymeQ10. This is a key player when it comes to mitochondrial functioning and important for improving carbohydrate utilization. This is the one we take.
Lipase. This is a protein made by the pancreas that is an ingredient in many digestive enzyme supplements. It is a common deficiency in people who have blood sugar fluctuations, and it can also help to break down fat and burn it as fuel. Try taking a digestive enzyme before the start of a big meal.
Fish Oil. A high quality fish oil can increase insulin sensitivity and help curb appetite and carbohydrate cravings.
Amino Acids and Neurotransmitter support. Deficiencies in amino acids and neurotransmitters imbalances can contribute to a sugar addiction. Neurotransmitter support such as amino acid L-Glutamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (also known as GABA), and D-phenylalanine can quiet the brain and along with that, carbohydrate cravings.
Bonus tip: Mint can help curb cravings. Try muddling some mint in sparkling water at the onset of a craving.
Our food philosophy focuses around nutrient density. By itself, sugar is devoid of all nutrients, proteins, fats or minerals. We are totally fine and in fact promote the occasional sweet treat - complete deprivation is not our thing. Once you are able to detox from a sugar addiction, look for or make treats that are lightly sweetened with a high quality stevia, dates or other fruits, raw honey, which is loaded with antioxidants or high grade real maple syrup (this one is delicious).