The not-so-sweet side of sugar cravings

The not-so-sweet side of sugar cravings

Sugar has been shown to have an effect on the brain similar to that of an addictive drug. In fact, quickly removing it from your diet can cause withdrawal symptoms, including fatigue, depression, headaches and muscle aches. No wonder it isn't easy to quit.

Not easy, but not impossible, although there are a few questions to answer before weaning yourself off sugar. First, is your blood sugar unbalanced? Next, are you getting enough of the right nutrients? Last, do you sleep enough, and are you able to manage stress? The answers to those questions will help you figure out what, specifically, you need to address to beat sugar successfully. And there are some additional hacks that can help anyone trying to tame their sweet tooth.

Did you know?

Many sugar cravings stem from a blood sugar imbalance. When your body ingests sugar, your blood sugar spikes and your body releases insulin to lower it to a safer level. If the insulin brings your blood sugar level a bit too low, as often happens, your body craves foods that will raise it and increase your energy. You're on a blood sugar roller coaster, and it's hard to get off it. The key to balancing blood sugar is to eat foods that prevent too much insulin from being released, such as protein and healthy fats, and consuming only small amounts of sugar (if any). It's also important to eat regular meals and snacks, because blood sugar drops when you skip a meal.

Can a Nutrient Deficiency Cause Sugar Cravings?

There’s another possible explanation for your sugar cravings if none of the abovementioned circumstances apply to you. You might be experiencing a nutrient deficiency.

Your body and brain require a steady supply of essential nutrients to function properly. Failing to provide your body with essential vitamins and minerals can put you at a high risk of developing a deficiency.

The exact symptoms of a nutrient deficiency will almost entirely depend on the nutrient you’re lacking. For example, a vitamin D deficiency might cause bones to weaken and fracture more easily. MIGHT. On the other hand, a vitamin A deficiency can affect your vision and potentially result in blindness in severe cases.

Here is a list of the different nutrient deficiencies that have been linked to sugar cravings:

Zinc is a nutrient that plays key roles in the immune system, metabolism, and wound healing. Zinc is considered a trace mineral as the body only needs a small amount of it (8 to 11 milligrams a day).

The problem is that the body cannot store zinc. You’ll need to get your daily zinc requirement every day, or you risk inching toward a deficiency.
The reason why zinc deficiency might be the root cause of your problem has to do with its role in metabolism. Not having enough zinc in your body can limit its ability to burn fat efficiently as a fuel source. The body and brain can experience a lapse in energy and crave a barrage of sugar-filled carbs to restore energy levels to normal.

Magnesium is a nutrient that plays various roles in your body, such as muscle support, nerve function and energy production. andOne of the worst things about magnesium deficiency is that it typically comes without symptoms.
A magnesium deficiency can increase stress and affect sleep quality. As mentioned earlier, these factors alone are common contributors to intense sugar cravings, so magnesium deficiency-induced sugar cravings are more indirect but still very impactful.

Vitamin B1
Vitamin B1, or thiamin, is a water-soluble vitamin necessary for cell growth, development, and overall function. Because thiamin is water soluble, your body cannot store it like it does fat-soluble nutrients.
Without enough thiamin in your body to convert glucose, your cells won’t have enough energy to function properly. Your brain will likely push you to eat more sugar even though you already have enough glucose in store.

Chromium is an essential trace mineral that plays an important role in regulating blood sugar levels. Chromium deficiencies are more common than you might think, based on how little chromium you need each day.

An insufficient supply of chromium can cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate dramatically. You may experience the symptoms of a blood sugar spike followed swiftly by a blood sugar crash. With that, your brain signals that you need to consume more sugar.

Curbing Cravings by Preventing Deficiencies

Sugar cravings can be extremely difficult to control and are bound to negatively affect your overall health in the long run. The best way to manage them is to figure out why you’re having them and deal with the root issues. There are several reasons why you might frequently desire a sweet treat, with one possibility being that you might be experiencing a nutrient deficiency.
Maintaining a well-balanced diet is the most effective way to ensure that you meet your nutritional needs. Fish, fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains make delicious and nutritious meals that can help you meet your daily requirements of essential vitamins and minerals.
You’ll still have options even if you can’t meet your dietary requirements through your food. Using various supplements can help you to reach your minimum daily thresholds, too. Just be sure to avoid the gummy versions, as they’re usually loaded with sugar.

How to quit sugar in 8 simple steps

Congrats on making the big decision to cut refined sugar from your diet! It may be a slow and tough process, but just wait until you feel how your body functions without all that added sugar!.

1. Don’t quit cold turkey
Some will advise you to stop eating sugar all at once — not us! In order to make sustainable health changes, it’s best to implement slow but steady adjustments. If you consume a lot of added sugar, stopping all at once will produce a lot of unwanted withdrawal symptoms and leave you feeling extra discouraged. Slowly wean off of sugar, starting with the easiest to the toughest items to eliminate. Maybe try skipping sugar in your coffee first. Then work your way onto deserts. Just don’t do it all at once!

2. Avoid blood sugar crashes
Low blood sugar equals some serious sugar cravings. Because of that, it’s important to help stabilize blood sugar crashes by eating regular meals. When you skip a meal, your blood sugar drops, causing your body to crave sugar in an effort to raise blood sugar levels. A quick boost in sugar prompts a rush of insulin to the body, which drops your blood sugar low once again. 

3. Stay hydrated
Around here, we’re big fans of hydration. It’s essential to help keep your body and its organs functioning properly. In fact, hydration even plays a role in your hunger levels as well as cravings. Dehydration can prevent your body from properly metabolizing glycogen (the converted form of glucose) for energy. Without enough glycogen, your body craves sugar to get the energy it needs.

So when you’re craving sugar (and ideally way before), reach for a glass of water.

Hydration isn’t just about drinking water; it’s about replenishing your cells with essential nutrients and maintaining balance of all the important electrolytes.

4. Prioritize sleep

If you’ve ever felt hungrier or had intense cravings for high-calorie foods the day after a rough night of sleep, you’re not alone. In fact, research shows that sleep deprivation affects food cravings. When you don’t get sufficient sleep, your hormones suffer. Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, increases. Leptin, the appetite-suppressing hormone, decreases. And cortisol, your stress hormone, may even increase, causing a rise in your cravings and appetite. Getting those seven to nine hours of sleep at night may help keep stress at bay, improve your productivity and concentration, AND reduce sugar cravings.

5. Exercise!
Research shows that short workout sessions can help reduce sugar cravings, even if it’s just a 15-minute brisk walk. So if you needed one more reason to get up and get moving, here’s one! Exercising, including a simple walk, also helps lower cortisol (or stress) levels that can contribute to your desire for sugar. Basically, exercising is a great idea — cutting sugar or not.

6. Reframe your thinking
We often see sugar as a treat, so without it, it feels like punishment. Whenever you’re giving up a food, it’s important to focus on what you still can have instead of what you can’t. Otherwise you may grow resentful and frustrated.

7. Fill up on the good stuff
Skip all of the refined carbs and nutrient-void junk foods. Loading your meals up with healthy fats and lean proteins will not only help keep your blood sugar balanced, but it’ll also keep you feeling full! Both fats (like nuts, avocados, and olive oil) and protein (chicken, turkey, eggs, and legumes) contribute to satiety. When you’re full, you’re less likely to feel — or give into — those pesky sugar cravings.

8. Find healthier alternatives
Quitting sugar doesn’t have to mean giving up sweet flavors. Fruit is a part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. Natural sweeteners like stevia can be too! Stevia is plant-derived with almost no carbs or calories.

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