Sometimes, no matter how hard you resist, a sugar craving can be overwhelming. In fact, in a recent study published in Frontiers In Psychiatry , researchers point out that one of the biggest contributing factors towards the global obesity epidemic is the addictive nature of sugar. They believe that highly processed, “hyperpalatable” foods make sugar cravings worse, as they “hijack” the reward centres in the brain, which impairs our decision making process- similar to drugs or alcohol.
Also, in a report published in Harvard Health, researchers have found that stress can also contribute towards overeating, particularly sugary, high fat foods. In the short term, stress can shut down the appetite but in the long term, “The adrenal glands release another hormone called cortisol, and cortisol increases appetite and may also ramp up motivation in general, including the motivation to eat. Once a stressful episode is over, cortisol levels should fall, but if the stress doesn’t go away — or if a person’s stress response gets stuck in the “on” position — cortisol may stay elevated.” This could lead to persistent cravings for sugary, high fat foods. This is because sugar can dampen stress-related responses and help us to feel calmer.
So, how do we resist sugar cravings in times of stress? Ian Marber, the Food Doctor, shares five simple steps to help curb sugar cravings in a month. It’ll be hard at first but if you follow these guidelines for 30 days then your desire for sweet things dramatically diminishes and you are no longer prey to sugar cravings.
How to curb sugar cravings
1. Eat a good breakfast
Skipping breakfast will leave you with low blood sugar, leading to poor, quick-fix food choices later on. But muffins, pastries and sweetened cereals will start you on the blood glucose roller-coaster.
Instead, choose a combination of protein and complex carbohydrates that will provide a more consistent level of fuel throughout the morning.
Oats or porridge such as Future Life made with low-fat milk, topped with plain yoghurt and combined with a heaped tablespoon of pumpkin seeds and almonds is an excellent choice. A little chopped pear or apple and a sprinkle of cinnamon will add extra flavour.
2. Take probiotics
Friendly bacteria will help to correct any imbalance in your gut and will also reduce yeast overgrowth, as healthy bacteria keep it in check. Probiotics capsules, found in the fridge at your health food store, are a better option than probiotic drinks and yoghurts, which can often be loaded with sugar.
Try Probilift Probiotic Acute Caps 10’s, R69,95 Also, eat a daily serving of plain live yoghurt, either regular or soy-based, ensuring that it’s sugar-free.
3. Eat more vegetables
Green vegetables have a “prebiotic” effect, which encourages the formation of friendly gut bacteria. Vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals needed to build immunity and help defend against yeast overgrowth. Plus, they’re packed with fibre which will keep you fuller for longer.
These veggies release their energy slowly, helping to prevent blood glucose crashes. Experiment with a wide range as some sweet veggies, such as carrots, tomatoes, parsnips and sweet potatoes, can help to satisfy your cravings.
ALSO TRY: Deliciously Ella’s sweet potato brownies
4. Snack regularly
Forget diets that tell you not to eat between meals. This can cause your blood sugar levels to crash, which will trigger cravings. So don’t feel bad about snacking mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
For something sweet, try an apple, a pear or a handful of berries, as well as some nuts or seeds. Combining protein with carbohydrates further slows the release of energy. Dried fruits and bananas may seem a good alternative to chocolate and biscuits, but they are often sources of concentrated sugars that will only perpetuate sweet cravings.
5. Choose healthy desserts
Foods with artificial sweeteners will only encourage a continuing desire for sweet foods. Honey and maple syrup, meanwhile, act in the same way as sugar once they’re in the body. Instead, try a serving of plain yoghurt sprinkled with flaked almonds and a little desiccated coconut.
A baked apple, stuffed with a knob of butter, nuts, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, and served with plain Greek yoghurt is so delicious, it’s hard to believe it contains no sugar. Summer berries with a drizzle of cream or yoghurt will satisfy your sweet tooth!
ALSO TRY: This spiced baked apple recipe
Check out The Food Doctor Ultimate Diet by Ian Marber, available now.