We all know about the high sugar content in foods such as ice cream, cookies, candy bars, and donuts. But did you know that sugar is found in a vast array of foods other than just those that are considered “sweet”? You might be surprised to find sugar in these pantry staples: bacon, sausage, ketchup, pasta sauce, peanut butter, almond butter, bread, crackers, nut milks, and coffee creamers. And that’s not all. Sugar goes by many names, 56 different ones to be exact, including barely malt, carob syrup, dextrose, diastase, ethyl maltol, galactose, lactose, maltodextrin, sorbitol, and sucrose. Even when we are trying to be health-conscious consumers, sugar can sneak it’s way into our diets.
Dopamine: the reason why the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you’ll want
When we consume sugary foods, the dopamine receptors in our brain ignite. Dopamine is responsible for controlling feelings of pleasure and reward. Therefore, when we eat sugar, the dopamine response encourages us to continue eating sweet foods. Insulin is another key player in sugar cravings. This hormone is found in the pancreas and tells the body to either utilize sugar for energy or for storage. When we eat foods high in sugar, our insulin levels spike, causing our blood sugar levels to rise. This gives us energy, but not sustained energy. In about an hour or so, your blood sugar levels will drop, making you feel lethargic and desiring either a nap or sweet treat.
Boost your immune system, mood, and sleep
Believe it or not, mounting evidence suggest sugar’s role in a wide array of undesired health conditions, from mood swings, acne, and poor sleep, to more severe conditions such as type 2 diabetes, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. Not to mention that eating sugar in excess can contribute to a weakened immune system. As we gear up for back-to-school season, and the abundance of cold and flu illnesses that come with it, limiting sugar consumption can help lower your susceptibility to catching those undesired germs and viruses.
Get rid of sugar cravings naturally
A good rule of thumb is to generally avoid those packaged and highly refined foods found in the middle aisles of the grocery store. These almost always contain added sugar. Instead of reaching for a granola bar or piece of candy the next time you feel hungry, try eating an avocado, nuts, seeds, or “Fat Bombs” (see recipe below). Nourishing your body with healthy fats is a great way to curb sugar cravings. Clean protein sources, such as wild-caught salmon, grass-fed meat, and pasture-raised poultry and eggs, are also going to help you feel full and energized, without the blood sugar swings. Lastly, while carbohydrates may be getting a bad reputation these days, there are plenty of nutrient-dense vegetables that provide the body with sustained energy, while being low on the glycemic index. These include artichokes, asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, spinach, eggplant, cucumber, sweet potatoes, peppers, radishes…. the list goes on and on! If you give your body the nutrients, fats, and protein it needs, your sugar cravings will start to dwindle.
Super Simple Fat Bomb Recipe
Recipe adapted from Mark Sisson’s “The Keto Reset Diet”
1/2 cup organic coconut oil
1/2 cup organic cacao powder
1/2 cup almond, cashew, or preferred nut/seed butter
Melt the coconut oil. Whisk in the cacao powder and nut butter until smooth. Pour into silicone mini muffin molds (or small paper muffin cups). Refrigerate or freeze for at least 10 minutes to harden. If using muffin molds, pop the the molds out and place in an airtight container. Store in fridge until you’re ready to enjoy one.