The 10 Best Foods to Beat Your Sugar Cravings
Last Updated: Dec 05, 2016
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It’s a fact: Sugar is not good for us, and we’re hearing about how bad it is in the news, best-selling books and documentaries. Even if you cut out sweets, the sheer pervasiveness of added sugar to processed foods -- from bread to salad dressing -- makes it hard to give it up without a fight. And all of that sucrose, fructose and glucose that adds up in your diet is addictive. “Research shows sugar is as addicting as cocaine,” says Jenny Schatzle, trainer of celebrities and sport personalities like Kathy Ireland and NBA player Dwight Howard. “It raises your insulin level so you want more. You physically want more.” Does the thought of going cold turkey make you feel panicked? That’s just the addiction talking. In fact, your sugar cravings can come from a variety of signals that your body is sending your brain and that your brain interprets as an invitation to a sugar binge. For instance, your sugar cravings could mean that you’re actually tired, dehydrated or that you need a nutrient like chromium, phosphorous or sulfur. Read on for 10 foods that can help you kick your sugar habit.
HOMEMADE SMOOTHIES WITH YOGURT, MILK AND/OR PROTEIN POWDER
Jenny Schatzle says these are her favorite ways to give up sugar because, with the right fruit-and-veggie combination, they’ll taste like a treat. A smoothie often includes the fruit skins, so it provides an extra boost of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. If your smoothie includes yogurt or milk, you get some calcium too, and the fruit adds fiber, helping to slow digestion, lower cholesterol and control blood sugar. As a breakfast, one with protein powder, healthy fats and low glycemic index fruit can push off any unhealthy midmorning snacking (like grazing on doughnuts) and get you through to lunch.
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That cupcake looks great, but your body might actually be asking for other nutrients like phosphorus. Found in dairy products like yogurt, phosphorous (along with calcium) is a building block for bones. While you don’t want to overdo phosphorous, especially if you’re managing kidney disease, choosing plain yogurt instead of ice cream, for example, also gives you the benefit of probiotics, which help maintain proper digestive health. In fact, imbalanced gut bacteria and candida overgrowth have been linked to more intense sugar cravings, and probiotics can help rebalance the gut bacteria. Enjoy your yogurt with some fresh berries and low-sugar granola for a satisfying fiber- and protein-rich snack that will keep your blood sugar from spiking.
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Sugar cravings can also often be a sign that your blood sugar levels are out of balance, which is why it’s important to eat low glycemic index (GI) foods that prevent energy crashes and sugar cravings. Most breakfast cereals contain simple carbohydrates, which break down into sugar in your body and cause a rapid rise in your blood sugar levels. Instead of a muffin, sugary cereal or handful of cookies, steel-cut oatmeal will keep your blood sugar level more stable. Sprinkle some cinnamon and nutmeg or drizzle some honey on a bowl of your steel cut-oatmeal and pair with a serving of nuts for added protein.
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Even spices can help you overcome the sugar addiction. Cinnamon, which was imported from Egypt about 2,000 years ago, has been shown to regulate blood sugar levels and can also help reduce sugar cravings. Cinnamon minimizes insulin spikes after you’ve eaten, thereby keeping you from craving more sugar. When you’re craving ice cream, try sprinkling cinnamon over applesauce (without added sugar), or instead of reaching for a candy bar, halve a banana lengthwise and sprinkle some crushed raw nuts and cinnamon on the cut sides.
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That old adage “an apple a day” wasn’t just talk. Another reason you crave sweets can be due to a deficiency of chromium, a metal that is considered an “essential trace element” in our bodies. Chromium is known to be important in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, and getting enough chromium is thought to improve the way your body regulates sugar and cholesterol. Apples are a great source of it, but other fruits that provide chromium include bananas and oranges. Got apple pie on the brain? Try this easy dessert instead: Slice an apple and sprinkle with cinnamon, then microwave for 30 to 45 seconds.
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Eating protein is an excellent way to reduce sugar cravings because it stabilizes your blood sugar levels. Nuts and nut butters (or sunflower butter if you have nut allergies) provide protein along with healthy fats, but if you’re trying to lose weight, only eat two tablespoons a day. And be sure you get ones that have no sugar added! Nut butters also provide sulfur, which is the third most abundant mineral in your body and found throughout your muscles, skin and bones. As we age, a lack of sulfur can lead to sagging and wrinkling of the skin or stiff muscles and joints. For snacks that combine protein and fiber, try a piece of toast with almond butter topped with berries or dig into a spoonful of peanut butter with some celery sticks.
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With their caramel-like taste and texture, most foodies will tell you that dates are the next great thing, especially because they can be a healthier replacement for sugar in some dessert recipes. Fewer calories than sugar and a lower glycemic index, the most popular kinds are Deglet noor, Medjool and Khala dates. Six medium-size pitted dates provide you with 6 percent of your daily allowance of potassium, which can prevent osteoporosis, stroke, kidney stones and high blood pressure. With high levels of soluble fiber, they help fight off sugar cravings and even stimulate the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestines. But, at 23 calories per date, be sure to eat them sparingly. For a delicious and easy treat, fill a few dates with some cream cheese, goat cheese or even nut butter.
Related: 9 Better-for-You Potato Chip Swaps
If you’ve never been a beet fan, now is the time for you to become one. A sweet vegetable, it can help curb those sugar cravings. Known for fighting off inflammation -- a root cause of conditions ranging from arthritis and heart disease to migraines, dental issues and cancers -- beets are also high in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B and iron. They’re helpful for purifying the blood and cleansing the liver, but, most importantly for your cravings, they’re a good source of glutamine, which is ideal for some extra get-up-and-go when what you’re really hankering for is the spike of energy that sugar can give. For a quick, healthy snack, try roasted beets sliced and served with goat cheese and raw walnuts on some peppery greens.
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Naturally sweet, this veggie can help with sugar cravings too. While starchy, a sweet potato’s natural sugars are slowly released into the bloodstream and won’t cause your blood sugar to spike. A great source of potassium and high in iron, vitamins like B-6, C and D and one of the best sources of vitamin A, the sweet potato is also high in L-tryptophan, which can help satisfy your sugar craving. Sometimes grabbing a handful of candy during a busy day or wanting to end a meal with dessert is really your desire to feel relaxed and calm before bedtime, a feeling that tryptophan can provide. Instead of a slice of cake, spread a quarter-teaspoon of coconut oil on half of a cooked sweet potato, and then add a dash of nutmeg and Himalayan salt.
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Studies have shown that vanilla-scented products reduced a person’s need for sugary foods and drinks. You become desensitized by its smell, so you can trick your sweet tooth with a vanilla-scented product like body lotion or a candle instead of something sweet to eat. But if you won’t be satisfied without something in your mouth, try adding natural vanilla extract to tea, coffee or even sparkling water to curb that craving.
Related: 10 Unique Low-Carb Snacks You Can Eat on the Go
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Have you tried quitting sugar? What helps you when you’re craving something sweet? Give us your tips and advice in the comments below.
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