Sugar cravings not only derail weight-loss efforts but put your health at risk if you find yourself eating too many sweets. Added sugar is found in lots of foods, particularly in processed foods lacking vital nutrients. Gymnema sylvestre is an herb with a reputation for curbing sugar cravings. Other herbs like cinnamon bark and curcumin help balance blood glucose to keep your sweet tooth in check.
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In Ayurvedic medicine, G. sylvestre is commonly used to curb sugar cravings. The herb contains compounds called gymnemic acids, which have a molecular structure similar to glucose, according to a review published in the September 2007 issue of the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition. Gymnetic acid molecules fill receptor locations on your taste buds to curb sugar cravings. In addition, these molecules fill receptor sites in your intestines, reducing sugar absorption from food, according to the authors.
When you consume foods rich in added sugar, your blood glucose rises rapidly, then drops sharply. Cravings kick in once blood sugar falls low, leading to a roller coaster effect. Preventing sugar spikes may help stave off cravings. Researchers found that cinnamon bark contains substances that block the digestion of sugar in your intestines, thereby preventing post-meal sugar spikes. It does this by suppressing the pancreatic enzyme amylase and intestinal enzymes needed to convert carbohydrates into glucose. The study was published in the June 2011 issue of the journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition.
Substances found in turmeric, called curcuminoids, help block carbohydrate absorption, according to a review published in the January 2011 issue of the journal Pharmacognosy Review. Clinical data shows curcumin has a potent effect of blocking alpha-glucosidase, according to the authors. Alpha-glucosidase is an enzyme in your small intestine that converts starches and table sugar to monosaccharides like glucose, the simplest form of sugar. Blocking this enzyme delays sugar absorption and helps keep blood sugar stable, thereby warding off sugar cravings.
Reining in Your Sweet Tooth
The best approach is to keep sugar cravings at bay with a well-balanced diet. Eating protein- and fiber-rich foods like oatmeal, whole-wheat and other whole grains slows the absorption of sugar. When cravings do hit, look for lower-calorie versions, and purchase single servings of sweet snacks instead of an entire box. Have meals and snacks at regular intervals and avoid skipping breakfast. Try chewing gum, which reduces snacking and sweet cravings, according to a study the journal Appetite published in May 2007.