Sugar is sneaking its way into everything these days from the obvious (like brownies and cookies) to the not so obvious (store-bought bread and “healthy” sports drinks.) Unfortunately, most sugar we consume is highly processed and refined, leading to blood sugar spikes, headaches, and get this – even more cravings. Follow these simple steps to help reduce your sugar cravings the healthy way!
6 ways to tame your sugar cravings
Load up on H2O: Often when a craving comes on, it’s your body’s way of telling you it’s dehydrated. Before you go for that afternoon Mocha Latte or late-night brownie, try drinking a glass of water first and see how you feel in a half hour. Also, be sure to stay hydrated throughout the day to potentially prevent these cravings altogether. If you’re one to forget filling up your water bottle, try “eating your water” as well to stay hydrated all day long.
Check in with your caffeine intake: Speaking of hydration, are you hooked on caffeine? Your coffee, soda and chocolate addiction could be causing dehydration and blood sugar swings, leading to energy dips and more cravings for the sweet stuff. Limit your caffeine intake, and try sticking to just one or two cups of coffee in the morning. Beware that most fancy lattes pack on a boatload of added sugar and caffeine in just one drink. Topped with whipped cream? You’re asking for a major swing in energy levels with an extra dose of nasty cravings!
Avoid artificial sweeteners & added sugars: While artificial “sugar substitutes” often don’t contain sugar, they are typically filled with chemical, man-made alternatives. Not only are they potentially harmful to your health, but they also trick the body into thinking it’s getting the real deal. This causes similar blood sugar spikes as plain white sugar, leading to a wild rollercoaster ride with your energy. Beware of these ingredients, sneaking their way into sports drinks, soft beverages, “diet” foods, and sugar-free snacks.
Analyse food labels: Next time you hit the supermarket, pay extra attention to the food label, particularly reading the ingredients. While claims like “low-fat” or “fat-free” may seem fine, they’re typically telltale signs that other ingredients have been added to make up for the lack of flavour. In most cases case, it’s sugar, sugar and more sugar! Know that “fat-free” or “sugar-free” doesn’t necessarily equate to healthy. Look for whole, natural varieties of your favourite foods that haven’t been tampered with.
Amp up your exercise: We know exercise is good for our health, but did you know it may also prevent you from dipping your hand in the office candy bowl? Since physical activity can increase energy levels, reduce stress and help control blood sugar, it’s the perfect natural alternative to your sugar “high.”
Take advantage of naturally sweet foods: Many foods are naturally sweet as is; that’s the beauty of nature. Fill your plates high with carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, parsnips, turnips, corn, and sweet onions to stop you in your tracks (before things get out of control later on!)
6 of the best natural sweeteners
As you work on managing your sugar hankerings you’ll naturally begin to crave it much less. In the meantime, these natural sweeteners are much better alternatives to their processed, refined, or artificial evil twins. All sugars are not created equally! Just be mindful and use in moderation because, while natural, these options are still sweet and contain a good amount of sugar.
Raw Agave Nectar: Agave nectar actually comes from the same plant as tequila, The Blue Agave Cactus, but don’t worry, it won’t burn your throat! With a much lower glycemic index than regular table sugar, it absorbs into your blood stream more slowly, reducing the chances of a “sugar rush.” For the best effects on your health, look for unrefined or raw varieties, typically stored in darker bottles.
Raw Honey: Found in most households, this sticky golden sweetener has been used for years. Not only does honey taste delicious, but it also comes with a slew of health benefits and is a time-tested treatment for the common cold due to its natural antioxidant and anti-microbial powers.
Coconut Sugar: It’s no lie we’re nuts about coconuts (and coconut water!) here at Spafinder, but did you know coconut sugar (derived from coconut nectar) can actually be used to enhance your favourite foods and beverages? Since it enters the bloodstream more slowly than table sugar, coconut sugar provides a more steady form of energy (i.e. fewer mid-afternoon slumps) with an added mineral-rich nutrient boost. Mix into coffee, tea, baked goods or anything where you’d like to add a touch of sweetness.
Stevia: Stevia, which comes from a South American plant, is a calorie-free all natural sugar alternative. It’s a great choice for someone with blood sugar issues or who needs to watch their sugar intake, as it doesn’t affect the bloodstream. Just be cautious – just a packet is sweet enough, and it tends to have a bitter aftertaste. Be on the lookout for pure, natural varieties that aren’t disguised with dyes and added flavours.
Fresh Fruits & Vegetables: There’s nothing quite like sweetening your meals with fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the earth! Apples, bananas and berries add flavour to porridge without added sugar or processed syrups, and unsweetened applesauce, pureed sweet potatoes and pumpkin can be substituted for sugar when baking. Play with different produce in your home to see what works for you!
Pure Maple Syrup: While certain varieties are packed with artificial ingredients and additives, Pure Maple Syrup makes for a tasty sugar alternative. Look for 100% pure, natural varieties typically stored in a darker bottle. Keep in mind that maple syrup is still high in sugar and naturally super-sweet, so just a drop will do!
Are you addicted to sugar? Which of these tips could you incorporate into your lifestyle to help control your cravings?
By Rachel Chemerynski
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