How to Eliminate Sugar Cravings
We all know the feeling when that sweet tooth hits and it can take a tremendous amount of willpower to fight the urge to reach for the sugary foods.
This is because sugar supplies a quick boost of energy and spikes feel good chemicals like dopamine in the brain which make us more likely to reach for more from this pleasurable high that gets activated.
Though we all like to indulge every once in a while and enjoy that sweet kick, sugar addiction is real for a lot of people and can even start to interfere with their quality of life.
But it's not all about willpower! Physiological changes that may be induced by dietary patterns, gut microbiome status, and lifestyle practices can play a big role in the occurence of sugar cravings.
If you regularly experience intense sugar cravings, this may be a sign of wonky blood sugar, insulin resistance, magnesium deficiency or poor intestinal health.
Other factors such as lack of sleep, chronic stress and nutritional deficiencies can also result in increased carbohydrate cravings and an affinity for sugar.
We are all aware by now that sweet foods aren't actually doing us any good except for the brief satisfaction that it provides in the moment.
The good news? You can do something about it! Adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle alongside strategic supplements can help you to curb those crazy cravings for sugar once and for all.
1. Gymnema Sylvestre
Gymnema Sylvestre has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years and has become popular in Western medical practices as a potent anti-diabetic herb and for its role in blood sugar regulation.
This herb is particularly effective to combat sugar cravings by inhibiting sugar absorption in the intestines and blocking sugar receptors on the tongue resulting in reduced intake of sugary foods.
In addition, the active compounds, gymnemic acids, are suggested to work in a variety of ways including increasing the secretion of insulin, promoting the regeneration of islet cells in the pancreas, and increasing the utilization of glucose (1).
A study of fasted individuals taking Gymnema extract had less appetite for sweet foods and ended up eating less than those not taking the supplement (2).
Gymnema Sylvestre's anti-diabetic properties may lower blood sugar levels post meals thus if you are already taking blood sugar lowering medications consult with your doctor before starting this supplement.
2. White Mulberry Leaf
The white mulberry fruit provides a variety of health benefits which can also be obtained from its leaves, that have been utilized in herbal medicine for centuries. Mulberry leaves are highly nutritious, providing powerful antioxidants, as well as vitamin C, zinc, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium (3).
Rich in antioxidant compounds such as flavonoids, anthocyanins, and alkaloids, mulberry leaves possess a variety of effects that benefit health including anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, and cardioprotective properties (4).
As a result when we experience less blood sugar fluctuations, we become less likely to succumb to food cravings and consume junk foods.
The amino acid glutamine is the most abundant amino acid found in the human body.
It is often recommended to consume when sugar cravings hit because it can help to promote glycemic control and improve insulin sensitivity (6). What's more, this amino acid can alter the gut microbiome and promote the proliferation of beneficial bacteria while decreasing harmful bacteria (7).
Bacterial composition in the gut is significantly tied to cravings for refined carbohdyrates and sweets and can manipulate eating patterns, making it harder to say no to certain foods (8).
Though many people do report lessened sugar and carb cravings when consuming glutamine, more research is needed to confirm its effects on sugar cravings.
Meeting adequate protein intake is essential for good blood sugar management, appetite control, and satiation. Dietary protein is considered to be more satiating than carbohydrates and fats and shown to slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream helping you to feel more satisfied (9)(10).
Low dietary protein consumption can make you more prone to caving into sweet cravings by experiencing blood sugar spikes and crashes.
A study that followed participants consuming protein as 25% of their calories found that they experienced greater satiety and fullness as their cravings dropped by 60% while their desire for late night snacking also dropped significantly by 50% (11).
Though protein can be obtained from plant and animal sources, for those with greater protein requirements or who have difficulty consuming enough from their diet, protein powders can help to boost protein intake and meet your daily needs.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that can't be digested by the body but instead it is used as a fuel source by our gut microbes.
Refined carbohydrates are processed and stripped of fiber and as a result enter the bloodstream quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar. Without this fiber, it's easy to feel unsatisfied and experience cravings again rather quickly. Fiber can be found in whole food carbohydrates such as berries, broccoli, nuts, seeds, avocados, and whole grains.
The mineral zinc is utilized by the body in order to metabolize glucose and insulin.
Some studies suggest that zinc can improve blood sugar levels among diabetic patients by reducing glucose absorption and improving insulin sensitivity (12).
A deficiency in zinc can promote sugar cravings. Including enough zinc rich foods in your diet such as pumpkin seeds, seafood and almonds or supplementing can help to decrease cravings.
Sugar cravings can be a sign of mineral deficiencies.
Magnesium is an essential mineral for blood sugar balance as it regulates blood sugar control and insulin in order for the body to better utilize and store glucose. Magnesium also helps to lower the stress hormone cortisol and supports serotonin production, our feel good hormone.
Often times it is suggested that chocolate cravings may be associated with a magnesium deficiency.
You can get magnesium from many foods such as leafy greens, almonds, cashews, dark chocolate, legumes, tofu, and pumpkin seeds however supplementation is often recommended because it can be tricky to obtain enough of this mineral through the diet alone.
Chromium is another mineral that plays a key role in blood sugar management. Research shows that it can improve the body's response to insulin and help to transport glucose into the cells for energy (13). As a result it can help to decrease cravings, food intake and hunger levels (14).
Your gut bacteria are significant drivers to cravings and can influence what you are driven to eat (16).
Excess sugar consumption can alter the composition of the gut microbiome and deplete friendly bacteria. What's more, unhealthy bacteria can signal to the brain to reach for more sweets, foods that they thrive on.
This can further deplete the gut microbiome and feed the pathogenic bacteria, fueling your cravings even more.
Probiotic supplementation can help to restore healthy bacteria in the gut and reduce cravings for sugar.
10. B Vitamins
The B vitamins are used by the body in order to metabolize carbohydrates for energy production.
B vitamins are also important for the stress response and a healthy mood (17). Increased stress can increase nutrient demands on the body, including the B vitamins, and can lead to increased cravings for quick energy, aka sugar.
Many of the B vitamins are utilized as cofactors for the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine (18). These "feel good" chemicals help to regulate our reward centers in the brain and control our desire for cravings.
Lipase is an enzyme responsible for digesting fat from food so it can be absorbed in the intestines.
It may help to prevent cravings for sugar by breaking down fat and using it as fuel. This not only supports energy levels but also may help to prevent unnecessary snacking by increasing nutrition absorption and thus satiety. Lipase can be especially useful before large meals if you have a deficiency in this enzyme.
12. Fish Oil
Fish oil is a popular and potent source of omega 3 fatty acids. These fats are essential, meaning they must be obtained from the diet or supplementation. Omega 3 fats exert many beneficial effects on human health due to their anti-inflammatory properties. They have also been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity, reduce insulin resistance, and improve glucose control which can in turn reduce hunger and cravings for sugar (19)(20).
13. Co Q10
CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant that is found in the mitochondria of the cell. It is responsible for ATP production, the energy currency of the body. In order for the body to metabolize carbohydrates and utilize them for energy it needs ATP. When you don't have enough coQ10 you can experience symptoms of fatigue, cravings, and blood sugar crashes. Supplementing with coQ10 can improve blood glucose control, reduce inflammation, and improve insulin function which are closely linked to hunger regulation and cravings (21)(22).
Consult your doctor before taking coQ10 if you are on medications.
14. Flaxseed oil
Flaxseed oil may provide positive effects on blood sugar from its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acid profile (23). Flaxseeds are one of the richest plant sources of omega 3 fats.
Research on flaxseed consumption suggests that it may reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin function though more research is needed (24)(25). Whole flaxseeds are said to be most effective at controlling blood sugar and insulin because they also contain protein and fiber in addition to the essential fatty acids. You can supplement flaxseed oil as well as flaxseeds to receive the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
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