Serotonin – A mood-enhancing neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy
Endorphins – A group of hormones that make us feel euphoria
Dopamine – A chemical that plays a major role in motivation and reward systems
The effects of these chemicals train us to do more of what makes us feel good, but the brain doesn’t discriminate between what actually is good for us and what is not. For example, both exercise and cocaine stimulate the release of these hormones – and it goes without saying that one is good for us and the other the exact opposite! Regardless, the same surge of chemicals leaves us wanting more.
No matter how good a sugar binge makes us feel it won’t be causing any good at all! The fact that sugar makes us feel good is a sort of evolutionary lag – we are adapted to crave energy-dense foods due to the ancient need to stay nourished and avoid starvation in the wild. In the modern world however, the risk of starvation (thankfully) is extremely low and we are at far higher risk of getting too much energy as opposed to not enough.
In short, sugar addiction is possible – and what’s more, some would even argue that it is probable in the modern world of convenience food.
How to Manage Sugar Cravings 🍬
Whether you’re new to weaning off sugar or have been following a sugar-free lifestyle for decades, sugar cravings can creep up when you least expect them!
Here are four healthy habits to help you manage sugar cravings and fight sugar addiction.
1) Make your Own, from Scratch!
Many people think that cutting out sugar is as simple as ditching all junk food. Whilst this is definitely a good place to start, the food industry hides sugar where you’d least expect it – meaning you can get hooked on sugar without even realizing if you’re not careful.
Unsuspecting foods high in hidden sugars include jars of pasta sauce, low-fat foods (which often have heaps of added sugar to bring back flavor), takeaway coffees, fruit smoothies and healthy-marketed cereals such as muesli. Sugar can even be found hiding within the most natural, pure and wholesome foods – good examples are honey and fresh fruit!
So, it’s possible that a ‘healthy’ diet could be misleadingly high in secret sugar, exposing you to the risk of sugar addiction if consuming such foods frequently. The best way to get around this is to choose minimally processed food and cook your own meals from scratch wherever possible.
By cooking from fresh you will know exactly what you’re eating, including the sugar content of each ingredient! And remember, so-called ‘real food’ ingredients can also be real-y high in sugar, so do your homework and get to know which have the highest sugar content in order to avoid them.
2) Make Sure You’re Eating Enough!
Keeping yourself nourished throughout the day is all about planning ahead and not getting caught out. By giving your body the constant stream of energy it needs you can avoid pesky sugar cravings. Choose foods high in protein and healthy fats for an energy boost that is steady and sustainable.
You should also get into the habit of making your own wholesome and nutritious snacks, as snack foods are a key perpetrator for being secret sugar bombs! Try making your own low sugar snacks (https://greatist.com/eat/no-sugar-snacks#5) in bulk batches. This will not only equip you for the week ahead but it will also save you a fortune and keep you in control of exactly how much sugar your snacks provide. Having these handy will equip you with a delicious defense for when sugar cravings hit!
3) Switch out Sugar for Natural Sugar Replacements!
Using natural sugar replacements can help to keep your sweet tooth happy whilst avoiding the detrimental effects of sugar. Making your own tasty treats using natural sweeteners such as Erythritol, Stevia and Xylitol will give you your sweet fix without the empty calories or risk of getting hooked on sugar.
What’s more, using natural sugar replacements instead of sugar will also help to improve oral health, regulate blood sugars and avoid weight gain. But beware, all sugar replacements aren’t created equal – synthetic sweeteners can overstimulate sweetness receptors, wreak havoc with gut health and even accelerate a preference for sweeter foods. So, always opt for natural sweeteners such as those mentioned above.
4) Avoid Emotional Eating
Last but not least, keep an eye on your sugar cravings and be sure that you’re not confusing them with a need for something else. It’s not uncommon for lack of sleep, dehydration or stress to contribute to sugar cravings. Giving in to them might make you feel better temporarily but won’t solve why you were craving sugar in the first place!
Getting enough calories is only one aspect of feeling energized. Following a lifestyle with a healthy amount of sleep, rest and relaxation is also needed and will help to knock sugar cravings on the head.
More and more of us are choosing to reduce the amount of sugar we eat or else go sugar-free altogether. The effects of sugar addiction are real and recognizing them will help you to cut out the sugar without exacerbating sugar cravings and having the opposite effect! Remember, we’re all due a tasty treat from time to time, but delicious can also mean nutritious – which is why NKD Living created their own range of natural sugar replacements. Check out the full range to discover why sacrificing sugar is now sweeter than ever!
Author: Stephanie Masterman @NutriNoggin
- Avena, N., Rada, P. and Hoebel, B. (2008). Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 32(1), pp.20-39.
- Lenoir, M., Serre, F., Cantin, L. and Ahmed, S. (2007). Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward. PLoS ONE, 2(8), p.e698.
- A. Ventura, A. and Mennella, J. (2011). Innate and learned preferences for sweet taste during childhood. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 14(4), pp.379-384.
- Tappuni, A., Al-Kaabi, R. and Joury, E. (2016). Effect of Free Sugars on Diabetes, Obesity, and Dental Caries. Journal of Dental Research, 96(1), pp.116-116.