Many of my clients have sugar cravings, and it’s often the reason they come to work with me in the first place. I frequently get questions about sugar, and how much is okay to eat, and whether we should be avoiding it completely. I’m shedding some light on sugar cravings in this article, and sharing why sugar isn’t just empty calories – it’s actually much worse than that.
You may have heard that you should avoid sugar because it’s full of empty calories, meaning that you’re eating calories that don’t have any nutritional value. Although that’s true, the problem with sugar isn’t just that it’s not particularly healthful, it’s also that it’s an anti-nutrient, meaning that when you eat it, your body is left MORE depleted after digesting it than it was before eating it. That’s because it takes a lot of energy to digest our food, and our bodies need vitamins, nutrients and minerals to break down the food we eat.
Whole foods like brown rice, or apples, or even chicken meat, contain all the elements needed to break down the food within the food. Empty calorie foods, like sugar, don’t contain any nutrients – which means that your body is pulling those nutrients from your blood, muscles and bones just to break down the sugar and process it through. This means that sugar doesn’t only add extra calories to your system, but that the basic act of digesting sugar leaves your body in worse shape due to nutrient and vitamin loss than before you ate the sugary treat.
A little bit of sugar every now and then isn’t so bad, but it’s important to eat it in combination with other foods. For example, eating sugar on an empty stomach is a sure-fire way to set yourself up for sugar cravings later. Eating sugary treats with a meal helps to slow down your body’s absorption of the sugar, which means that cravings are less likely to occur.
If you’re struggling with your sugar cravings, here are a few simple ways to ease sugar’s sticky sweet grip on you:
• Be mindful of what you’re having for breakfast. Although for many years we were told that cereal and nonfat milk are a healthy option, I find that for many of my clients breakfasts that are high in carbs and low in protein wreak havoc. Experiment with adding more protein like eggs, nuts and seeds, and even slices of meat in the morning and see what happens with your sugar cravings.
• Don’t be fooled by ‘healthwashed’ foods like granola, energy bars, and energy drinks – they are chock full of sugar. Even ‘healthy green juice’ drinks you can buy in coffee shops and grocery stores are full of sugar. Yes, it’s the natural kind from fruit, but take a look at the label and ask yourself whether you could eat all that fruit in one sitting. If not, why are you drinking it? Even natural sugars spike our blood glucose and set off the cycle of cravings.
• Read the ingredients label on all the foods you buy. Terms like cane sugar, barley malt, molasses, and corn syrup are really just sugar in disguise.
• Ask yourself when and where you experience sweetness in your life. Is it only through food and sweet treats? Or do you carve out sweet moments throughout your day? Do you get enough sweetness and love from your partner, family and friends? If not, do you know how to ask for it? Finding more ways to have sweetness in your life is often a key piece of reducing sugar cravings.
If you’ve beaten your sugar cravings, I’d love to hear about it. Or if you’re still struggling, let me know what’s going on for you and I’ll do my best to help out. Share your thoughts in the comments below.