Have you heard about “sweet tooth” and sugar cravings? Do you know that simple sugar and refined carbohydrates such as pastries contribute to chronic inflammation?
What is chronic inflammation?
Inflammation is the immune response of tissues due to bodily injury and it is part of the healing system. However, chronic inflammation is a different story, it is an abnormal, silent and slow progress that contributes to many diseases including asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and perhaps Alzheimer’s disease. The causes of several of these diseases are still under investigation. Inflammation doesn’t happen on its own. Common triggers for chronic inflammation include smoking, lack of exercise, stress, refined carbohydrates and highly processed foods.
Too much sugar in the diet also leads to elevated levels of stress hormone – cortisol and stimulates the production of inflammatory prostaglandins. This creates a vicious cycle – high levels of blood sugar stimulate the release of cortisol, which in turn causes more sugar cravings. As a result, you develop a “sweet tooth” and gain weight at the same time. Consuming excessive amounts of sugar can affect your health negatively in the long term.
For more information about chronic inflammation, read Why You Are Suffering from PMS (Premenstrual Syndromes) and Sugar Cravings? And 23 Tips to Fix it!
Why should you give up sugar?
Simple sugars and refined carbohydrates break down quickly into glucose in your digestive system, and glucose passes directly into your blood stream and this raises your blood sugar dramatically. In order to bring it down to a normal level, your pancreas has to work hard to produce enough insulin – a hormone to ship glucose out of your blood system into cells. The heavy supply of glucose causes your pancreas to overwork to secrete excessive insulin. Insulin is a “feeding” signal, which sends a message to your brain that you need more food!
Worse than that, over time, the repeated oversupply of insulin makes the body less sensitive to the hormone, which leads to the condition called insulin resistance. This means the insulin released from your pancreas to your bloodstream becomes drowsy and does not lower your blood glucose as effectively as it should. Your body cells need insulin to convert glucose into energy, but with insulin resistance, even though there is plenty of glucose available in the blood, the glucose is not entering the muscle cells to be burned for energy. As a result, most of the carbohydrates you consume get stored as body fat, while the cells in your body are starving for energy. Over time, the pancreas can no longer keep up with the body’s demand for insulin, your blood sugar rises above the healthy level, and you develop pre-diabetes and/or Type 2 Diabetes.
In addition, when your blood sugar is high, your body generate more free radicals. Free radicals speed up THE aging process and also damage the lining of your blood vessels, which can lead to heart disease.
For more anti-aging tips, read A Super Charged Anti-aging Diet-Part One.
Other reasons you should give up sugar
Sugar and mood swings and depression: Excessive sugar intake triggers your body to release endorphins such as dopamine and serotonin along with the sugar rush. Dopamine and serotonin have the calming effect on your brain and also make you feel happy, so you feel happy for a short period of time, then your blood sugar drops along with the production of these endorphins. The reduced production of these happy hormones, in turn, affects your mood. In order to keep your happiness level, you crave for more sweets, and the cycle continues and you reach for more sugar.
Studies indicate that excessive sugar intake is linked to a greater risk of depression and schizophrenia, as sugar suppresses the activity of the hormone called BDNF, which is low in individuals with depression and schizophrenia.1,2,3 Sugar promotes chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation in the long term affects the normal functioning of your immune system and impacts on your brain function.
Research also indicates there is a correlation between sugar and anxiety.4 When your blood sugar levels fluctuate dramatically, it triggers your body to release hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol, which can cause anxiety and mood swings.
Sugar and addictive eating: Sugar causes the release of the hormone – dopamine in your brain. Researchers indicate that sugar can be physiologically addictive just like addictive drugs.5
Sugar and elevated triglyceride: Excessive sugar intake also leads to increased triglyceride in your blood and can contribute to heart disease.
simple and quick tips to stop sugar cravings
- Make sure that you get sufficient amount of chromium. Chromium is a mineral that your body requires for normal body functions. Many studies suggest that chromium prevents the spikes of blood sugar and plays an important role in blood sugar regulation and food cravings.6 A recommended dose is 200mcg a day before any meal to prevent sugar cravings.
- Eat small frequent meals throughout the day. A high protein and high fiber diet will make you feel more satisfied and will reduce food cravings as well, and small frequent meals help stabilize your blood sugar and reduce sugar cravings.
- Do not skip breakfast. Many studies suggest that skipping breakfast contributes to weight gain. Breakfast serves as a fuel to boost your metabolism early in the morning. People who skip breakfast tend to eat more later during the day. A healthy breakfast also helps stabilize your mood and reduce food cravings during the day. Make sure you include protein in your breakfast meal. Protein helps improve your concentration and keeps you feeling full for longer. High protein smoothies are an easy breakfast option. Omelet and high protein yogurt topped with fresh or frozen fruits are also good choices for a healthy breakfast.
- Read labels and watch out for food labeled as “fat-free”. Most fat-free snacks are loaded with sugar to enhance the flavor. Sugar is masked under many different names such as sucrose, glucose, fructose, dextrose, lactose, maltose and corn syrup. So don’t be fooled by them when you read the labels and be aware of the different names used for sugar on food labels.
- Try some chewing gum. If you want to avoid a sugar craving, try chewing gum, Research has shown that chewing gum can reduce food cravings.7
- Choose fruits over sweets. When sugar cravings hit, choose to eat a piece of fruit. Fruits will satisfy you with fiber and nutrients along with some sweetness. Stop drinking fruit juices as they are just simple concentrated sugars.
- Limit artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners deplete chromium in your body and chromium is a nutrient that is crucial for blood sugar regulation. In addition, artificial sweeteners may increase your cravings for sugar and carbohydrates.8
- Get distraction and distance yourself. When a sugar craving hits, go out for a walk, or talk with a friend over the phone or keep yourself busy so your mind is not focused on the food that you are craving.
- Remove temptations from your environment. Make a shopping list for your grocery shopping, so you are less likely to purchase junk food while shopping. Don’t keep sweets and other sugary treats in your house. If they are visible, they may trigger your food cravings.
7 sugar-free snack ideas to stop sugar cravings
- Smoothie: You can use high protein Greek yogurt and coconut milk, mix with fresh or frozen fruits and top with chia seeds.
Visit Chia Seeds to find out more healthy recipes and the amazing health benefits of chia seeds.
- Seaweed chips: They are not only tasty and easy to make, but also high in fiber and loaded with nutrients. In addition, they are less in calories and a very healthy snack choice for weight control.
Visit Why Would Anyone Want to Seaweed to find out more.
- Peanut butter with celery: Fill celery sticks with peanut butter; they are delicious and satisfying.
- Hummus with veggies: Make your own hummus as your veggie dip and add some spices to enhance the flavor.
- Enjoy Greek yogurt topped with your favorite fruits such as blueberries or strawberries.
- Enjoy a small handful of mixed unsalted nuts.
- Make your own popcorn and don’t coat it with butter and sugar.
What are your great tips to stop sugar cravings? Please share your thoughts.
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- Stephen Ilardi, Ph.D. Dietary Sugar and Mental Illness: A Surprising Link. The Depression Cure. July 23, 2009
- Hold the diet soda? Sweetened drinks linked to depression, coffee tied to lower risk. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130108162135.htm on 21 Dec., 2014.
- Avena NM, Bocarsly ME, et al. After daily bingeing on a sucrose solution, food deprivation induces anxiety and accumbens dopamine/acetylcholine imbalance. Physiol Behav. 2008 Jun 9;94(3):309-15. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.01.008.
- Ashley N. Gearhardt, M.S., Marney A. White, Ph.D. An Examination of the Food Addiction Construct in Obese Patients with Binge Eating Disorder. International Journal of Eating Disorders. Volume 45,Issue 5, pages 657–663, July 2012
- Sugar is as addictive as cocaine, and causes obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease: Researchers. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/researcher-sugar-addictive-cocaine-obesity-diabetes-cancer-heart-disease-article-1.1054419 on 21 Dec., 2014.
- Stephen D. Anton, Christopher D. Morrison, et al. Effects of Chromium Picolinate on Food Intake and Satiety. Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics. October 2008, 10(5): 405-412. doi:10.1089/dia.2007.0292.
- Chewing Gum Reduces Snack Cravings And Decreases Consumption Of Sweet Snacks. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090419133824.htm on 21 Dec., 2014.
- Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892765/ on 21 Dec., 2014.
A moment on the lips is forever on the hips.