When You're Craving Sugar, What Should You Eat Instead?

Sweet, sugary junk food, right?

As bad as it is, you may not believe that table sugar has any similarities to hard drugs, such as cocaine and heroin.

Well, you would be wrong about that. It does.

Could you be addicted to sugar?

Health experts claim that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. If you regularly consume sugar, there's a good chance that you are either addicted to it, or at extreme risk of becoming addicted. You may not even be aware of it when it happens.

Given the insidious side effects that sugar has on your health, it is important to recognise which behaviours separate a habit from an addiction.

This is your body on sugar

Historically, human beings did not consume much sugar in their diets. Our ancestors ate a diet that was high in protein and leafy green vegetables.The sweet receptors on their tongues remained, for the most part, unstimulated.

It wasn't until recent history that this began to change, but human taste receptors still have not adapted to accommodate the new, high-sugar diet. As a result, our sweet taste receptors are constantly overstimulated. This overstimulation sets off a chain reaction in the brain, causing it to pump out excessive reward signals every time you eat sugar. They are the very same reward signals which are released when a person uses an addictive drug, and they quickly override our control mechanisms until we are compelled to continue repeating the behaviour that caused us to feel good.

The kicker? We do this even when continued use of the substance starts to cause deterioration of health otherwise.

This is how an addiction to a substance begins.

Sugar addiction: How damaging is it?

As we are all well aware by now, sugar wreaks havoc on our bodies when consumed in excess. People who have become addicted to sugar, much like those who are addicted to any other substance, experience increased tolerance at some point after regular consumption becomes normal for them.

Typically, this causes them to increase their intake in order to receive the same flooding of reward signals from their brain, so that they can achieve the same effect that the substance gave them when they first became addicted to it.

The sugar addicted individual is at increased risk for these serious, health complications:

  • Chromium deficiency
  • Abnormal/inefficient absorption of calcium, magnesium, and protein
  • Dangerous amounts of fat in the bloodstream
  • Dramatic increase of adrenaline and anxiety
  • Leads to difficulty in concentration, lowered productivity
  • At increased risk of illness from compromised immune system
  • Feeds cancer cells
  • Can cause rapid cell death
  • Increases blood pressure
  • Painful kidney stones and gallstones begin to form
  • Rapid sugar absorption results in excessive food intake and obesity
  • Decreases insulin sensitivity, leading to diabetes
  • Causes cardiovascular diseases, which could result in death
  • Tooth decay caused by bacterial overgrowth resulting from dry mouth
  • Significantly increased risk of dementia
  • Could potentially induce abnormal metabolic processes in a healthy individual
  • Premature ageing
  • Changes collagen structure, resulting in bad skin with poor elasticity
  • Can cause poor eyesight; nearsightedness

When you're craving sugar, what should you eat instead?

1. Fats

There is a good amount of evidence, some of it dating all the way back more than 70 years, that suggests that foods high in fat reduce cravings for sweets and junk food.

However, you shouldn't simply drizzle butter over a baked potato and eat that thinking it is going to solve all of your sugar related woes - foods that are high in carbs, such as bread, pasta, and yes, potatoes - are known to trigger intense sugar cravings.

Instead, try something more along the lines of grilled fish rubbed lightly with butter and garlic, with a nice leafy salad on the side.

2. Protein

Chicken breast, eggs, legumes, nuts, and other foods that are high in protein are a great way to control cravings because they keep you feeling satisfied and energised for much longer than sugary junk food will.

An added bonus of the sustained satisfaction you get from eating proteins is that they eliminate the crash associated with consuming excess sugars, and keep you from reaching for the sweets as a “pick me up” snack later, or even worse, periodically throughout the day.

3. Vegetables

Ahh, vegetables. The dreaded villain of the food groups among small children, and maybe even you if you have an active sugar addiction.

When you have become accustomed to eating foods high in sugar, you might find vegetables flavorless and unappealing. But vegetables contain many of the vitamins and nutrients essential to undoing the damage to your health that is caused by consuming excess sugar over a long period of time.

In addition to the boost in your health, eating vegetables will also improve your appearance. If you want healthy, glowing, radiant skin, strong nails, and fuller, more lustrous hair, be sure to include plenty of vegetables in your diet.

The good news is that the distaste that you have developed for veggies is completely reversible. Over time, eating vegetables can even give you somewhat of an aversion to the taste of sweets, in much the same way you developed the opposite aversion from consuming too many sweets.

So really, vegetables are the unsung heros of the food world.

4. Drinking water

This one may seem obvious, but sugar causes intense dehydration. There is evidence that suggests that more than 80% of Americans are in a constant state of dehydration, and that includes children.

Water gives your body its necessary hydration, improves oral health, cleanses your body of toxins, and has many, many other health benefits - far too many to enumerate here - that you can't afford to deprive yourself of.

Water also helps you feel fuller, longer. Did you know that chronic dehydration can manifest itself in feelings of hunger?

So, make sure you're getting your 8 glasses of water per day.

What to avoid if you want to kick your sugar addiction?

When you are trying to banish sugar from your life like a bad boyfriend, you may at first experience intense cravings that make you feel tempted to reach for sugar alternatives, such as artificial sweeteners.

Considering the fact that artificial sweeteners satisfy your craving for sweets while containing virtually no calories at all, this may seem like a good idea to you; however, it is very ill-advised if you are serious about cutting sugar out of your diet once and for all.

While artificial sweeteners aren't as damaging to your health as sugar - perhaps because, since they are many hundred times sweeter than sugar, people tend to consume them in much smaller amounts - they still aren't good for you. Aspartame, for example, has been linked to significantly increased risk of dementia.

But the main problem with taking this approach is that keeping the sugar receptors on your tongue activated will only prolong your sugar cravings.

In order to effectively eliminate your need for sugar and sweets, you must eliminate the source: eating sweets, period. This may be easier said than done, but much like the smoker who has quit nicotine for good, the cravings will eventually fade if you can endure deprivation for a little while. Unfortunately, there is no “easy way out” of any addiction. That is what characterises an addiction, and it is a struggle that you must be determined to triumph at all costs. But when you choose your long-term health over your momentary whims, perhaps you will find that, in the grand scheme of things, living without sugar is, well, a piece of cake.

JournalJoey Ceunen