Sugar cravings are the biggest challenge most of us have to face when choosing a healthy nourishing diet. Even after learning about the negative health impacts of eating sugar, the thought of reducing or eliminating your sugar consumption can seem like an outrageous and impossible feat.
Phasing sugar out of your diet is possible when you use lots of nourishing support and a wide array of natural sugar alternatives. Once the sugar is gone and the withdrawal symptoms pass, your body will find a new balance and health. Without the sugar your immune system will be stronger, your energy and moods more stable and your cravings will fade away. You won’t miss the sugar or the bothersome symptoms it was creating.
Sugar is physically addictive. Studies at Princeton University find that sugar consumption leads to all of the identifying symptoms of addiction in rats; increased intake, withdrawal, cravings and relapse. And many experts believe that breaking the sugar addiction is more challenging than getting off of nicotine or even heroine. (1)
Of course, nicotine and heroine aren’t ingredients in almost every food on the super market shelves. In addition to being the main feature in candies and desserts, sugar is also included in products from crackers and cereal to bread, condiments and soups. Unless you have made a very conscious and diligent effort to avoid sugar, you have probably eaten it every day of your life. And with every serving, your addiction has been triggered.
“Refined sugar passes quickly into the bloodstream in large amounts, giving the stomach and pancreas a shock. An acid condition forms which consumes the body’s minerals quickly. Thus calcium is lost from the system, causing bone problems. The digestive system is weakened and food cannot be digested or assimilated properly. This leads to a blood-sugar imbalance and to further craving for sugar” (2)
Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods
Phasing the Sugar Out
Although freeing yourself from a sugar addiction can be challenging, it is also deeply rewarding. Phasing the sugar out of your diet will improve your immediate and long term physical health, stabilize your moods and energy levels, and help you enjoy the pleasure and tastes of nourishing natural whole foods even more.
It’s important to approach phasing sugar out of your diet as an act of self love and self care, rather than an act of deprivation or punishment. Humans have a natural preference for sweetness (in food and relations). Use this as an opportunity to adjust to and appreciate different forms of sweetness. As the sugar addiction subsides your body will reestablish its own natural harmony.
Here are some important tips you can use for phasing out the sugar:
• Adjust to Milder Sweets
Excessive use of refined sugars has likely increased your tolerance and desire for sweets to unhealthy levels. Choosing milder natural sweeteners will allow your body to readjust and free you from the sugar cycle so you can begin to enjoy naturally sugar free desserts as a special treat once again.
• Eat Sweet Veggies and Whole Fruit
The sweetest whole food is fresh ripe fruit. When eaten in this form, the natural sugars of the fruit are accompanied with the exact combination of enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and fiber that your body for healthy digestion and optimal utilization. Naturally sweet vegetables, like yams, parsnips, carrots and beets offer the same benefit. When eaten regularly, their mellow sweet flavor can help to curb sugar cravings.
• Chew Well
When whole grains and other complex carbohydrates are properly prepared and chewed well, they release a natural sweetness that calms the nervous system and alleviates the desire for excess sweets.
• Balance Yin and Yang
Your body always seeks balance. In the Chinese tradition the main elements of this balance are called Yin and Yang. Everything you eat affects your Yin/Yang balance. Eating foods from the extreme ends of the spectrum causes cravings for their opposite. Eating foods from the middle of the spectrum supports a steady balance.
Salty foods, meat and cheese are on the far Yang end of the spectrum. Sugar, coffee and alcohol are extremely Yin. Many people struggle to maintain balance while flip-flopping between the two ends of the spectrum.
Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and beans all fall in the middle of the spectrum. A steady diet of foods from these categories will support your body’s Yin/Yang Balance and free you from your cravings.
• Balance Protein and Carbs
Protein and carbohydrate metabolism regulate one another and its important to keep them in good balance. When you eat concentrated proteins (like meat and cheese) in excess, you’ll naturally crave excessive quantities of concentrated sweets.
On the other hand, if you don’t get enough protein you may also find yourself with sugar cravings.(2)
The first issue is the result of the main stream diet and the second issue commonly occurs in vegetarian diets that rely on processed, rather than whole, foods. Whole grains and beans have a balanced amount of protein and carbohydrates. Again, eating a whole foods plant based diet with only modest amounts of animals products (if any) is a great tool for avoiding sugar cravings.
• Take Micro-algae Supplements
Micro-algae are an excellent source of easily digested protein for quickly regulating sugar metabolism. Spirulina, chlorella and wild blue-green are highly effective in reducing sweet cravings. (2)
• Drink Lots of Water
Dehydration is a common cause of cravings. Whenever you feel the urge to grab a sweet snack, drink a glass of water instead. This is a great way to intercept your cravings, re-hydrate, and bring your body back into a healthy balance.
• Exercise and/or Breathe Deeply
Cravings can also be caused by an overly acid condition in your body. Exercise and deep breathing change your PH to a more alkaline state. These no-food techniques are helpful in getting your blood moving and taking your mind off your cravings
• Enjoy Homecookin’
Most processed foods and restaurant fare is loaded with sugar, even when it’s not “sweet.” When you prepare your own food at home you decide exactly what goes into it. Enjoy preparing and eating delicious sugar-free whole foods using our nourishing Detox Diet Recipes to avoid the sugar from eating out.
• Nourishment Menu
Cravings are always a message from the body that it needs something that it’s not getting. Often, those cravings can be satisfied by non-food activities. A Nourishment Menu helps you find non-food ways to do something “sweet” for yourself. Check out our simple instructions for creating your own Nourishment Menu from the May 2009 issue of the Whole Body Detoc Diet newsletter Healthy and Loving It.
Cravings are your body’s way of telling you that something is missing or out of balance. Given the state of our modern food supply it’s no wonder so many of us struggling with cravings…especially for sugar. The key to moving through any craving is to understand it and see it for what it is. Just because you can’t stop thinking about ice cream doesn’t necessarily mean that your body needs it. Consider the other factors at play and, most importantly, feed your body nourishing whole foods to keep it healthy and satisfied.
(2) Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition by Paul Pitchford; copyright 1993, 1996, 2002 North Atlantic Books