Americans on average are eating about twenty teaspoons of the stuff every day, when the recommended amount is closer to six teaspoons for ladies and nine for guys.
And the driving force for all that sugar consumption? Those dreaded sugar cravings! In this post we’ll talk about how to stop sugar cravings naturally, but first we have to answer the question: why should we cut back on sugar?
We’ve been told since we were kids that it’s bad for us, but what actually happens when we consume added sugar? Read on for the answers!
Sugar’s Effects on Your Body and Brain
Sugar and inflammation
Eating sugary foods leads to rapid increases in our blood sugar, which in turns creates inflammation in our bodies. Eating lots of inflammatory foods can, over time, lead to chronic low-grade inflammation.
This low-grade inflammation is connected to all sorts of health complications. To name a few:
- Heart disease
- Insulin resistance
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Bone loss
This inflammation is even thought to be a contributor to mood disorders such as depression.
Sugar and hypertension
Studies show that sugar intake plays a huge role in blood pressure levels, possibly even more so than sodium intake. One study found that those who drank one less serving of sugary beverages per day had a measurable decline in blood pressure after 18 months. And that’s just one less sugary drink!
Another study found that cutting participants’ sugar intake by 18% reduced diastolic blood pressure by 5 mmHg in just nine days.
Sugar and heart disease
Believe it or not, sugar has been found to have even more of an effect on a person’s risk for heart disease than saturated fat.
A 15-year study published in 2014 by Dr. Hu, a professor of nutrition at Harvard, found that participants who got 17% to 21% of their daily calories from added sugar were more likely to die from heart disease than their counterparts who got about 8% of their calories from added sugar.
According to Dr. Hu, "The effects of added sugar intake — higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease — are all linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.”
Sugar and weight gain
Why does sugar cause weight gain?
The biggest factor lies in the empty calories. While a sugary drink might contain the same amount of calories as, say, a piece of fruit, the satiety value is not the same. Fructose (the more common form of sugar) does not reduce the hunger hormone ghrelin, and it also doesn’t reduce blood flow to the parts of your brain that control your appetite.
In other words, that sugary drink is not going to help you feel full and satisfied, and so you’ll probably reach for more food (or, when the cravings hit, another drink) later.
Sugar and loss of brain volume
Did you know that sugar intake is linked to increased risk of dementia and even Alzheimer’s?
One 2012 Australian study showed that people with higher blood sugar levels were more likely to have a loss of brain volume in the hippocampus and amygdala than people who had lower blood sugar levels. The hippocampus and amygdala are areas involved in memory and cognition, and this in turn could play a role in dementia and even Alzheimer’s development.
Of course, Alzheimer’s develops as a result of lots of factors, many of them non-controllable, but sugar intake is one factor that is controllable.
Why is it So Hard to Quit Sugar
If everyone knows to some degree that sugar is bad for you, why does the average American consume three times the recommended amount?
The answer lies in our biology. The human body actually gets a physiological reward from eating sweets. Sugar stimulates the nucleus accumbens (a region of your brain that plays an important role in motivation, reward, and addiction) to produce dopamine. Eventually this dopamine wears off and your brain starts looking for its next “fix”…and where better to get it than another round of sugar?
Sugar doesn’t just affect dopamine levels. Once we start eating more than our fair share of the stuff, we get trapped in something called the “sugar cycle,” a process that makes quitting sugar all the more difficult. According to this article by Prevention, here’s what the sugar cycle looks like in action:
- Excess sugar drives the pancreas to produce extra insulin, a hormone involved in blood sugar regulation.
- The insulin signals fat cells to store excessive amounts of glucose, fatty acids, and other substances rich in calories.
- With too few calories remaining in the bloodstream, the brain, which has very high energy needs, believes it's now low on fuel.
As a result, your hunger level rises quickly. Sugar is alluring when you're hungry because it provides quick energy.
In short, it’s hard to quit sugar because we get such powerful cravings for it.
So how do you break out of this cycle and stop sugar cravings naturally?
A huge step in stopping sugar cravings naturally is to cut out processed foods. Usually this is where added sugar lurks, and the more sugar you take in, the more your body will demand. Cutting off the sugar cycle at its source will make the whole process easier. Donuts, candy, and soda are some of the more obvious culprits, but also watch out for secret sources of added sugar such as pasta sauce, granola bars, yogurt, frozen meals, white wine, and certain salad dressings.
Take a look at your coffee drinks. These can be a huge culprit when it comes to added sugars. This blog post on The Spruce lists out the sugar content of every drink at Starbucks, and the numbers are pretty scary. Those cute little Frappuccinos pack over sixty grams of sugar—that’s the same as eating four or five Twinkies. Whether your drink of choice is a Frappuccino, a latte, or a macchiato, you’re probably drinking a lot more sugar than you think.
Try to eat often. This will help keep your blood sugar levels stable. When your blood sugar takes a dive, that’s when your brain demands a quick fix and directs you over to the candy aisle. Include protein in these frequent, smaller meals and whole grains instead of processed starches and you’ll naturally start to crave sugar less often.
It’s also a good idea to drink lots of water as you cut out sugar, since cravings can be the result of thirst. Often when we think we want a sugary snack or drink, what our bodies are really telling us is that we need a glass of water. Try to get seven or eight cups every day. And when you hear those cravings calling, try downing some water and waiting fifteen minutes. Chances are, that sugar craving will go away.
It’s always a good idea to curb your stress, but right now it’s especially important. Stress creates the hormone cortisol in your body, which bumps up your blood sugar by tapping into protein stories in your liver. This is your body’s attempt to provide you with instant energy so you can flee or fight your stressor. Unfortunately, this has a similar effect on your body as consuming added sugar. Try taking some time each day to meditate, exercise, or just rest.
This is also a great time to cut out caffeine. When you have your cup of coffee, your stress hormones (including the one we just talked about, cortisol) are raised even if you aren’t under significant stress.
Foods that Stop Sugar Cravings Naturally
One of the best things you can do for your body as you venture to stop your sugar cravings naturally is to eat the right things. Here are a few of the best foods you can eat as you cut back on sugar.
Fermented foods and drinks. According to this article by Marie-Antoinette Issa, “A kombucha a day keeps the cravings at bay.” This is because fermented foods restore gut microflora, keep pH levels balanced, reset your taste buds, and even consume excess sugar in your body from other foods you’ve eaten.
Cinnamon. Adding some cinnamon to your food (add it to some Greek yogurt to reap the benefits of a fermented food as well!) can trick your brain into thinking you’re eating something sweet, since we associate it with sugar, and as a result satisfies cravings for sugar. It also reduces insulin resistance, which means it actually reverses some of the harmful effects of sugar intake.
Stevia. Stevia is 300 times sweeter than regular sugar, meaning it is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth naturally. As an added benefit, it does not raise blood sugar levels and has no calories. This means we can finally enjoy something sweet without worrying about getting trapped in the sugar cycle!
Healthy fats. Eating a balanced diet, including an appropriate amount of healthy fats, can do wonders for stabilizing blood sugar. Coconut milk is one great source of healthy fat. Others include avocado, salmon, nuts, and olives.
SUTRA - Your Ride or Die When Cutting Sugar
I mentioned it a couple of times earlier in this article, but SUTRA is truly your best friend when it comes to eliminating your sugar cravings naturally. It contains three of the foods listed above in its ingredients, as well as many others that help stabilize blood sugar and ease you out of the sugar cycle. Here are a few of the awesome beneficial ingredients in SUTRA:
- Coconut milk – The coconut milk found in both SUTRA Black and Gold is great for balancing out your diet to include more healthy fats and fewer simple sugars. This will help to keep your blood sugars at healthy levels and keep your appetite under control.
- Stevia – SUTRA is sweetened with Stevia, a sweetener that will satisfy your sugar cravings naturally without raising your blood sugar. Stevia packs a powerful taste punch (as we mentioned earlier, it is three hundred times sweeter than sugar!), without the blood sugar crash and cravings that come with sugar and other sweeteners.
- Cinnamon – Found in SUTRA Gold, cinnamon can help stabilize your blood sugar by tricking your body into thinking it has had more sugar than it really has. As we mentioned earlier, it’s also great for lowering insulin resistance.
- Turmeric – Another powerful ingredient you’ll get in your SUTRA Gold is turmeric. Earlier we discussed how inflammation is a detrimental side effect of eating too much added sugar. Turmeric to the rescue! This spice is a magnificent anti-inflammatory, which can reverse some of the inflammation damage done by sugar.
- Cocoa – Found in SUTRA Black, cocoa is a great go-to for stopping sugar cravings as it provides natural energy, doesn’t raise blood sugar levels, and contains powerful antioxidants called flavanols. This means that when your energy crashes mid-afternoon you can reach for some SUTRA Black instead of something sugary, and it will be much more effective!
- Vanilla – Here we have another sweetener that adds great taste without spiking blood sugar. Its carb content is very low, especially with the amounts in which it is typically used. The vanilla in SUTRA pairs with the stevia to create a sweet, delicious drink that satisfies cravings while containing zero (yup, zero!) grams of sugar…added or otherwise!
SUTRA is your new best friend if you’re trying to cut out sugar and stop your cravings naturally. Whether your ideal drink is rich and chocolatey or sweet and spicy, we’ve got the drink for you. Keep scrolling to learn more!