If you find yourself reaching for cakes, cookies, and pies before dinner even begins, then you may be a little too addicted to sugar. There’s a reason sweets taste so delicious — sugar activates the areas of your brain that signal pleasure through your body. Indulging in so many sweets isn’t good for your health, though. Not only is too much sugar terrible for your waistline, but it can also lead to troubles with your metabolism, liver, skin, and heart. If you have an insatiable sweet tooth, then try these seven ways to keep your cravings to a minimum.
1. Skip the processed foods
While you may think eating sugar will satisfy your craving for the rest of the day, eating sweets and processed foods once is enough to make you want to go back for more later. One 2008 study reported eating sugar impacts our brain pathways the same as drugs do. So yes, it really is addictive. Eating sugar stimulates the production of dopamine in the brain, which sends pleasure signals throughout the body. When you come down from your sugar high, your dopamine levels fall, and you’re likely to reach for those sugary foods again to feel happy.
2. Don’t miss meals
Skipping meals is common among those watching their weight, but missing meals and eating too little can really sabotage a healthy diet. Not only will you feel uncomfortably hungry, but you’ll also be less likely to make healthy choices when you do eat. WebMD explains you’re more likely to eat fatty and sugary foods when you go too long between meals, which can then make you crave more unhealthy foods in the future. Eating every three to five hours keeps your blood sugar stable, and you’re more likely to make the right dietary choices.
3. Eat more fruit
Fruit might not be your go-to dessert, but you might want to give it a try. The Dr. Oz Show explains adding fruit to your meals is a great way to tame sugar cravings, as you’ll taste the natural sweetness of the fruit. This trick can even keep you from reaching for dessert later.
Try having an apple with your lunch each day, or add raisins to your rice for dinner. You can even make a trail mix of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit for a snack that’s packed with nutrition and satisfying for your sweet tooth. Choose your favorite fruits and incorporate them into your meals to keep cravings at bay.
4. Check your magnesium
If you feel like the cravings are simply out of your hands, you may be on to something. Life by DailyBurn explains those who crave sugary sweets, especially chocolate, may be magnesium deficient. The next time you visit your doctor, ask him or her to check your levels for you — this mineral could be the reason why you can’t avoid the chocolate bars.
If you do find your magnesium levels are low, then be sure to eat plenty of foods that are rich in this mineral. Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach are excellent sources of magnesium, as are tofu, legumes, nuts, wheat bread, cereals, and fish.
5. Don’t use artificial sweeteners
If there’s a bag of gummy bears you just have to have, then it’s actually better if you eat a small portion of the candy made with real sugar than if you go all-out and eat an entire bag of artificially sweetened candy. While artificial sweeteners seem like the perfect low-calorie way to have your sugar without all of the damaging effects to your body, they won’t help to keep your cravings at bay. In fact, Daily Mail explains artificial sweeteners may make your sugar cravings even worse. The story explains while dopamine is released in the brain during the consumption of real sugar, this chemical reaction does not happen when eating artificial sugar. Skip the fake sweeteners completely and take one or two bites of a decadent treat to feel satisfied and avoid cravings.
6. Eat more protein
The next time you find yourself reaching for cookies and cakes, think about how much protein you’ve eaten that day. When you eat protein, you’re better able to balance your blood sugar, which will help your cravings immensely. And protein is great for stopping the chemicals in the brain that make us want to eat more. You’ll find that your desire for dessert is less after you’ve eaten and digested a meal high in protein.
Lean cuts of meat, chicken, fish, and eggs are excellent protein sources that you should have in your diet. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, then opting for tofu as well as plenty of nuts, seeds, and beans is vital for getting the protein you need.
Meditation is excellent for the mind and body — it brings awareness and focus, and it can greatly reduce stress levels when practiced regularly. If you’re craving sweets and you also find your stress levels are through the roof, there could be more correlation than you think. ADW Diabetes explains recent studies on meditation show this practice can help control blood sugar. This is because lowering stress levels decreases cortisol, the hormone that increases blood sugar.
You can take meditation courses if you’d like, but mindful meditation can take as little as 10 to 20 minutes and can be practiced anywhere. By focusing on your breathing and staying in the moment, you’ll notice you’ll feel a lot less stressed when your session is over. As a result, your cravings for sugar will minimize.