We feel the effects of sugar in all its forms . However, the biggest culprit is added refined sugar. Instead of nourishing the body, added refined sugars encourage our taste for even more sugary foods and start a vicious cycle. At the crux of the issue is this: added sugar is pervasive in so many foods, and the majority of people over consume it on a daily basis without even realizing it.
Too much sugar may lead to impaired glucose and insulin function , which can lead to more serious issues like diabetes, general weight gain, and an increase in cholesterol and triglycerides. Sugar wreaks havoc on our bodies. It suppresses our immune system, triggers mood disorders, and amplifies pain and inflammation .
Refined sugar contains no fiber, no minerals, no protein, no healthy fats, no enzymes, only rapidly digested and empty calories. The consumption of sugar actually pulls minerals from the body during digestion, which forces the body to compromise its nutrients and minerals in order to digest the sugars.
Sugar cravings are also part of a cause and effect mechanism. Blood-sugar dips, insatiable hunger, moodiness, and lethargy are all symptoms of “sugar addiction.” If you’re experiencing intense sugar cravings, it’s important to determine the root cause and any external factors to break the cycle of addiction.
The good news: to stop sugar cravings you don’t need to make any drastic diet changes. Cutting out sugar starts with awareness, preventative measures, and simple substitutes. Creating consciousness around how added sugars act in the body will help you recognize the symptoms of sugar cravings and treat them as such.
By killing cravings and consuming less sugar, you’ll strengthen your immune system and regain lost energy that has previously been wasted on sugar. Read on for tips to help you shake down those sugar cravings.
What could be the urge behind sugar cravings? Several factors, and many start with the health of your microbiome, which is the ecosystem of bacteria that benefits your gut health and immune system. Having an unhealthy gut usually means sugar cravings will show up in the form of sweets, bread, fruit, or dairy. Too much sugar consumption contributes to an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria in the gut, also known as dysbiosis, which also creates an inflammatory environment in the body.
When the gut is in a state of balance, the good bacteria thrive, controlling inflammation and bad bacteria overgrowth, and the body is better able to digest and detoxify any foreign poisonous substances to avoid nutritional deficiency.
At Parsley Health , we often guide members through an elimination diet to help remove foods that are uniquely irritating to them and help balance their inner ecosystem. Other tips for balancing the ratio of good bacteria in your gut include consuming fermented vegetables (think kimchi and pickled veggies), probiotic liquids (such as coconut kefir and some kombucha), and healing bone broth .
Pro tip: A good quality probiotic can also help rebuild healthy gut bacteria levels, protect intestinal integrity and boost immune function.
As the old saying goes — drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep. Quality sleep is crucial when talking appetite control. It’s much more challenging for a sleep-deprived you to resist sugary foods and refined carbohydrates. The body of a sleep-deprived person is signaling that it wants a pick me up, and the body’s neurons and muscle memory cleverly recognize that sugar provides a “high,” so the body asks for it, often in the form of a sugar craving.
Pro tip: Create a bedtime routine. Leave room in your day before bed for restoration and relaxation time, and focus on making sleep a priority.
Cravings are much harder to manage if you let your blood sugar spike in the morning, only to drop again a couple hours later. Incorporating protein in your breakfast is part of the important game plan for controlling appetite throughout the day. Consuming some form of protein at every meal, especially breakfast, increases satiety and has a stabilizing effect on blood sugar. This improves our appetite control and can help prevent us from reaching for a sweet snack mid-morning and will keep mindless munching at bay throughout the day.
Pro tip: A strategy is to double up on unsuspecting protein sources in the morning — think chia seed pudding with almonds or a smoothie with our famous plant-based Rebuild Clean Protein .
When we opt for a “low-fat” diet, we are more often than not choosing to replace a flavorful, moist, and satiating food with another flavorful substitute: usually a refined carbohydrate (AKA sugar). Our bodies digest simple carbs very easily, which in turn creates a craving for more sugar in attempts to energize the body once again. This yoyo-ing deprives our body of maintaining equilibrium and is totally unsustainable.
Healthy fats serve the body well and aid in hormonal balance, boost the metabolism, and regulate blood sugar. Eating a source of healthy fat along with or in place of a carbohydrate will slow down the absorption of glucose in the bloodstream, preventing undesirable sugar highs and lows and curb sugar cravings. Healthy sources of fat include nut butters, avocados, eggs, coconut oil, and high-quality animal protein such as wild caught salmon.
Pro tip: Try adding a teaspoon of coconut oil to your morning coffee or our High Fat Morning Glory Coffee . It helps to stabilize your blood sugar and keep you alert and focused.
Label reading involves some common sense and some (unfortunately)not-so-common-sense. Make it a habit to read the ingredients on nutrition labels before purchasing an item to avoid artificial sweeteners and hidden sugars. Studies have also shown that artificial sugars may lead to type 2 diabetes.
Be aware that if you purchase a “sweet” food and don’t recognize a familiar-sounding sweetener, it doesn’t mean the item doesn’t contain added sugar. Sugar is often not in plain sight on labels and will masquerade under alternate names such as agave, corn syrup, malt syrup, invert sugar, fruit juice concentrates, dextrose; anything with the ending “-ose,” and more. Some manufacturers will actually divide a designated gram amount of sugar in the form of more unrecognizable sugars, in attempts to list them lower on the ingredients list, making the consumer believe the total amount of sugar on the label is lower than it actually is.
Opt for naturally sweet foods as they provide balancers. Fruit, for instance, contains natural sugars accompanied by fiber, which slows digestion and enables the natural sugar to be more easily digestible by the body resulting in no major sugar spikes. Carrots, berries, apples, sweet potatoes, coconut, and chestnuts are all great examples of naturally sweet foods with no added sugar.
Pro tip: Start buying unsweetened versions of staples like yogurt and nut milk so your taste buds can get used to sugar free foods. If you absolutely need to add some sweetness to your food, try a very small amount of honey, maple syrup, or fruit.
When a sugar craving hits, try shifting your focus and energy on other pleasurable or therapeutic activities and take some real time to determine what works for your body specifically. Let common sense prevail and remember that the sugar craving is just your body attempting to regulate itself; we promise you don’t need the extra sugar to survive.
If you’re not quite sure where to start with a sugar detox, try out our free Sugar Detox Guide. This transformative program is designed to help you increase energy levels, improve mental clarity, and kickstart healthy weight loss within just a few weeks. It also includes tips to help you battle through a sugar craving and a meal plan that’s entirely refined-sugar free. Get started here .
Dr. Robin Berzin is the Founder and CEO of Parsley Health, America's leading holistic medical practice designed to help women overcome chronic conditions. She founded Parsley to address the rising tide of chronic disease in America through personalized holistic medicine that puts food, lifestyle, and proactive diagnostic testing on the prescription pad next to medications. Since founding Parsley in 2016, Dr. Berzin has seen 80% of patients improve or resolve their chronic conditions within their first year of care, demonstrating the life-changing value of making modern holistic medicine accessible to everyone, anywhere. Parsley is available online nationwide.
Dr. Berzin attended medical school at Columbia University and trained in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Her new book, State Change, will be published by Simon Element in January 2022.