It’s a new year, and we all know what that means: time to set some resolutions. Resolutions may be up there with the most love-hate things in this world (other contenders include pineapple on pizza), yet every year without fail, we set them anyway -- in all their cliché glory. This year, we decided to break down one of our favorite (read: least favorite) resolutions in hopes of actually achieving it: it’s time to kick the sugar cravings.
Why do you crave sugar, anyway?
If you’re, well, an average human, it may seem weirdly impossible to cut back on sugar. That’s because humans are born with a natural preference for sweet things -- it’s basically in our blood. Go figure. It all goes back to the good ol’ hunting and gathering days, when our ancestors’ taste receptors were designed to crave sweet food as a source of energy that was less likely to be poisonous than bitter foods.
Those cravings have only escalated throughout time, as our taste receptors adapted to the added sugars in our daily foods. And now, the once helpful cravings look more like potentially harmful addictions. A recent study showed that cocaine-addicted rats chose highly sweetened water over cocaine when given the option. Another study showed that highly processed foods, especially those that are highly glycemic (aka release sugar quickly into your bloodstream) are linked with addictive eating behaviors.
OK so, what we’re getting here is that our inability to resist a totally mediocre office doughnut is like… natural selection? In short, yes, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t train your body to think about sugar differently. So, what can you do about it?
Here are 5 of our favorite ways to curb the cravings, without limiting (read: torturing) yourself:
You’ve heard it before, but we’re saying it again: Sleep. Affects. Everything. Particularly, it affects your ability to make healthy choices. Sleep deprivation impacts the ways our body reacts to glucose, leading to lower glucose tolerance and lower insulin sensitivity. On top of that, lack of sleep increases our body’s ghrelin levels and lowers our bodies leptin levels. Ghrelin is the hormone that causes our body’s carbohydrate and simple sugar cravings, aka the “bad guy” and leptin is the hormone that helps us understand when we are full, aka the “good guy”. Getting less than 6 hours of sleep each night? Your body is producing an army of sugar-hungry monsters while you’re awake as revenge. Yikes.
2. Avoid artificial sweeteners.
This one may not seem so intuitive -- if you shouldn’t have normal sugar, why not trick yourself with a fun replacement that’s zero calories? Well, it turns out that this is one of those “too good to be true” situations. In a study at Yale’s School of Medicine, it was found that artificial sweeteners actually leave your brain craving high-calorie foods even more. Additionally, sweeteners like Splenda have been linked to insulin sensitivity and increased blood sugar. That’s why we sweeten gr8nola with monk fruit, which comes straight from real fruit!
3. Include more fruit in your diet!
Let’s bust a myth here: the sugar in fruit IS better for you than processed sugar. Why? Because it’s completely natural, includes antioxidants and vitamins, and most importantly, it comes with fiber -- which helps your body slow down the digestion of glucose so you don’t have a crazy sugar spike.
4. Quality > Quantity.
Imagine this: every night, you can reward yourself with a delicious, high quality truffle. Doesn’t that sound luxurious? And like, ten thousand times more luxurious than binging on your daughter’s stale leftover Halloween candy? Choosing to indulge in something that is small but worthy of savoring every bite will keep the cravings at bay by satisfying your sweet tooth with care, rather than ignoring it completely and binging later.
5. … Eat.
It may sound counterintuitive, but waiting too long to eat between meals actually increases your cravings for sugary foods, foods that your body is trained to think will curb your hunger. Eating regularly (every three or so hours) will help keep your blood sugar stable so you can avoid that feeling of being totally out of control of your eating behaviors. Show your cravings who’s boss.
This year, it’s time to take back control over your resolution. With the right tools and methods to back up your goal, maybe, for once, your resolution will be more than just a cliche declaration -- maybe it’ll be a lifestyle change. Here’s to a gr8 2020 :)