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Kicking sugar addiction for good

In her weekly column, Bradford West Gwillimbury licensed nutritionist Nonie De Long shares some ideas on how to kick those sugar cravings
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Dear Nutritionist,

I read your column and wonder if there is anything I can do for sugar cravings. I can’t stop the cravings for something sweet, no matter what I eat I need a sweet. I never used to be like this! I didn’t eat sweets but now I just can’t manage the cravings, so my question is what can I do for that if there is anything you know of. Thank you!

Carol with the cravings

Dear Carol,

Thank you for writing in. I think your question will apply to a lot of readers!

The short answer is yes, you can totally stop your cravings for sweets! And, eating less sugar will help normalize your blood sugar permanently, helping you lose any excess weight (especially around your waistline), while boosting your energy levels. When sugar cravings get out of control it often ends in type II diabetes - now an epidemic. At that point it becomes essential to make a change. If readers already have type II diabetes it’s not too late to turn the ship around, but it’s far better to take steps preventatively where our health is concerned!

Health problems associated with diabetes include heart and vascular diseases, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, problems with the blood flow to legs, hands, and feet, as well as poor wound healing and high risk of amputation, hearing loss, skin infections, mood swings, depression, alzheimer’s, cancers, and early death. So sugar cravings and consumption are something you’re wise to put your energy into managing!

We know from rat studies that sugar is more addictive than even cocaine. I wrote about the addictive nature of sugar at length last week. So first I want to say that your inability to stop consuming sugar is not a self control deficit. Cutting out the shame or guilt you may feel will help you start to address the problem instead of getting caught up in an emotional response. You’re craving it because it’s highly addictive and the more sugar we get the more we want. Food companies know this and add sugar to almost all processed foods for this very reason: to sell more. In fact, they measure exactly how much sugar, salt, and fat it takes to make you crave the food the most; it’s called the bliss point. So food is created to make you that addicted to it!  To better understand this and what the impact of sugar is on the body, there is a great documentary called The Secrets of Sugar that’s a must see!

Dr. Lustig, an American Pediatric Endocrinologist, has extensively studied sugar - particularly fructose - and the effects it has on the body. His video, Sugar, The Bitter Truth, is one of the most watched nutrition videos of all time. He explains that drinking a soda before a meal has been proven to cause the person to eat more food - because the sugar shuts down the hormonal signals in the brain that make us feel satiated. We feel we need more. We don’t register when we are full! This is what sugar does to human metabolism! This is aside from how sugar triggers dopamine - the reward centre in the brain associated with addictive behaviour. All around it is a very hard habit to kick. But it’s oh so rewarding when we do!

Here are 12 suggestions I have to help get sugar cravings under control:

  1. Quit the sugar completely. Throw everything with it out of the house, as it’s harming everyone in the family. This is a bit like a bad relationship. Often the person in the bad relationship knows it’s unhealthy but can’t leave because they are relying on their feelings to make the decision. It doesn’t feel right to leave because they are used to the abuse. Quitting sugar is the same. It won’t feel good for about 10 days, so it’s a decision we make with our mind, not our feelings. After that 10 days it becomes much easier if we employ the following techniques.
  2. Supplement with quality zinc and magnesium supplements. Both are important for brain health and the regulation of insulin and blood sugar.
  3. Supplement with a liquid B-complex. The B vitamins are essential for energy production and when we are low energy we will crave sweets for the instant energy they bring.
  4. Add chromium and vanadium before bed. They work in tandem, but chromium is required for sugar metabolism in the body.
  5. Get enough sleep - we often crave sweets when our energy is low as a quick pick me up
  6. Keep healthier substitutes in the house and throw the tempting foods out. If you like crunchy things then keep a homemade granola or salty nuts or crunchy crudites with a great dip, or, if you like creamy things make a homemade truvia sweetened pudding or ice cream or peanut butter treat, or, if you like savory foods make a jerky or keep good salami on hand. Learn new recipes with the healthy sugar substitutes, which I go over in this article. Other ideas are cheeses, sour pickles, olives, fruit, homemade yogurt, stevia sweetened sodas, and kale chips. Bacon also works, too!
  7. Start taking some coconut oil every day. It gives a great energy boost and fat, not protein, helps reduce cravings for sweets.
  8. Take a good, broad spectrum probiotic with a minimum of 50 billion guaranteed active organisms. Probiotics help us to absorb more from our food and reduce inflammation, hence increasing energy and reducing fatigue and associated sugar cravings. If you prefer a more economic route, learn to make fermented foods and use them daily.
  9. Take chia seeds (2tbsp) with any food that is going to spike your blood sugar. They are full of protein and essential fatty acids that help down regulate inflammation and suppress appetite. They are also a great source of slippery fibre, which is great for soothing an inflamed intestine.
  10. Never eat sweets on an empty stomach. This will spike blood sugar worse that if it were eaten as part of - or after - a meal. This goes for fruit, also.
  11. Drink bitter melon tea. Bitter melon is used in Chinese medicine for blood sugar regulation and helps to curb sweet cravings. It can be bought fresh and juiced or drank as a tea.
  12. Cut the grain consumption. Grains are our primary source of carbs. Carbs are broken down into sugars by the body so it’s the same as eating sugar in many regards and It might be hard to believe, but a piece of whole wheat bread spikes blood sugar as high as a Snickers bar! We’ve been taught that grains are healthy, but I would suggest a lower carbohydrate diet is healthier. If we must have some carbs, a brightly coloured starchy veggie or cooked and refrigerated potatoes or parboiled brown rice that’s been refrigerated overnight are best. This makes the starch resistant and is much healthier overall for our gut biome which actually feeds cravings for sugars when it’s imbalance!

I know it may be hard to kick sweets - for about two to four weeks - but then it gets much easier. You will know if you need to reduce your intake because you feel sluggish or fatigued or have mood or energy swings and are plagued by cravings for sweets and carbs regularly! If you skip meals then want snacks, this is something I would strongly encourage you to do. It really does get easier with time! Still, some people can’t make this transition without a coach, to keep them steady and focused. You know yourself best so if that’s the case, reach out for help. There is absolutely nothing I recommend more fervently than getting your sugar and carb consumption down for health and longevity!


Nonie Nutritionista