"At birth, there was breast milk, and after that there was honey and fruit, which are excellent sources for quick, readily metabolized energy." says Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center in New Haven, Connecticut. "This tendency was to ensure that humans were drawn not only to mother's milk but to apples, oranges, bananas and other sweet and vitamin-packed foods. There was no way to overeat these natural foods in bygone days. But in the modern world, we often get too much sugar. That leads to tolerance, and cravings become exaggerated."
Well, dang. Our ancestors really screwed us on that one. But the good news is we can get some satisfaction from eating other types of foods to help curb our sugar cravings — and start feeling better on a day-to-day basis in the process.
For one, it ages you. Too much sugar will lower your immune system, increasing inflammation, leading to essential mineral deficiencies in the body and feeding bad bacteria growth in your gut.
It also disrupts normal brain function. The brain is made mostly of fat and although it runs on glucose, it gets “shorted out” with too much sugar. Sugar can also cause increased anxiety and depression.
To top it all off, sugar can lead to obesity and diabetes. If you exercise regularly (and you're relatively young), you're able to burn off the extra sugar you may eat. But if you're mostly inactive, the response to high levels of blood sugar (or glucose) is that the body releases more insulin into your bloodstream.
Insulin (which regulates glucose levels in the blood) takes the surplus blood sugar and tries to find a place to store it. But if your muscles are full, then it places the excess glucose in your fat cells. With frequent insulin spikes comes insulin resistance, leading to more insulin production, more fat storage and more resistance, eventually going down the road of possible diabetes.
The body interprets a lack of sugar (and high-carb foods) as a nutritional deficiency, creating insatiable cravings. At the core of every chocolate bar is the cacao bean. Cacao beans are loaded with magnesium, an essential nutrient that helps combat stress and avoid early heart attacks, says Dr. Bella Altura of the New York's Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. "Stress indirectly causes the body to excrete magnesium, which causes an imbalance that can constrict the heart." Depleted magnesium levels have also been associated with elevated blood pressure, scientists say.
Often at the core of the cravings dilemma are modern food processing methods that remove most essential nutrients. Trying to fuel our bodies with processed foods almost guarantees continued sugar cravings. These cravings often lead to overeating—and weight gain.
And the nutrients our bodies have been designed to seek in certain foods make us crave foods that are less and less nutritious, creating even stronger cravings!
Medical and health writer Lesh Karan provided us with the following easy tips for reducing or eradicating cravings.
If you want to turn off your sugar cravings, you will have to be willing to manage your stress, change your eating habits and enrich your diet with vitamins, minerals and other healthy, natural supplements.
Originally published January 2014. Updated January 2017.
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