We hate to be the ones to break it to you, but all that sugar you’re eating isn’t doing your body any favors: In fact, studies have shown that sugar is linked to several diseases, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
“A rapid intake of sugar will, in the short term, fuel the brain, as well as increase production of feel good neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. But shortly after a sugar fix, you will ‘crash,’” explains Aaron Slotkin, holistic nutritionist and founder of LA-based Holistic Nutrition by Aaron.
And even though some natural sugar substitutes might be better than others (see our entire guide to them here), there are still concerns that the high levels of glucose and fructose content in them can raise blood sugar, and also be stored as fat. In addition, “Sweet begets sweet,” says Lauren Slayton, MS RD, and founder of NYC-based nutrition service Foodtrainers. “The more sweet you eat, the more you crave. Not only is this an issue for weight control, sugar is tied to almost every major disease.”
But how do you fight those sugar cravings when you’re struggling for something sweet after a long and stressful day? Luckily, we’re here to help. We tapped into several wellness experts who broke down exactly why you might be craving sweets all the time—and better yet, offered a ton of solutions.
Invest In Some Cinnamon
Slayton is a huge fan of cinnamon. “It reduces appetite and stabilizes the blood sugar,” she says. “The combination of cinnamon and vanilla—hopefully good quality cinnamon and good quality vanilla—kind of tricks you into thinking you’re having something sweet.”
Founder of popular workout The Class, Taryn Toomey, also loves cinnamon, and suggests you try it in spray form whenever you feel a sugar craving coming on. “Most importantly, breathe,” she says. “Spray Thieves cinnamon spray in your mouth.”
Emma Zaks, master instructor at SoulCycle, suggests using exercise as a means of distraction whenever you feel a sugar craving coming on. “Do 50 jumping jacks to distract yourself,” she says. “I think people crave sugar when they’re tired or bored.” So, the jumping jacks help to eliminate both those feelings.
Have a Savory Day
Since sugar can hide in everything from ketchup to marinades, it’s hard for us to know exactly how much sugar we’re eating—which, as a result, makes it harder to cut out.
“We do a ‘savory day’ exercise with our clients,” says Slayton. “For 24 hours, we have them skip anything sweet, from the obvious things like cookies and candy to fruit, balsamic vinegar, wine—anything that gives you that sense of sweet. When you do these exercises, the next day, your awareness is up and your cravings are slightly lower, because you’ve shown yourself how to satisfy yourself with other things.”
Cut Out Processed Foods
Because people mostly crave sugar when they need a quick boost of energy, eating foods that provide natural energy is essential—i.e, cut out processed foods. “To beat those sugar cravings, the best way is to stay away—the more you eat, the more you crave,” says Heather Anderson, founder of New York Pilates. “I eat a lot of healthy fats, avoid sodas and processed mixers in cocktails, eat a lot of leafy greens, and drink a lot of water; this works for me.”
Weird, but apparently super helpful: “Coffee contains substances that reduce hunger,” explains Slotkin. “However, it is important to have your cup of coffee at around 9 am or earlier. Drinking a second (or third) cup of coffee after this time may cause blood sugar instability, which can lead to low energy and subsequent sugar cravings.”
Zaks is also a huge fan of the coffee trick. “A coffee with some natural, low-calorie sweetener will make you feel like you’re having a treat, but without all the calories,” she says.
Give Yourself a Sugar Schedule
As much as sugar isn’t ideal for you, cutting it out completely probably won’t realistically work in the long term. “I usually try and allow myself a small dessert after dinner on the weekends—not every day,” says Zaks. “Giving yourself a ‘sugar schedule’ is an easy way to modify your weekly intake. In terms of stopping a sugar habit, I believe it has to start slowly: Going cold turkey just makes you grumpy.”
Develop a Taste for Cacao
Aside from being a superfood, cacao has an intensely rich flavor that can help fight sugar cravings. Don’t have any good quality cacao handy? “Just pour hot water over unsweetened cocoa powder, and drink it to crush a sugar craving,” says Slotkin.
Sleep is essential to keep cravings at bay—not having enough sleep actually raises your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. And when you’re stressed and exhausted, what do you reach for first? That’s right. “Getting those seven to eight hours keeps your hormones balanced, and cravings in check,” says Slotkin.
Make Sure You’re Fully Hydrated
Since thirst can often be confused for hunger, making sure you’re fully hydrated and calm might be enough to stop a sugar craving in its tracks. Laura Coburn, director of serenity at Inns of Aurora in upstate New York, suggests drinking a glass of water and breathing deeply whenever you feel a craving coming on. “In many instances, breathing through a craving will allow the craving to pass,” she says.
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