Giving up sugar has many upsides including feeling a lot better. Cutting out sugar can help boost your mood and jumpstart your weight loss. The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar daily, which equates to almost 350 calories. Removing those added calories can make a big difference in weight loss, especially when it comes to losing stubborn belly fat.
Sugar contributes to chronic inflammation, which plays a negative role in almost every function of your body, including how well you fight off the bug that’s been going around the office. One study found that eating 100 grams of sugar (the amount in two 16-ounce bottles of soda) reduced white blood cells’ ability to fight bacteria by up to 50%. Which is why you’re not doing your immune system any favors with that extra-large caramel macchiato habit. But while it’s common knowledge that there are no actual health benefits to eating sugar, its addictive qualities make it hard to give up.
Here are five ways to satisfy your cravings when you’re giving up sugar:
Eat small, balanced meals more frequently throughout the day to keep your blood sugar level steady. It’s also important to not get too hungry between meals so you don’t search for a quick sugar fix. Make sure your meals contain a healthy mix of protein and fiber to keep you full and satisfied, prevent sugar cravings and help you stay on top of your self control.
Sticking to naturally sweet foods, including berries, apples, pears, carrots, sweet potatoes and beets is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth. Since these naturally sweet foods are packed with fiber, the sugar gets absorbed into your bloodstream slowly. That means you skip the sugar high (and resulting crash) that leaves you craving more sugar in a vicious cycle. When a craving hits, reach for a piece of fruit (or other naturally sweet produce) to satisfy your sweet tooth while still getting nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fiber.
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Not getting enough sleep doesn’t just make you tired and sluggish, it also affects the hormones that play into your cravings. When you’re sleep deprived, your body produces more of the “hunger hormone” called ghrelin. One study found that when men were sleep deprived, their ghrelin levels spiked all day long, causing them to eat an average of 340 calories more than their well-rested counterparts — most of those added calories came from sweet snacks. Another study found that not getting enough sleep was associated with drinking more caffeinated sugary sodas. Getting enough shut eye is key for combating sugar cravings!
Your gut microbiota has a surprising amount to do with what you crave. Research shows that the bacteria in your gut has a strong influence on the types of foods you crave. Consequently, changing the makeup of bacteria in your gut can influence your cravings and food preferences. The best way to alter your gut microbiota for the better is to eat fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, tempeh, sauerkraut and kimchi. The probiotics in fermented foods supplement the “good” bacteria in your gut and provide an atmosphere for more good bacteria to grow.
Since bitterness is the opposite of sweetness, eating bitter foods when you crave sugar can help slide back the scale of your sweet tooth. Examples of bitter foods include: grapefruit, leafy greens like arugula, radicchio and kale and veggies like Brussels sprouts and radishes. Not only that, but eating bitter foods before consuming naturally sweet foods makes sweet foods taste sweeter, so you can easily satisfy a craving with fruit rather than a candy bar. As you continue to cut back on sugar and counter your sweet tooth with bitter foods, your taste buds will adjust.
Your taste buds turn over about every 21 days, just like most other cells in your body, so the longer you cut out sugar and counter your sweet tooth with bitter foods, the fewer sweet-craving taste buds you’ll have left.