Sugar makes us feel so good—that is, until it doesn’t. No one enjoys the cravings, guilt, and health problems that come with being addicted to the processed sugar that’s abundant in many desserts, snacks, and candies. It makes sense that we’re crazy for sugar. Our ancestors came to understand that sweet foods give energy. We’re hard-wired to desire sweet-tasting things. But in our modern world, sweet foods are often the least nutritious. Processed sugar has been studied for its addictive effects and linked to type 2 diabetes, obesity, behavioral issues in children, and fatigue in adults. So how do you break the cycle of sugar’s highs and lows? Here are three simple steps that you can implement today. Don’t forget, sugar can be addictive, so depending on the strength of your cravings, it may take longer to let it go. Don’t give up!
1. Stay hydrated Many common cravings are linked to dehydration. Whether you think you’re craving sweet, salty, crunchy, or soft, it could just be your cells asking to be energized and quenched. Drinking a glass of water at the start of a craving is a good way to determine where your craving is coming from. Drinking adequate amounts of water throughout the day will lessen cravings and help keep your body functioning optimally.
2. Eat sweet vegetables Foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, and winter squash are great sources of healthful sugars. Thanks to other nutrients like fiber that are present in these sweet veggies, the sugar is absorbed into your system a lot more slowly. This prevents a sugar high (and crash), and delivers a steady stream of energy. My favorite way to satisfy a sweet craving with vegetables is to roast sweet potatoes or winter squash with coconut oil and a dash of sea salt. Roasting allows the natural sugars to caramelize to perfection. Cinnamon and ginger are great spices to add to bring out vegetables' natural sweetness.
3. Move it! Like sugar, exercise releases feel-good endorphins and serotonin in your brain. When you’re energized from physical activity, you’ll be less likely to have sugar cravings throughout the day. Also, when you add more physical activity into your life you might find yourself craving healthier forms of fuel (I know I do). Instead of refined sugar, I crave fresh fruit after a workout. My favorite late-night sweet snack has become goji berries with almonds—sometimes with a few vegan chocolate chips. By embracing a healthier lifestyle with few, if any, processed foods, you’ll naturally start to crave fewer unhealthy sweets. Sweet foods aren’t evil, you’ve just got to choose the right ones!
Jenné Claiborne is the founder of The Nourishing Vegan, a New York–based personal chef service. She is also the creator of Sweet Potato Soul, a vegan food blog that features recipes, tips, and cooking videos. In 2013, Jenné launched the 21-Day Vegan Blueprint, an interactive online program that takes the guess work out of becoming vegan. Follow Jenné on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.