Sweet Relief: Natural Ways to Curb Your Sugar Cravings
Are you constantly battling a sweet tooth? Do you find it hard to resist the siren call of sugary snacks, even when you're trying to eat healthily? You're not alone. According to a recent survey by the British Dietetic Association, nearly two-thirds of adults in the UK (64%) say they experience sugar cravings. The survey also found that women are more likely to crave sugar than men, with 72% of women reporting cravings compared to 56% of men.
Many of us experience strong cravings for sugar, especially when we're stressed, sleep-deprived, or simply have a natural inclination towards sweet foods. But there's good news: research shows that reducing your sugar intake can have significant health benefits. It can improve your mood, enhance your memory, boost your gut health, and even potentially extend your lifespan.
The Sugar Trap
The NHS recommends that adults consume no more than 30g of free sugars a day3. However, most of us consume double this amount. Free sugars include any sugar added to your food, as well as sugars naturally present in fruit juices, honeys, and syrups. They don't include the sugars found in whole fruits and vegetables or milk. It's easy to exceed the recommended limit without realising it. For example, a glass of apple juice or a shop-bought smoothie can contain nearly 30g of free sugars – your full day's allowance.
The Benefits of Cutting Down on Sugar
Reducing your intake of free sugars can have a positive impact on your mood. A 2015 study involving nearly 70,000 women found that lower levels of added sugar in their diet were associated with a lower risk of depression4. Interestingly, women with a high intake of naturally occurring sugars, such as those found in fruit, also had a lower risk of depression. This suggests that swapping out added sugars for natural sugars could be a double win for your mood.
Boost Your Memory by Reducing Sugar Intake
Cutting down on free sugars could also boost your memory. An Australian study of 4,000 people found that those who drank less than one sugary drink per day had a larger total brain volume and scored higher on memory tests compared to those who consumed more.
Add Years to Your Life by Cutting Down on Sugary Drinks
Moreover, reducing your intake of sugar, especially sugary drinks, could potentially add years to your life. A large study followed nearly 120,000 health professionals in the US for over 30 years. The researchers found that the fewer sugary beverages people consumed, the less likely they were to die prematurely – from all causes.
The Power of Fruit
While fruit does contain natural sugars, it also contains fibre, which slows down the absorption of sugar and mitigates its risks. Moreover, new research suggests that eating fruit may actually help to reduce our cravings for sweet foods.
Balancing Sugar and Fibre for Optimal Digestion and Gut Health
Eating a meal that contains both sugar and fibre, as found in fruit, leads to a longer digestion time. This slows down and regulates your body's metabolic response to food intake. Fruit, particularly the skin, is also rich in vitamins and flavanols, which help feed the good bacteria in your gut.
A Simple Technique to Curb Sugar Cravings
Research conducted at the Max Planck Institute in Germany found that consuming a prebiotic fibre compound called inulin could reduce food cravings.
The study participants were given 3g of inulin, and their food cravings and brain activity were then measured. The researchers found that the food cravings were reduced, and there were changes in the reward network of the brain connected to the gut microbiome.
Additional Tips to Curb Sugar Cravings
Eat regular meals and snacks: This will help to keep your blood sugar levels stable and prevent you from getting too hungry, which can lead to sugar cravings.
Choose foods that are low in sugar and high in fibre: Fibre helps to slow down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream, which can help to prevent cravings. Foods high in fibre include inulin, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Drink plenty of water: Water can help to flush out excess sugar from your body and can also help to suppress your appetite, which can reduce sugar cravings.
Get regular exercise: Exercise helps to regulate your blood sugar levels and can also help to reduce stress, which can be a trigger for sugar cravings.
Get enough sleep: When you're well-rested, you're less likely to crave unhealthy foods. Lack of sleep can disrupt your body's hunger hormones, leading to increased appetite and cravings for sugary foods.
If you're grappling with sugar cravings, it's time to take action. Start by incorporating more fibre into your diet, replacing sugary snacks with whole fruits, and embracing a healthier lifestyle. These changes aren't just about curbing cravings - they're about enhancing your overall health and wellbeing.
So, why wait? Begin your journey towards a healthier, sugar-controlled lifestyle today. Remember, every small change counts. Start with one tip, then gradually incorporate the others. Before you know it, you'll be enjoying the sweet benefits of a balanced diet, free from the control of sugar cravings.
Take the first step now. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Can I eat as much fruit as I want since it contains natural sugars?
While fruit does contain natural sugars, it also contains fibre, which slows down the absorption of sugar and mitigates its risks. However, like all foods, fruit should be eaten as part of a balanced diet.
2. What are some high-fibre foods that can help reduce sugar cravings?
Foods high in fibre include Inulin, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds. In particular, fruits like apples, pears, and berries are high in fibre and can help curb sugar cravings.
3. How can I reduce my sugar intake?
Start by cutting down on obvious sources of sugar like sweets, cakes, and sugary drinks. Try swapping them for healthier alternatives like fruit, nuts, and water. Also, be aware of hidden sugars in foods like pasta sauces, cereals, and yoghurts.
4. Can reducing sugar intake help with weight loss?
Yes, reducing your intake of free sugars can help with weight loss. Consuming a lot of added sugar can lead to weight gain, so cutting down can help you maintain a healthy weight.
This article is for general information only and is not intended to treat or diagnose medical conditions. If in doubt please check with your GP first.
 Knüppel, A., Shipley, M. J., Llewellyn, C. H., & Brunner, E. J. (2017). Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 1-10.
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