How to stop craving sugar and carbs
"Why do I crave carbs and sugar when I'm tired?" This is a question I'm asked so often. To be honest with you, it's a question I often ask myself, especially when I'm working too hard or haven't had a good night's sleep.
Have you noticed how when you're feeling overwhelmed by work or life, or when you're struggling with energy swings, all you really want is a chocolate cookie, a packet of chips or a huge bowl of pasta? For some reason the piece of lettuce on your plate just isn't really doing it for you!
Do you know why you crave sugar when you're tired or stressed?
It's actually completely normal to crave sweets and junk food when you're tired or stressed. It's your body's instinctive way of trying to get you some energy as quickly as possible, and carbohydrates are the form of food that breaks down quickest into glucose in order to fuel your body.
Refined carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, biscuits, cakes, muffins, sweets, sugar, chocolate (oh the list is endless!) break down into glucose quickly once inside your body. You may think this is great, especially if you’re tired or hungry because a quick sandwich or muffin can rapidly lift your energy.
The problem is, with refined carbohydrates you get a rapid surge in your blood glucose levels and in response, your body releases hormones to increase the uptake of glucose by your cells or convert it for storage. This means that you will need another dose of glucose soon otherwise your blood glucose levels will crash.
When your blood glucose levels are too low your cells won’t get their constant supply of energy and so they panic. They think they’re being starved and set off a cascade of hormones to let your brain know that they need glucose. As a result, you get hungry, but not just hungry, you instinctively crave foods you know will break down rapidly into glucose. For example, sugar. This is why you get energy crashes followed by cravings for quick sources of glucose such as sugar, sweets, cokes, and refined carbohydrates like biscuits, muffins, bread or pasta.
So how can you stop craving carbs and sugar?
The trick to stop craving carbs and sugar is to intentionally eat foods that balance your blood sugars. Eating these foods will not only reduce your food cravings but will also decrease your mood swings and energy crashes. In other words - they'll help you have more sustained energy.
Which foods balance blood sugars?
Proteins and fats are complex molecules which break down slowly and so are a longer-lasting source of energy than carbohydrates. If you have healthy protein or good fat with your meal, you’ll find that your energy won’t crash and you won’t need a snack only a few hours later.
I just want to clarify here what I mean by “healthy” proteins and “good” fats. When rebuilding your health, you need to ensure you provide your body with the best possible building blocks and that you minimize toxins, preservatives, colourants and hormones in your diet. So always choose simple, natural sources of protein such as grass-fed meats, free-range dairy and avoid trans fats or partially hydrogenated fats such as those used in deep-frying and fast-food venues. I've put together a list of these healthy proteins and good fats in my cheat-sheet, The Good Foods:
What about "hidden" sugars?
As irresistible as it is, sugar just isn’t good for us and although it gives us a quick energy burst, this burst just as quickly ends in an energy crash. Unfortunately, sugar and refined carbohydrates are everywhere and according to the American Heart Association, the average person has approximately 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day!
Take a moment to think where you're getting your sugar from each day. Are you taking note of the sugar that has been added to your bread? To your breakfast cereal? To your yoghurt? To your ‘health bar’? To your smoothie? Quite frightening, isn't it?
Instead of eating all this extra sugar, start eating more good proteins and fats that help balance your blood sugars and in this way you will crave less junk food and so eat less sugar.
Harvard School of Public Health, 2021. Accessed 2 November 2021. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/added-sugar-in-the-diet/
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