Control your sugar cravings

Effective ways to curb that intense longing for sugar

woman tempted to have an ice-creamSugar addiction is a common problem. Unfortunately, most don't recognise it. Excess intake of sugar can cause serious health complications, besides obesity and diabetes.

Attention deficit, skin troubles [acne], impaired immunity, heart ailments, nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalance are other health problems suffered by people who eat excess sugar.

Years of eating sugar and refined foods actually exhausts our pancreas' ability to produce insulin, putting us at a greater risk for diabetes, obesity and liver disorders.

What causes the craving

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that elevates mood, relieves stress or eases depression and makes us feel happy. When the body is stressed, it craves higher levels of serotonin and endorphins, chemicals in the brain that have a calming effect.

They are found mainly in foods that are concentrated in sugar such as cakes, chocolates, mithais and milkshakes. Eating these sugar-laden foods makes us feel better for a while, and that's why they are called ‘comfort foods'.

But they cause the blood sugar levels to jump, which prompts the body to pump a massive amount of insulin into the bloodstream to bring the sugar levels down.

As a result, there is a sudden drop in the sugar and we again start craving for more. The more sugar you eat, the more hungry you feel—it's a vicious cycle.

Here's how to go about taming that sweet tooth:

  • Don't eliminate sugar from your diet, do it gradually. For instance, reduce the amount of sugar you add to your daily cup of tea/coffee. A complete restriction usually leads to binge eating. However, it would be a good idea to avoid having table sugar [refined/white sugar] as much as possible.
  • Catch yourself when you desperately want to eat a sweet; it may be because of stress or low glucose levels due to long gaps between meals. At such times, it is better to have 2 – 3 tablespoons of glucose powder instead of having a chocolate or a pastry. The powder will give you an instant energy boost and just 100 calories. Whereas, a pastry or a chocolate, will give you 500 – 800 calories.
  • Aim to eat balanced meals at regular intervals so that the blood glucose levels remain stable through the day. This in itself will reduce your craving for sugar.
  • Increase your intake of water and fibre-dense foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains [like bran, millet, wheat] and protein-rich foods like paneer, dals and nuts to meet your energy needs. Doing this too will reduce your craving to a large extent.
  • Eating sweet fresh fruits is a better way to give in to your sweet tooth than eating sweets. Fruits provide you with fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, minus the calorie overload.
  • Opt for natural sources of sugar such as honey, jaggery, raisins and dates whenever you get the sugar craving. But remember, though these natural sources are better choices as compared to refined sugar foods, they still pack in loads of calories and must be eaten in moderation.
  • Read food labels carefully when stocking your kitchen, categorically making sure that you don't buy anything sugar-heavy.

Signs of sugar addiction

  • You are unable to control the urge to eat sweets or sugary foods.
  • You eat sugar foods compulsively after every few hours.
  • You experience mood swings, irritability and bouts of depression on a daily basis.
  • You get disturbed sleep, feel hyperactive and aggressive.
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms if you go without sugar for long.

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Panchali Moitra
Panchali Moitra holds a Masters in Food and Nutrition from Delhi University. She is a qualified nutritionist with a decade old experience of active clinical practice in Mumbai and specialises in providing dietary advice for lifestyle disorders like diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

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