Love it or hate it - a lot of us have a complex relationship with sugar because it's so damn delicious. And the message is more confusing now than ever. We're told to completely eliminate it because it can cause diabetes and feed cancer cells, but are tempted with beautiful and mouth watering photos of cakes and cookies (like the one above - sorry!) that are plastered all over instagram.
It's unreasonable for most of us to completely swear off carbohydrates and sugar forever. But my goal for you is to examine your relationship with it and make the choice for yourself - do you truly want to be eating the sugary food or are you at the mercy of your physical and/or emotional cravings?
If you're struggling with a physical dependence on sugar, keep reading ... you might learn something new and surprising. Here are the 5 top hidden reasons why you may be craving sugar.
You are eating too many artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners might seem harmless because they’re not adding calories to your diet, but they actually increase cravings and increase the dependence on high sugar foods.
This is because compounds like aspartame and sucralose (among many others) are 200-600 times sweeter than sugar. Relying on these additives alters your flavor preferences so that you naturally gravitate towards more sugary foods. They also send confusing messages to the brain –sweeteners falsely signal an influx of sugar, which ironically creates a craving.
Always read your labels because food items from diet sodas to yogurt, chewing gum and even English muffins can contain hidden artificial sweeteners. Here’s a complete list of names of sweeteners.
Curious what other affects artificial sweeteners have on your body? Here’s why diet foods don’t work.
You may have a yeast overgrowth
Candida albicans is both a fungus and yeast that lives in the digestive tract and overgrowth and relies on carbohydrates to thrive, causing you to crave sugar. Eliminating sugar and starches from the diet is the first step in eradicating candida, but can be tricky because this may just mask your symptoms rather than completely eliminating the yeast / fungus.
If you suspect you have a candida overgrowth, you may also experience fatigue, flatulence, alternating bowel function, UTIs and recurring yeast infections. It exists in all of us, but tends to overgrow as a result of eating junky foods, imbibing, taking medications (especially antibiotics) – and the list continues. It can be tricky to eliminate by yourself, which is why I recommend working with a professional to test for and eliminate.
You are not sleeping enough – leptin levels and sleep
You might be surprised to discover that the length and quality of your sleep affects next’s days food intake! Research shows that less than 7 hours of sleep per night affects the body’s appetite regulators – increasing ghrelin (hunger promoting hormone) and decreasing leptin (satiety promoting hormone).
The ideal range is between 7-9 hours - your sleep should be non-negotiable. I recommend setting a bedtime because the body adjusts best if you consistently go to bed at the same time each night. You may also consider a relaxing bedtime routine involving a couple of drops of lavender essential oils and a silk eye mask.
You are stressed out
I know it doesn’t help to tell you that your stress is causing you problems (please don’t stress more!) but studies show that both physical and emotional chronic stress increase the intake of foods high in sugar and fat. Chronic stress stimulates cortisol release (the stress hormone), causing blood sugar levels to fluctuate, which triggers carbohydrate cravings.
Even more fascinating – foods that are high in sugar and fat have a negative feedback loop because they help calm the centers of the brain that are responsible for responding to stress. This is the (overly simplified) reasons we love comfort food.
Want to stress less? Find a more graceful approach here.
You are skipping meals
You will inevitably crave junk food if you wait too long in between meals. In fact, more than five hours in between meals causes the body to go into ‘fight or flight’ mode, which is when you begin craving food high in carbs. Aka you’re in survival mode.
The body cannot differentiate between physical and emotional stress so a pattern of this will have similar affects mentioned in the above paragraphs on stress.
Eat every 3 hours, bring snacks in your bag (yep! Your grandma was definitely onto something) and listen to your body’s cues for hunger.