Whether you’re trying to lose weight, clear up your skin, reduce pain and inflammation in your body, sleep better at night, or simply get healthier, you might have the idea that excess sugar (and your cravings for it!) is getting in the way of achieving your goals.Sugar cravings are extremely common and can often be explained by relatively simple things, like the side effects from certain foods that have made their way into your diet or simply the fact that reaching for that sugary snack has become a habit in its own right (1).
I’m the first to say that there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” food. But the truth is, what is most supportive to the body always comes down to quality and nutrient density. Refined sugar contains no fiber, no minerals, no protein, no healthy fats, no enzymes, only rapidly digested, and empty calories. It suppresses our immune system, triggers mood swings, and amplifies pain and inflammation (2). The oxidative stress it creates can be detrimental to our mental health. Put simply, sugar wreaks havoc on our bodies. Let me validate this for you: your initial instinct to read this article to learn healthy swaps to satisfy and reduce your sugar cravings to feel better, lighter, happier, and healthier is spot on.
Two kinds of sugar cravings
Sugar cravings can be broken down into two categories: habitual and physiological.
Habitual sugar cravings are real and likely will require a shift in mindset to break free from the chains of your processed sweet treats. Below I’ll share some of my favorite healthy swaps to help you begin the process of retraining your brain.
The physiological sugar craving is actually your body screaming to you “I need energy!” which can be translated into: “I need protein and fat!”. Protein and fats slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream and when you don’t consume enough of them your blood sugar can rise and fall at an abnormal rate. The result? Your body craves quick energy from sugar (3). Ensuring you’re consuming protein and healthy fat, in some form, at every meal and snack, is the first step to reducing these sugar cravings. Here are some healthy examples of protein and fat:
Protein: wild-caught seafood, pasture-raised and organic meat, eggs, and poultry, organic and unprocessed nuts, seeds, and legumes, and dairy (if tolerated)
Fat: wild-caught seafood, pasture-raised and organic animal fats, egg yolks, organic and unprocessed nuts and seeds, organic and cold-pressed oils from nuts and seeds, avocado, and coconut
Tying this all together: when a sugar craving hits, first determine whether or not it’s habitual or physiological. If it’s the former, perhaps retrain your brain to get yourself out of that bad habit. Maybe you can walk out of the kitchen, do some jumping jacks, or reach for a crunchy carrot stick instead. If your sugar craving is physiological, that’s your body telling you to incorporate more protein and healthy fat in your diet!
Here are 5 healthy swaps to satisfy and reduce sugar cravings:
Craving: Ice cream —> Swap for: Banana Ice Cream (recipe)
Pudding: pudding —> Swap for: Avocado Chocolate Chia Pudding (recipe)
Cookies: Cookies —> Swap for: Almond Peanut Butter Cookies (recipe)
Craving: Brownies —> Swap for: Black Bean Brownie (recipe)
Craving: Cookie dough —> Swap for: Chickpea Cookie Dough (recipe)
1. “The Effects of Sugar on the Body and How to Stop Sugar Cravings.” Parsley Health, 2 Oct. 2019, www.parsleyhealth.com/blog/5-
2. “The Science Behind Sugar Cravings.” Thorne, www.thorne.com/take-5-daily/
3. Effects of Sugar, Parsley Health.