When we crave sugar it is almost always due to the fact that we are out of balance either with our bodies (watch out hormones), our diets (check out Yin and Yang), or our lifestyle (primary foods). Below you will find common reasons for sweet and salty cravings and how to become more balanced.
Dehydration – when our bodies are dehydrated our kidneys notice a drop in blood volume sending a message to the brain to increase blood pressure, but until we are feeling thirsty, this message feels to us like mild hunger. It is suggested when you feel a sugar craving, to first drink a glass of water and then assess your hunger. Remember, your body needs 64 or more ounces of liquid daily, preferably water.
Lifestyle – we look at the areas known as “Primary Foods” which include career, physical activity, spirituality, and relationship. Primary foods are areas in your life outside of food. When we are bored, under utilized, or over worked and over whelmed, it puts our bodies out of balance. We often use food to fill the void or to make us feel better in overwhelming situations. Being bored can trigger cravings. Before eating that sugary snack ask yourself, “What am I really hungry for?” or “Will this food give me the nourishment I need?”. Keep your primary foods in mind, maybe you just need a hug, or to get outside and go for a walk, even meditating can help with cravings.
Yin/Yang Imbalance – yin foods elevate mood by increasing your serotonin level quickly followed by a drop, causing a crash. Yin foods are thought of as light and expansive. Sugar, alcohol, and tropical fruits are all yin foods. Yang food examples include eggs, salt, and red meat. These foods are contracting and can make you feel bloated and heavy with lower energy. Foods that help you get centered include whole grains, sea vegetables, beans and fish. A good example of yin and yang balance is when you go to a bar and order a drink. On the counter you will find salty snacks such as salted peanuts or salted popcorn. The salty treats which are yang in nature, cause you to order more drinks which are yin, as your body will crave one or the other. Check in with your cravings by tracking what you ate prior.
Lack of Nutrients – anytime you go on a diet, you are restricting certain foods. Your body may mask the lack of nutrients caused by a diet as a craving for foods that can give you quick energy like caffeine and sugar. Mineral deficiencies also create salt cravings. When you get cravings also make sure you are eating enough healthy fruits, vegetables, grains and beans in order to keep your energy balanced. I know when I work all day and forget to eat, when I get home I am looking for the first sugary treat I can find (which is very difficult when you live in a home with no sugar). Satisfying to me is making a banana, almond butter smoothie with almond milk. This helps my craving for sweets. Just freeze some bananas and blend with 1 TBS of almond butter and any sort of nut milk you choose. I put in a cup of nut milk, but you can just put in to give your smoothie a more liquid texture.
Hormones – common cravings for women during menopause, pregnancy and menstruation are typically chocolate or salty chips. When hormone levels fluctuate, they can effect how food is metabolized and confuses our body. When these cravings happen I have found having a square of dark chocolate or having an apple, cut into slices, with a little bit of sea salt does the trick. Try it out.
Additional questions that can help you out when cravings strike:
- Is this worth the crash I will feel later?
- Is there a better choice?
Some additional advise from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition
- Know how to identify hidden sugars
- Eat a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables
- Incorporate sweet vegetables
- Use healthier sugars when possible
- Find balance – avoid Yin/Yang imbalances
- Ask yourself “What am I really hungry for”
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I hope these posts regarding Sugar Blues has helped you get your cravings under control and has given you some ideas on healthier sugar alternatives and how to identify the effects sugar can have on the body.