When I was little I loved watching Sesame Street and my favourite character was Cookie Monster. Years later, my infatuation for chocolate chip cookies fully matured, I often felt like it was only shame that kept me from demolishing a bag of Chips Ahoy with the same destructive flare as Cookie Monster.
On the outside, I was a young woman concerned about my health, eating my greens, ordering fish when I really felt like ribs, drinking my 2L of water a day. But on the inside, me was Cookie Monster and my cravings for those chunky chocolate chip cookies were definitely primal.
So when the results of my latest Facebook poll came in and you all told me that the top reason you struggle to eat healthily is uncontrollable sugar cravings -- I could totally, 100% relate. They do just creep up on you with tsunami-like force and before you know it, your pantry is a scene of destruction.
So how do we mitigate those cravings? Or better yet, eliminate them so that we are fully in control of our food choices -- even at 9pm & even after a stressful day.
This is a tough challenge and it's one that is overcome by acting on various fronts.
Don't let anyone ever try to tell you that sugar cravings are related to emotional weakness. They are not.
Uncontrollable sugar cravings are symptomatic of a body that is three things:
- Nutrient and mineral deficient;
- "Damp" as they like to say in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which means that you have a yeast (or Candida) issue in your gut; and
Let's look at each of these issues:
ONE: NUTRIENT & MINERAL DEFICIENCY
You know that time after dinner when you've finished washing up and that little voice inside you is saying, "I could really do with something else...what could I have?" And you end up having something sweet? Or maybe you don't even know what to eat because nothing appeals and you end up having a bowl of cereal. That is actually your body trying to tell you that it's deficient in nutrients and minerals.
The science has been very clear on the demineralizing effects of sugar - particularly, Vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin C.
A pop like a Coke, for example, is a killer for all these nutrients. It is high in fructose corn syrup and high fructose intake results in a reduction in Vitamin D levels. As a result of lower Vitamin D levels, calcium absorption also suffers because Vitamin D helps facilitate calcium absorption in the small intestine. When our body metabolizes sugar, it guzzles through the body’s magnesium reserves to do so. That’s why people with diabetes have higher magnesium requirements. And glucose and Vitamin C use the same transporters to enter our cells. So high levels of glucose can slow down or limit the absorption of Vitamin C by our body. That's why sugar is such a massive immunity suppressor.
So basically - the more sugar you eat, the more mineral and nutrient depleted you become and the cycle continuous, the cravings continue. And the cravings will only stop when you have restored your body’s mineral and nutrient reserves to your body’s desired level. Until that happens, you are not allowed to feel guilty about not being able to control your sugar cravings. Feed your body a diet rich in minerals and live nutrients. Your cravings will disappear.
TWO: CANDIDA & YEAST OVERGROWTH
Our gut is populated by bacteria and we need a healthy balance of both good and bad bacteria in our gut. The good stuff is the bacteria we normally find written on the bottles of probiotics, like Acidophilus xyz and Bifidum xyz. The bad stuff is referred to as candida.
Candida loves sugar and feeds off it.The more sugar you feed you body in the form of glucose from carbohydrates, refined sugar etc – the more candida proliferates in your system and the more endemic your cravings become.
So again - it is impossible to overcome sugar cravings using mind over matter alone. You have to address the conditions in your body which cause and empower these cravings.
Stress puts our body in "fight or flight" mode, increasing sugar levels in our blood so our body and muscles are able to cope with the situation at hand. When the stressful situation passes, our blood sugar levels decrease and our body returns to normal. The problem is that we are constantly exposed to stressful situations: we're catching the bus, getting to that meeting on time, arguing with our spouse, worrying about family, fighting against that job we hate to do. We're also online all the time and be it enjoyable or not - it is a stimulant and in its own way a stressor for our system.
So our body is constantly yo-yoing between blood sugar highs and lows. When we are finally at home and it's the end of the day and we're able to relax, our body craves "the high", so it begs you for starch and sugar to get back to where it's been all day long. And like the addicts we are, we give in. It's almost impossible not to.
So – as you can see sugar cravings are deeply rooted in our body’s biochemistry.
We have to feed our body so that we address the mineral and nutrient depletion, yeast overgrowth and the issue of blood sugar stability.
I'll get into solutions to all these three issues in my next blog post because let's face it, no one has time for long blog posts. But I also don't like to end my posts without offering up solutions. So I'll leave you with one of my favourite ways to tackle mineral deficiency.
There is a great product from Canadian company St Francis called Mineral Matrix. (Hong Kong folks can order from Amazon by clicking here).
This is a potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus mix that can be easily mixed with smoothies or in a nut mylk and even water.
It smells like roasted marshmallows and tastes a bit caramelly (is that a word???) It's a great way to trick your body into thinking it's having something sweet whilst also doing your body a whole lot of good. I really enjoy the taste of it and it is very satisfying, even mixed with plain water. I particularly enjoy it in the evenings after dinner and find it's really soothing and nourishing during that time of the month.
I will definitely be offering up more ideas and solutions for sugar cravings so please stay tuned. In the meantime, please review this post if you have a moment because a change in mindset is key to tackling cravings of any kind.
The time has come to reward ourselves for the good food we eat and not the crap we manage to avoid. That is the mindset that will transform your cravings for good.
Cristina Tahoces is a holistic nutritionist and owner of Thrive Nutrition Practice. To contact her click here.