It’s a natural human phenomenon to crave sweet foods. Thousands of years ago, when foraging for food, humans would come across a berry bush and eat as many as they could for survival. We live in a very different time now.
Now, most Americans are eating way too much sugar. (Source: Healthline)
We are surrounded by sugar: donuts and other refined grains with juice for breakfast, a soda or lemonade with our afternoon sandwich, and dessert after dinner. Sugar is the fastest way to get energy into our bodies. And, unfortunately, today’s sugar craving is rooted in yesterday’s candy bar/soda/white bread.
The only way to change a sweet tooth is to get away from relying on sugars for food sources.
A healthy diet has a balance of all 6 flavors:
Sweet : honey, rice, milk, butter/ghee, coconut, dates, fig, grapes, squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, fruit, walnut, chicken, eggs, and most grains.
Sour : citrus fruits (lemons, limes, grapefruit), cheese, yogurt, tomatoes, apple, olive, peach, pineapple, plum, raspberry, adzuki beans, strawberry, vinegar and fermented foods (sauerkraut, pickles, miso).
Salty: salt, sea vegetables (kelp, dulse).
Bitter : leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, green cabbage, Romaine), zucchini, eggplant, olives, turmeric, vinegar.
Pungent : ginger, onions, radish, black and white pepper, mustard, chives, cinnamon, clove, dill, garlic, green onion, red pepper, rosemary, basil, salsa.
Astringent : legumes (beans and lentils), apples, cranberries, pomegranates, pears, dried fruit, potatoes, walnuts, broccoli, cauliflower, artichoke, asparagus, turnip, rye, buckwheat, and quinoa, turmeric, and marjoram. (source: https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/childrens-health/zapping-sugar-cravings/)
In Chinese medicine, too many sweet foods lead to Spleen imbalances: water retention, fatigue, weight gain, digestive weakness, muscle weakness, and a poor appetite. That was 3,000 years ago. Now the problems are a little different.
Illness – within 6 hours of sugar consumption, your immune cells are compromised. This makes it easier to get a cold, the flu, allergies, or fungal infections.
Digestive Problems – sugar causes irregularities in the digestive tract from the stomach to the intestines, and including gall bladder function.
Mood Swings – after consuming sugar, children are especially prone to hormone changes such as adrenaline increases, which make them seem out of control and hard to focus. This still happens for adults as well, but is especially apparent in a smaller body with a still-developing nervous system.
Diabetes Mellitus – if the amount of sugar consumed can’t keep pace with the body’s needs for energy, one will develop diabetes, or insulin resistance. This disease has many complications and is very serious, yet it’s treatable – over time – with the correct nutrition and doctor supervision.
For diabetics, the sugar remains in the blood, as the cellular walls change to stop the constant insurgence of sugars. Therefore, a curious situation occurs in which blood sugar levels are high but cellular sugar levels are low. The body perceives this as low blood sugar.
When you feel this, called “hypoglycemia,” you feel tired and hungry. The diabetic patient is told to “have a piece of candy” in case you get low blood sugar, and thus, the cycle perpetuates. Another example of bad health advice people get from their physicians.
Chronically high insulin levels also can lead to obesity, plaque formation in your arteries, and fluid retention. Do you see how each dis-ease leads to more and more dis-eases? Just taking a “water pill” or a “sugar pill” is NOT going to solve this dilemma long-term.
Artificial sugars present a health problem as well and are not seen as a good solution to the sugar dilemma. The only solution to the sugar problem is to reduce it conscientiously.
What counts as sugar? White sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, molasses, fructose, sucrose, glucose, maltose, and all variations of these things. We all need to become master label-readers of the foods we buy. You may be surprised that things marketed as being healthy are often the worst offenders. It’s a best practice to buy fresh foods that are not in a package.
HOW MUCH SUGAR IS TOO MUCH?
Over 1 teaspoon a day of sweetener is “too much” and imbalances minerals in your body.
To put this in perspective, 2 cups of Captain Crunch cereal has 8 teaspoons of sugar. One 12 ounce soda has 16.5 teaspoons of sugar. 8 ounces of apple juice contain 5 teaspoons of sugar. 2 tablespoons of ketchup have 1.5 teaspoons of sugar. Even your salad dressing probably contains sugar: 2 tablespoons of ranch dressing has .8 teaspoons of sugar.
Read labels: 4 grams of sugar on the label = 1 teaspoon of sugar.
MINERAL DEFICIENCIES FROM SUGAR
When you eat sugar, you lose calcium and magnesium in the digestive process. When those are low, you may have signs of that such as bone weakening (osteopenia or osteoporosis), muscle cramps, trouble sleeping, digestive problems, anxiety, irritability, depression, hormone imbalances, or migraine headaches.
The best sources of magnesium are green vegetables grown in well-mineralized soil, seeds and nuts, and whole grains. Sea salt and sea vegetables are also great. The best source of calcium include bone, bone broth, raw dairy, green leafy vegetables, and nuts such as almonds.
If you have diabetes mellitus (“type II”), you’re probably deficient at some level in chromium. Signs of chromium deficiency include glucose intolerance, high blood sugars, peripheral neuropathy (tingling or numbness in the fingers or toes), and mental confusion.
Good sources of chromium include sea vegetables (try seaweed chips if you haven’t already!), mushrooms, beets, nutritional yeast (you can sprinkle this on popcorn – delicious!), broccoli, grapes, dried beans, liver, and chicken.
Signs of phosphorus deficiency may include anxiety, irregular breathing, fatigue, joint stiffness, numbness, osteoporosis (calcium deficiency) and changes in weight. Excess phosphorus in the form of phosphoric acid from drinking soda can lead to craving sugar and alcohol as well. Both excess and deficiency of phosphorus inhibits absorption and use of calcium in your body.
Good sources of phosphorus include chicken, beef, liver, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, legumes, and whole grains.
Signs of sulfur deficiency include obesity, muscle pain and inflammation, fungal and bacterial infections, and heart disease and other forms of muscle wasting like Chron’s disease.
Good sources of sulfur include dark leafy greens like broccoli and kale, garlic, eggs, onions, meats, nuts, and seafood.
In theory, most reasonably healthy diets should contain enough sulfur, as we only need very small amounts, but sulfur is lost when foods are broken down and then reassembled, as they are with processed foods. Also the loss of minerals in our soil, as a result of modern farming practices, has led to less available minerals – including sulfur – in our foods.
If you’re craving sugar, what you need is a balanced diet of many types of vegetables, whole grains, and animal proteins and fats.
Foods to Eat to Quell a Sweet Craving
- Plain, whole-fat yogurt
- Roasted sweet potatoes
- Handful of raw nuts with sea salt
- A cup of bone broth soup
- Herbal tea (do not add sweetener)
- A glass of water with lemon or lime
- One square of dark chocolate (if you have excellent self-control only)
- Whey protein shake with 1/2 frozen banana and 1 cup unsweetened milk
- Sprouted grain toast topped with grass-fed butter and almond butter
Also, gymnema, an Ayurvedic herb, is known to reduce cravings for sugar. If you hold the herb in your mouth for 1 minute, then try to eat something sweet, it will actually taste like cardboard. Something fun to try if you get bored.
Have you found something that works for nipping a sugar craving in the bud? Please let me know in the comments.