How are we doing after a week without sugar? If I remember correctly, after the first week I had intense withdrawal symptoms, so I’m warning you that this might be a hard week to come. This is why I’m making this post with a few tricks to trick our body (bio hacks) and decrease the cravings for sugar and the withdrawal symptoms.
Make protein your ally: Make sure to eat meals that contain a lot of protein, to balance out the levels of sugar in the blood, and thus decrease sugar cravings. A good idea for a breakfast is some yoghurt or an omelette, or a vegetable smoothie with some plant-based milk in which you can add a tbsp of peanut butter or almond butter, or a tbsp of protein powder (I prefer whey powder). Eggs, yoghurt, nuts, are all good sources of protein, and should become your best friends this month. For lunch, a good idea is fish, or if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, legumes (black beans, lentils), quinoa or peas. Another idea is to make hummus (grounded chickpeas), and store it so you can have some as a side with your meal, or even add it into your salads. If you’re a pasta fan, then you can try some noodles made out of buckwheat, which have more protein, and you avoid carbohydrates by all means, since they’re turned into glucose in your blood (another form of sugar), and will definitely make your cravings more intense in the evening.
Consume good fats: Our body burns either sugar or fats for energy. If it can’t find sugar, it will start to burn fats, which is great since this isn’t only going to lead to weight loss, but also will make your body use other sources of energy, making you crave sugar less and less. Start eating more avocado, nuts, and coconut oil, which are all considered to be good sources of healthy fats.
Get full on plant fibres: Plant fibres help you feel satiety for longer, and decrease symptoms of candida. Candida is a fungus which many of us might have in our guts without knowing, that feeds off of sugar, and therefore makes us crave more sweets. So, don’t forget to have your 8 portions of vegetables per day! This will also help with the sugar cravings.
Choose sour foods and foods that contain probiotics: Foods like yoghurt, kefir, kale or Korean kimchi, contain good bacteria that help fight against candida, and therefore fight our sugar-dependence. I haven’t tried it myself, but I’ve read that probiotics are the best way to fight against sugar cravings in just 4-5 days. Alternatively, even though it might not be as effective, try out sour tastes. Try adding some apple vinegar in your salad at lunch, or a slice of lemon in your water, to decrease the cravings for sugar.
Maintain your saccharide levels in balance by eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, rather than 3 full meals, so that you can avoid big fluctuations in your energy levels. Try an evening snack before dinner (perhaps an avocado with some kale, or some yoghurt with almonds).
Increase your serotonin levels: Serotonin is the hormone of happiness. When you have low serotonin levels, it’s more likely that you’ll crave sweets, as they act in a similar way by boosting your dopamine levels, a neurotransmitter that gives us pleasure. You can boost your serotonin with exercise and a stable sleep schedule. Sleep is very important, and believe me, if you haven’t slept well, then the chances of you giving in to sugar rise significantly.
Trick your cravings with water: Every time you feel like eating something sweet, drink a glass of water first. Very often we feel like we want something sweet, when in fact it’s just our body which is dehydrated and craves water. Yes, yes, I know that chocolate isn’t the same as water, but it’s worth a try.
Use exercise or meditation to get over your cravings: Try getting some exercise or yoga the moment you feel like you’re beginning to crave something sweet. Direct your brain power and energy to something else the moment you crave sweets, until you stop thinking about them.
Cinnamon for saccharide balance: Cinnamon is well-known for its ability to maintain saccharide levels in the blood in balance, as it contains substances that help the actions of insulin, and allows our cells to use glucose more effectively. It also decreases the rate of gastric secretions, thus decreasing the glycaemic load of the foods we’ve consumed. Add a quarter of a tsp of cinnamon in your coffee or tea, or anywhere else you’d like.
Choose a natural sweetener, but within limits: When your cravings reach an all time high, eat a fruit with low glycaemic index (e.g. blueberries, raspberries etc). Also, try using stevia in your coffee. The great danger of natural sweeteners, is to treat them like they’re completely harmless, which leads to overconsumption of them during our detox, and the replacement of sugar with these sweeteners, without stopping our sweet cravings. Whilst exchanging processed sugar for natural sweeteners is a positive thing, this month is about detoxing from sweets, and by letting our body depend on sweets again, then we’re back to square one.
And of course, ERF. Eat Real Food and avoid processed, pre-packaged foods as much as you can (beware of: ketchup, cereal bars, flavoured yoghurts, ready sauces and meals, and ‘diet’ foods such as dark chocolate), which contain hidden sugar.
My favourite quick fixes for when I immensely crave sugar:
- A tsp of coconut oil with some cocoa: Honestly, try this when you’re desperately craving sugar, and you’ll be surprised! Coconut oil is a triglyceride of middle chains (MCT), which goes directly to the liver and is used as a source of energy, just like sugar and simple carbohydrates. Therefore, it’s a quick source of energy for the body, but coconut oil doesn’t lead to large fluctuations of saccharide levels like sugar and carbohydrates do. This means that after a while, your energy levels won’t drop and make you crave more sugar. Raw cocoa doesn’t offer much, except for some flavour.
- An apple with some almond butter and cinnamon. This hack I had forgotten about until a friend reminded me of it in our Sugar Free February support group. As you understand, this simple solution ticks most of the above-mentioned boxes: The apple acts as a natural sweetener to sate your sweet cravings, with some cinnamon to help maintain stable saccharide levels, and a generous heap of good fats and protein from the almond butter.
Good luck to all of you, and for any questions you might have, don’t forget about the support group!