Did you realize that when we attempt to control our sugar cravings, most of us think in terms of self-denial? We keep thinking “I really shouldn’t eat so much cake,” or “I wish I could stop eating so many cookies”, sometimes to little or no avail.
But the Save Our Bones philosophy has always been about the positive benefits of foods, not trying to white-knuckle your way through cravings.
Today’s post shows you how you can apply this philosophy as we explore seven ordinary foods (most of which are Foundation Foods) that help you overcome sugar cravings. You’ll also learn about an activity that has been scientifically proven to effectively reduce the sugar-craving cycle.
But first, let’s briefly recap what’s so bad about sugar and what it has to do with bone health.
Sugar By Any Other Name…
It’s important to bear in mind that when I talk about sugar, I am referring to refined, white table sugar and/or its maligned cousin, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). These simple carbs have no nutritional value whatsoever. They are unhealthy forms of sugar that, when consumed excessively, can cause widespread damage throughout your body.
These acidifying sweeteners are not the same as the complex carbs found naturally in fresh fruits and vegetables full of vital nutrients and fiber. So as we go forward, remember that “sugar” refers to sugary, processed junk foods and the like.
And remember, the occasional sweet treat is just fine. What we’re talking about it excessive consumption of sugary foods on a regular basis.
What Sugar Does To Your Bones And Overall Health
There is no body system that remains unaffected by sugar. Your kidneys, liver, pancreas, and your immune, digestive, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems are all influenced by the ingestion of sugar. It even affects your brain, and has been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. This is largely due to sugar’s role in the formation of brain-damaging proteins called Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs).
In addition to being acidifying, sugar depletes your bones of minerals. It increases urinary output of magnesium and calcium, and prevents the absorption of bone-building copper.
Plus sugar competes with Vitamin C for absorption, because insulin transports both sugar and Vitamin C into cells. If there is too much sugar, the insulin will carry it across the cell membrane instead of the Vitamin C. This is one of the main ways that sugar attacks the immune system.
If Sugar Is So Bad For Me, Why Do I Crave It?
There are many reasons and theories as to why we crave sugar. Here are a few reasons why your body perceives the need for a sugar fix:
- Sugar can be comfort food, wrapped up in memories of fun childhood parties and holidays. Sugary treats can evoke memories of a happy time.
- Low energy can also promote sugar cravings as your body seeks an energy boost. Complex carbs are a healthful way to get that energy, but our brains often prompt us to seek the quickest, sweetest “solution.”
- Hormonal fluctuations and deficiencies can trigger sugar cravings, because hormones help regulate blood sugar and affect how your body processes energy. Sluggish adrenal glands (the cortisol producers) can prompt a desire for sugar. Interestingly, adrenal glands need lots of Vitamin C to function well, a vitamin that’s depleted in the presence of excessive sugar.
- Some say that our sugar cravings are hard-wired from our more primitive days, when the only sources of sugar were nutritious foods like fresh fruits and honey. What may have begun as a biological drive toward nutrient-rich foods has become a craving for candy bars.
- Unstable blood glucose can bring on a desire for sugar as your body tries to correct the imbalance. Low blood sugar can make you crave sweets, but indulging your craving can cause a blood sugar spike followed by another crash and craving.
Beating Sugar Cravings Means Satisfying Your Body’s Needs
The following seven foods help stave off the desire for sugar by filling your body’s health needs and correcting the imbalances that can cause you to want sugar to begin with. Here’s a list of those foods and how they help tame the “sugar beast.”
- Beans* contain plenty of fiber and protein as well as the Foundation Supplements boron (found in kidney beans) and magnesium (found in black beans). Protein and fiber are a potent duo for fighting off sugar cravings; both help you feel full for longer. In addition, beans stimulate the small intestine to release a digestive hormone, cholecystokinin, which plays a role in suppressing appetite.
- Oats* have a reputation for “sticking to your ribs,” and for good reason. While they are a carbohydrate, oats are a whole food that contains fiber, zinc, manganese, silicon, and important B vitamins. They digest fairly slowly, thus promoting stable blood sugar. Again, oats are acidifying, so enjoying a bowl of cooked oats with fresh fruit or some alkalizing raw honey to add nutrients and balance the pH.
- Fish,* especially fatty fish like wild-caught salmon, is rich in anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids. Fish also contains glutamine, an amino acid that plays a role in the manufacture of the Master Antioxidant, glutathione. In addition, glutamine stabilizes blood sugar by suppressing insulin during times of low blood sugar and triggering the release of the body’s glycogen stores to normalize low blood sugar.
Fish also increases the body’s sensitivity to leptin, a hormone that enhances those parts of the brain responsible for regulation of food cravings.
- Apples* keep more than the doctor away – this bone-building fruit also staves off sugar cravings due to its pectin content. Pectin is a form of dietary fiber, but it’s especially good at keeping you feeling full for a long time. Pectin also slows the absorption of apples’ natural sugars, which is illustrative of a point I made earlier: whole foods contain nutrients and compounds that contribute to the proper processing of the sugars they contain.
You’ll find the majority of apples’ pectin in the peel, so choose organic and eat the whole apple!
- Tomatoes* are in season here in the Northern Hemisphere. They’re rich in chromium and serotonin, both key players in the stabilization of blood sugar. Interestingly, chromium deficiency can result in cravings for sugar, and low chromium levels are relatively common.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that promotes communication between brain cells, and a lack of it has been connected to cravings for sugar.
Tomatoes also contain Vitamin C,and are a rich source of the bone-building polyphenol lycopene.
- Cinnamon is a delicious spice that is very effective at keeping blood sugar levels balanced. This is due to the presence of a compound called hydroxychalcone, which facilitates and enhances the action of insulin in the body. Interestingly, cinnamon also decreases the rate at which food leaves the stomach (the gastric emptying rate), so it takes longer for your stomach to be (and feel) empty. Just half a teaspoon a day is enough for these positive effects to take place, so why not sprinkle a generous amount on your morning oatmeal?
- Chicory greens (not the root that is often used as a coffee substitute) have a pleasant bitter taste, which, according to traditional Chinese medicine, helps correct an imbalance that might be the culprit behind your sugar cravings. Chicory greens are also rich in B6 (pyridoxine), a Foundation Supplement that is required to metabolize sugar. If there is too much sugar in the system, B6 becomes depleted.
In addition to including plenty of the above foods in your daily diet, there’s an easy yet powerful way to stave off sugar cravings, and it’s also essential for bone health: exercise.
Scientifically Proven: Exercise Keeps Sugar Cravings At Bay
A recent study evaluated 47 overweight people with an average age of 28. For three days prior to the study, participants refrained from eating any sugary snacks and drank only water. They also avoided exercise for two hours before their cravings were assessed.
Participants were divided into two groups, one of which walked briskly on a treadmill for 15 minutes and the other group sat still for the same amount of time. Then, study subjects in both groups sat quietly for five minutes before participating in a test that was designed to increase physiological arousal and stress levels.
At that point, all participants were given a piece of candy and told to unwrap it, but not eat it.
Throughout the process, their food cravings and stress levels were measured.
The results showed a clear distinction among the exercise group: they experienced greatly reduced cravings for sweets during and after the trial compared to the sedentary group.1
The results may have to do with the way exercise improves mood and boosts energy levels, both of which affect sugar cravings. In addition, exercise stimulates metabolic processes that “unlock” the body’s blood sugar, making it more available to the brain and reducing the brain’s perceived need for more sugar.
Psychologists who reviewed the above study, caution that eating healthful snacks is important for walking to have its intended effect on sugar cravings. So once again, what you do eat plays as important a role as what you avoid. And walking is just one form of exercise that staves off sugar cravings and builds bone.
All Exercise Is Beneficial
While walking is excellent exercise that’s good for your bones and overall health, targeted exercise that focuses on strengthening fracture-prone areas is also very important in the fight against osteoporosis.
All the benefits of exercise – from less sugar craving to healthier, stronger bones – can be enjoyed by practicing “Densercises” as well. It’s important to practice targeted exercises in order to build bone density, and the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System offers 52 moves that are specifically designed to build stronger bones, tone muscles, improve posture, and more.
So if you want to tackle your sugar cravings from all angles, Densercise™ can be one of your primary weapons alongside the seven key foods described above. And to help you even more, it includes the Densercise™ Eating Guide, which gives you the most healthful foods to eat before and after you Densercise™.
Do you have any tricks and tips for keeping sugar consumption down? Please share with the community by leaving a comment below.
Till next time,
1 Ledochowski, Larissa, et al. “Acute Effects of Brisk Walking on Sugary Snack Cravings in Overweight People, Affect and Responses to a Manipulated Stress Situation and to a Sugary Snack Cue: A Crossover Study.” PLOS One. March 11, 2015. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0119278. Web. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0119278