Help! I Have A Sweet Tooth

By: Marianne Fernance 

Do you struggle to stop eating before the whole candy bag is finished? Can you always find that little extra space after dinner for a piece of cake? Do all your choices at the school cafeteria seem to be sweet?

While everyone enjoys sweets every now and then, an uncontrollable sweet tooth can lead to:

•    skin problems

•    hormonal imbalances and worsened PMS

•    reduced immune function

•    excessive weight gain

Why do I get these sugar cravings?

It’s not all bad though, there is a good side to a sweet tooth. Sugar cravings give you important information about potential dietary problems and usually indicate that there's a problem with the control of your blood glucose levels. Tackling the sweet tooth in your teenage years will help to prevent these problems from developing into diabetes and insulin resistance in later life.

One of the most common fuel sources your body uses is glucose. During digestion, food you eat is broken down into smaller building blocks that your body can utilize. One of these is glucose, which is released in highest concentrations from carbohydrates including bread, pasta, grains, biscuits, chocolates, and fruits. Glucose is absorbed in the intestine and released into the blood stream for use by the body's cells, or stored for later.

When using glucose as a preferred energy source your body requires a stable, constant rate of glucose release. Both too much glucose or too little glucose cause serious health problems. Your body closely monitors blood glucose levels using a feedback system involving the hormone insulin.

Sugar cravings result when this delicate system becomes unbalanced. In a way it is like over-correcting when turning a corner on a bike. Blood glucose levels that should be stable begin to fluctuate from intense highs to incredible lows. During the lows, your body's instinctive need for glucose creates cravings for sugars and sweets that can provide your body with the most rapid release of glucose. This, in turn, creates too much glucose in the blood triggering insulin levels to rise, telling cells to store glucose, and resulting in yet another low.

The importance of breakfast

Preventing sugar and sweet cravings involves being disciplined about food intake right from the very first meal of the day. A breakfast high in protein, good fats and fiber, yet low in processed sugar and refined carbohydrates, helps to prevent that first spike in blood glucose levels.

Most breakfast cereals are nothing more than sugar-coated wheat flakes. Leave these in the shopping aisle where they belong! Better breakfast options include scrambled eggs, soft cheeses, avocado, coconut oil, yogurt, and nuts. These are all low in carbohydrates and high in proteins and good fats. Including high-fiber sources such as leafy green vegetables, and low-sugar fruits including fresh berries and green apples, are another way to keep blood glucose levels down. Avoid using canned berries as these often contain huge amounts of sugar, particularly when in a syrup.

Snack on high protein foods

Throughout the day regular snacks help to control blood glucose levels and prevent sugar cravings. Snack regularly on healthy, high protein, high good-fat snacks, as the energy from these are released more slowly than sugary, sweet snacks.

Good snack ideas include boiled eggs, rice cakes and hummus, cheese sticks, nuts and seeds such as cashews, almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds.

If you are highly active or play sports, then additional protein may be needed in your snacks throughout the day. A good quality whey protein powder supplement can help easily add additional protein to your diet.

Low carbohydrate lunches

Do you find that sugar cravings get worse in mid afternoon? Do you experience a slump around 2–3 p.m. and find it hard to focus? There’s a reason teachers often find the class after lunch the hardest of the day; it’s falling blood sugar levels after a sudden sugar rush at lunch that is to blame.

School sandwiches, just like breakfast cereal, are a sugar addict’s dream. Bread is a highly concentrated source of glucose that is beaten only by candies. Jams, and other commercial spreads, add a second sugar punch that is sure to see blood glucose levels soar, followed by an equally severe crash an hour or two later.

Try to limit bread use in school lunches by using tortillas or, even better, rice wraps. These are fantastic when stuffed with fresh green salad and avocado. And include a good protein source such as sliced fried egg. 

Finally, seek professional advice

While most sugar cravings can be easily addressed through dietary modification and minor lifestyle change, sometimes more serious issues are involved. If you have tried controlling your sugar cravings through diet with little result it is important to talk to your Nutritionist who can test for potential hormonal imbalances or candida/bacterial infections.