December 13, 2012

Reduce Sugar Cravings

When we reach for a treat or crave a certain food, what do we really need? 

Try to stop, take a breath, and ask yourself this question before you eat. Sometimes, we might need water, exercise, fresh air, a hug, a conversation with a friend, or the fragrance of a flower.

Food cravings mean that the body has its signals mixed up. When we are tired or sad, we have low blood sugar and/or low serotonin, and the body signals the brain that it needs energy. This signal causes a sugar craving or carbohydrate craving.

Low-fat diets unintentionally exacerbate this craving by developing insulin resistance in the body. Insulin is responsible for maintaining stable blood sugar levels. It tells the body’s cells when to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. When the body stops responding to insulin, it stores calories as fat, which means that food is no longer available to fuel us throughout the day.

When our cells cannot absorb the glucose they need because they lack the insulin trigger, they signal the brain to eat more carbohydrates or sugars. This mixed signal results in food cravings. The taste of sugar also releases endorphins that calm and relax us. 

The problem comes not when we indulge in a sweet treat occasionally, but when we over-consume. This is easy to do when sugar is added to many processed foods, including breads, yogurt, juices, and sauces. Americans average about 22 teaspoons of added sugars per day, according to the American Heart Association, which recommends limiting added sugars to 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 for men.

Ways to reduce sugar cravings and better meet the body’s needs:
Drink water.  
Reach for fruit.
Move your body.
Eat regularly.
Eat a bit of what you’re craving.  
Combine sweets with protein.
Please email me for more information and support with these ideas.  

The history of baked goods is entangled with that of sugar. For details, read Sidney Mintz's book, Sweetness and Power. To make baked goods with alternative sweetners, use this substitution guide.

BROWN RICE SYRUP: this gluten-free sweetener is nutty, earthy and delicate; can be hard to handle because of its sticky-ness; 1 cup equals 1 1/4 cups white sugar; great for cakes with nuts or nut flours as well as pie fillings.

COCONUT SUGAR: refined from the whole coconut, this fiber-rich sweetener releases slowly in the bloodstream and has a subtle, flowery flavor; 1 cup equals 1 cup white sugar; I like it with cookies, scones, and baked goods that have a slightly crunchy, crumbly texture.
FRUIT: remember that fruit has inherent sweetness! Soak and puree 1/2 cup raisins to equal 1 cup white sugar; bake 4 apples to equal 1/2 cup sugar; use 1/2 cup applesauce for 1 cup sugar.
HONEY: Refined by bees, honey is 20–60% sweeter than white sugar; darker honey has more minerals; select raw honey for its antimicrobial and immune-enhancing properties; 1/2 cup equals 1 cup white sugar; put it on top of unsweetened treats to lend a sweet glaze or substitute for pectin and sugar in sauce and jam recipes.

MAPLE SYRUP: Concentrated from maple sap and high in minerals; rich flavor; high in simple sugar sucrose, so it gets absorbed into the bloodstream quickly; great for all kinds of baking.

MOLASSES: Highly processed simple sugar (bi-product of beet sugar refining); (35% sucrose; high in minerals; 1⁄2 cup equals 1/4 cup white sugar; use in gingerbread, cookies, and dark rye bread.
SORGHUM: Concentrated juice of the millet plant; 1⁄2 cup equals 1 cup white sugar; use in quick breads.

STEVIA EXTRACT: Non-caloric herbal sweetener from the stevia leaf; because it doesn’t affect blood glucose levels, research indicates that stevia may be used by both diabetics and hypoglycemics; slight molasses and licorice flavors; tends to have a bitter aftertaste; 1/2 teaspoon equals 1 cup white sugar.

Thanks to the Sacramento Food Coop for your help in compiling this information.

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