Cravings are natural. They're actually part of the body's feedback system to tell us what it needs. For example, if you crave red meat, you are potentially low in iron.
However, cravings often tend to strike from the base of the sweet tooth. When we're not careful, we can find ourselves overindulging, which can become a tricky habit to break. (See Craving Unhealthy Foods? What You Can Do to Stop.)
Unlike iron or other vital nutrients, sugar is not needed by the body. Yet Americans over-consume it on daily basis. According to the American Heart Association, a typical person averages about 22 teaspoons of sugar per day. (The Lowdown on Artificial Sweeteners: Are They Healthy or Dangerous?)
There are many reasons why we have a tendency to reach for the sweets, ranging from psychological urges to sleep deprivation. Most sugar cravings are caused by foods that cause our blood sugar to drop. These are items like refined, simple carbohydrates and products containing hidden sugar (like tomato sauce, for instance). When our blood sugar drops, it gives us a false sense of hunger and ultimately steals our energy. (Hello, sugar crash.)
Thankfully, the battle with your sweet tooth is one you can win. Defeat sugar cravings with the following five foods, which are guaranteed to satisfy, energize and sustain you. Start consuming them more often and kiss that candy vending machine goodbye.
5 Foods To Beat Sugar Cravings
How can an avocado conquer your sugar craving? Simple. It's packed with B vitamins and folate, nutrients that have been shown to lower stress levels. With 18 essential amino acids, avocados are also a great source of protein, healthy fats, and vitamin E. Add them to just about anything—salads, smoothies or omelets—or whip up some guacamole. (Read Guide to Avocado: Shopping, Storing, Slicing, Eating.)
Recently called "nature's miracle oil," coconut oil lowers insulin levels and keeps hunger in check—without raising your cholesterol level. Coconut oil has also been touted as a weight loss aid. This is because it turns off the sweet tooth by providing beneficial fats to the liver, where fats are used for fuel, not stored. Add it to smoothies or use it to cook with. (Get the full scoop: Athletic Performance Properties of Coconut Oil.)
Coconut oil has an incredibly high smoke point. This means its fat remains intact throughout the cooking process, so it's not damaging to the body like other vegetable oils.
Consuming two tablespoons of flax seed daily provides almost 25 percent of your daily recommended fiber. Foods high in fiber take longer to digest. This makes you feel full faster and for a longer period of time, helping you consume fewer calories and curb unnecessary sugar cravings. (Learn more in 16 Nuts and Seeds You Should Be Eating.)
Yams and sweet potatoes
Yams and sweet potatoes are excellent sources of vitamin B6 and potassium, vitamin C and fiber. And at just 157 calories per cup, they are great for filling up and keeping cravings at bay.
In addition, the natural fiber in yams slows down the rate at which your body processes sugar. This keeps you from feeling hungry between meals. Yams and sweet potatoes can be prepared in a variety of delicious dishes. Plus their naturally sweet taste is a good way to healthily indulge your sweet tooth. (See also What to Eat to Get Bigger, Faster and Stronger.)
"The incredible, edible egg" has been proven to be one of the top foods to beat sugar cravings and lower hunger levels throughout the day. This is because egg are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, B vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, and even small amounts of iron—all of which have been shown to fill you up and power you throughout the day.
Eggs also lower levels of insulin and another hormone called ghrelin. Ghrelin stops hunger and prevents sugar cravings. Try having an egg for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or as a snack. (See Why Eggs Really Are Incredible (Yolks and All).)
Here's a tip for the week: hard boil a dozen eggs on Sunday and store them in the fridge to grab and go through the week.
Still craving sugar?
Sometimes no matter how virtuous your diet is, a sneaky sugar craving can attack. When this happens, here are some quick tips to conquer it.
- Move around. When a sugar craving hits, walk away. Take a walk around the block to change the scenery. It can take your mind off the craving and you can objectively determine whether you really need that sugary cookie.
- Reach for fruit. Are you hungry enough to eat an entire apple? Sometimes that's all you need to satisfy a sweet tooth. Give up on that pint of ice cream.
- Choose quality over quantity. Give in a little. If you need a sugar hit, pick a small (150-calorie) treat—e.g., a dark chocolate truffle instead of a king-sized candy bar. Savor every bite—slowly. Enjoying a little of what you love can help you avoid frustration.