7 Tips To Decrease Sugar Cravings

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Food cravings can mean the death of many of your nutrition goals. Even the most dedicated can find themselves slipping and giving into the gnarling voice of their cravings.

Sugar and salt seem to be the most craved, with sugar in particular, being so addictive that willpower and intellect alone have little to do with pushing it away. You can only willpower your way through a sugar craving so many times until you eventually give in and throw all caution to the wind.

There are many reasons of why sugar can feel like it has a stranglehold on you — stress, nutrient deficiencies, imbalanced blood sugar, food memories, poor relationship with food, not enough sleep, and not being mindful of what you are eating. This is only naming a few of the reasons.

There is a belly-mind connection and it is much stronger than your willpower in the long run. 

And because of this belly-mind connection, it is super important to address a layer of reasons of why you may be struggling with your cravings. Some of those layers may feel very challenging to move through, while other may feel a bit easier and more direct. 

When starting a successful habit change, you want to focus on those low hanging fruit layers — those easy to grasp and where you can see quick results. Not only does it help to get the ball rolling, but it is also super motivating to see quick results.

Changing your relationship with food and the memories associated with your cravings can prove to be a little bit more challenging and typically demand deeper mental and emotional work. You can start here, but it might be easier to make some simple nutritional changes. This will help to decrease the physical and nutritional issues that may not be associated directly with your relationship with food.

Here are 7 easy tips that can begin to ward off cravings and balance your blood sugar:

  1. Drink more water. Let’s start with a simple one. The more dehydrated you are, the more difficult it is for the body to metabolize glycogen (stored glucose) for energy, so our bodies crave sugar to provide us with a quick source of energy when we actually just need to drink a little more water. 
  2. Add in cinnamon. This spice helps your body control the amount of sugar in your blood, evening out the highs and lows that lead to cravings. One study found those who took 3g of cinnamon a day maintained lower blood sugar levels after a glucose-tolerance test than those who did not take the cinnamon. And, your sugar cravings can drop immediately after consuming something with cinnamon!
  3. Eat your bitter foods. Research has found that consuming bitter foods shuts down the receptors in your brain that drive you to desire and consume more sugar. Bitter foods and plants can help slow the absorption of sugar and regulate blood sugar levels. You can eat foods such as dandelion, citrus peel, artichoke leaf, licorice root, and even burdock root. Or, you can make it super simple and use a tincture of bitters either before or after your meals (this helps with digestion too!). My favorite bitter tincture is by Urban Moonshine.
  4. Try spinach extract. Spinach extract, also known as Appethyl, is actually a weight loss supplement. It contains thylakoids, which consist mostly of proteins, antioxidants, and chlorophyll. Spinach extract has been shown to delay fat absorption (but not total inhibit it) and increase the activity of the hormones that reduce appetite and hunger. 
  5. Say no to the small bites. Feel a craving coming on? Don’t eat the small bites here and the small bites there. Those first few bites are inevitably the most tasty and your brain is going to be triggered by indulging in just a few bites. Not to mention, this creates a mindset of deprivation and can actually make you crave harder and jeopardize your relationship with food.
  6. Avoid getting too hungry. Make sure to eat regularly and not allow yourself to get too hungry. Fasting is all the rage and everyone seems to be either doing it or wondering if they should do it. Fasting can be super beneficial to help with cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells (autophagy) but when you fast for too long, it can create a great imbalance in your blood sugar, causing hunger and cravings. If you are choosing to fast regularly, keep your time frames on the shorter side, aiming between 12-16 hours. If you are a woman, keep those time frames in the 12-14 hour range. 
  7. Make it hard to get. This is technically a behavior change, but it falls right in line with nutritional behavior changes. One of the first line of defenses when making a habit change is to make what you want hard to get. That could be by placing it out of sight and out of mind, placing it in the highest cupboard of the kitchen (needing a step stool every time you want to get it), or even not buying it at all and only being able to get it by going to the grocery store. When you create a challenge or obstacle and it is not so easy, this delays the food to mouth time AND it also gives you more time to think about the choice that you are making. Sometimes simply creating space and time can be enough to allow you to decide that the craving is just not worth it!

Getting rid of cravings can be super complex and has many layers attached to it. Often, you have to dig and uncover those layers to get to the root cause of what is causing your cravings in the first place. This is where a coach and support system can help guide you on your journey. Are you ready to finally uncover your layers? Click here to learn more about my signature “Break Your Plateau” health coaching program!

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Starches That Help You Lose Weight

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When I first starting learning about carbohydrates, I knew what I knew by what I would read in the mainstream health info. 

Said in my best newscaster voice…

Carbs are bad, unless they are whole grain.

Carbs make you fat. Go Keto.

Carbs give you energy, but don’t eat too many.

Make sure to count your carbs and cut out the sugar.

Carbs, aka carbohydrates or starches, get such a bad reputation. They have been labeled as bad, unless they have fiber, then they might be good. But is this the truth?

Let’s use the term starches (you will understand in a minute) to make this easier…

The reality is that starches are neither good nor bad. Some starches are more life giving and others are more life depleting. You probably have heard the basics of what are better than others, but today, I am going to talk about a specific kind of starch that can help you lose weight and get your blood sugar under control. 

These starches are quite life-giving!

Why do starches get such a bad reputation? When starches are digested they typically break down into glucose. When that happens, that spikes your blood glucose and causes the plethora of issues that go hand in hand with imbalanced blood sugar. 

Let’s dive deeper and get a tad sciency…

What Is Resistant Starch? 

Resistant starch is a kind of starch that is not digested in the small intestine, hence its name. It is a carbohydrate that resists digestion in the small intestine and ferments in the large intestine. As it ferments, it becomes a yummy food for the good bacteria in the gut, helping to increase the health of your gut. This yummy food is called a prebiotic. 

There are many kind of prebiotics such as inulin from Jerusalem artichokes and chicory. Or soluble fiber from psyllium husks. Or even vegetables such as green bananas (the more ripe they become, the more they turn into a regular starch) and plantains and potatoes. Keep reading for specific foods high in resistant starch and how to use them…

Resistant starch is super helpful in controlling your blood glucose (blood sugar) and helping you to lose weight. This happens because the good bacteria in your gut processes it, creating beneficial molecules that promote balanced blood sugar and healthy gut flora. In layman’s terms? Resistant starch resists digestion and does not spike your insulin or your blood glucose. 

Yay, for resistant starch!

It goes even further than improving your gut health; Resistant starch increases your feeling of being full, helps to relieve constipation, decreases cholesterol, and lowers your risk of colon cancer. 

Food Sources and How To Add More Resistant Starch

The amount of resistant starch changes with heat. Cooking a starch, like potatoes or rice, and then cooling it off and not reheating it, transforms that starch into a resistant starch. For example, cooked rice that has been cooled is higher in resistant starch than rice that was cooked and not cooled. That is one way. Another kind of resistant starch, like those found in oats, green bananas, and plantains lose some of their power when cooked. 

Choose foods such as:

  • Whole grains such as oats
  • Beans, peas, and lentils
  • Plantains and green bananas
  • Cooked and cooled rice and potatoes
  • Other prebiotic foods such as chicory, dandelion leaves, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, garlic and leeks

Here are 5 easy ways to incorporate resistant starch into your diet:

  1. Cool cooked beans and legumes for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator to increase the level of resistant starch. Add them to salads, soups, or as a taco topping. You can also use canned whole beans or refried beans.
  2. Try making overnight oats by soaking them in yogurt, almond milk or another non-dairy milk, or milk.
  3. Cook rice, potatoes, and beans a day in advance and cool in the refrigerator overnight. It’s ok to reheat the starch before eating. Reheating doesn’t decrease the amount of resistant starch. It’s the initial cooling process that is important. 
  4. Add 1-2 tablespoons of powered potato starch to your yogurt or smoothie
  5. Eat more prebiotic foods as mentioned above by adding them to salads or in soups. Try eating them daily if you can. 

Just remember, when increasing your fiber intake, especially resistant starch, start slowly. Resistant starch can change the bugs in your gut and cause gas, known as the die-off affect. As the good bugs come in, they have a little war with the bad bugs and this can cause gas and bloating. As your gut adjusts to this, so will you and that should occur much less.  Remember all types of fiber have health benefits so eat a variety of fiber-containing foods.

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6 Blood Sugar Tips For More Energy, Happiness, And Weight-Loss

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According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2018, 34.2 million Americans, or 10.5% of the population, had diabetes. And, in 2015, 88 million Americans age 18 and older had prediabetes. 

Alarming as that may sound, you may be sitting here thinking that just can’t be true. But then you think about your grandma who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and your coworker that has to “watch her sugar” or your friend who was warned that she was pre diabetic. Maybe it is even you!

Cue the mental visions of chocolate chip cookies dancing in your head while you ride down a slope of vanilla icing on your chocolate bar raft. Mmmmmm…

Wait, reality check —

Maybe that is going to far, but the struggle is real!  There is great reason for the upswing in diabetes and pre-diabetes cases. Sugar is everywhere we turn!

It is in donuts and cookies and cakes. It is in ketchup and spaghetti sauce and salad dressings. It is peanut butter — seriously, peanut butter? 

Even if you do not directly deal with a diagnosed blood sugar issue, you want to be aware of how it can affect you. 

Sugar is a sneaky little devil. It is put into your food (or naturally occurs) which is then absorbed by the body and, when continually bombarded with the white sweetness, your body can start to react defensively and you, my friend, could eventually have an unregulated blood sugar diagnosis. 

Even before the long term effects, blood sugar handling, or the way your body responds to the amount of sugar in your body, could cause concern in your health — weight gain, hormonal imbalances, stress, cravings, fatigue, depression, anxiety, just to name a few. 

Seriously, why is there added sugar in peanut butter?

If that is not enough to get you a little knocked off your rocker, then consider this — Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2017 based on the 83,564 death certificates in which diabetes was listed as the underlying cause of death. In 2017, diabetes was mentioned as a cause of death in a total of 270,702 certificates.

This is not meant to be a scare tactic. It is a sneak peak into the effects that out of control sugar consumption can have on your health. And, why getting your blood sugar handling under control is one of the very basic foundations of health that can quickly boost your health and serve you for a lifetime.

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Here are some starting points to get your blood sugar moving in the right direction:

  1. Your first meal of the day. This is your power meal. It can set your blood sugar up to be regulated in a smooth way that feels like you are riding the energy train right through Good Moodville all day long. Or, it can set you up for your body to have difficulty handling your blood sugar, leaving you on a wild roller coaster ride of emotional ups and downs, draining your energy tank the whole way through. How do you create your power meal? Start your day off with some high quality proteins and fats. You can have carbohydrates, but depending on your own unique body, it may be best to limit them, keep them low glycemic, or eliminate them all together. The key here is the protein and fats. What would this look like? You could try 2 scrambled, pastured-raised eggs with 1/2 sliced avocado and a 1/2 cup of your favorite berries. Or, you could try 1 cup of organic greek yogurt with 1/4 cup walnuts and 1-2 tablespoons of hemp seeds sprinkled with cinnamon. Yum!
  2. Quality matters. Sugar in the body is sugar. Yes — this is true. But not all sugar and foods that break down into simple sugars are the same. Some break down slower and some foods with sugar add more nutrients in the body. Some sugars are better absorbed and used to fuel us throughout the day. Eating carbohydrates that are more starchy and rich in fiber will be broken down slower, add more nutrients and usable components to keep us healthy, and create a source of fuel that is more of a slower burn (think big logs on a fire rather than small, quick-burning kindling). Those are called complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are like the kindling — they burn quick and give you bursts of energy, but, without something to slow down the burn (i.e., proteins, fats, and fiber), they can easily spike your blood sugar and cause it to drop dramatically. What does this look like in real life? Complex carbs are foods like brown rice, potatoes, vegetables, quinoa, etc. Simple carbs are foods like candy, fruit, honey, maple syrup, etc. The more that a food or meal has of these components, the more it can affect your blood sugar levels. Remember, quality matters! Eating foods that are more whole food based and not processed or packaged will also help to stabilize your blood sugar by taking stress off the body and giving your body food and nutrients that it knows how to break down more easily!
  3. Hidden sugars. Sugar can be hidden everywhere! If your diet consists of a lot of packaged foods, then I encourage you to definitely read the labels. You might be surprised how much sugar is added into foods that you would never think would have sugar. Again, why does peanut butter have sugar? Below is a list that Women’s Health had released that gives you some ideas of sneaky hidden sugar names. It is like a list of fake ID names — you never know what name the food industry may be calling the sugar trying to be slipped into your food! sugar-names-0-1492612561
  4. Low VS High glycemic. This tip relates to tip #2, yet it goes a little deeper. Some foods fall higher on the glycemic index than do others. Why should you care? Lower glycemic foods are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized and cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and, therefore insulin levels. Layman’s terms? Blood sugar stays more even and you feel more energy and even keel in your moods. What can you do? Go to the glycemic index website and choose many foods that are on the low end of the index. Not all foods have to be low and they shouldn’t be — there are some very healthy foods that are high glycemic. I just advise that you eat them less often or you time them around your workouts or activities that require you to burn more glucose, the fuel that your body uses. 
  5. Don’t eat it alone. This is especially true for diabetics and pre-diabetics, but it is a good habit to get under your proverbial belt now. Eating carbs, especially simple carbs, by themselves could cause dramatic spikes in your blood sugar. If the food doesn’t have fiber or protein or fat to slow down the burn, it could really affect you. Rumbly tummy? If you do find yourself getting bloated or gassy or digestively distressed from this, it is also healthy practice to slightly space out some of those simple carbs because of their ability to ferment in the stomach with certain foods. For example, if you eat fruit with a meal, have your fruit 15 minutes prior to your meal.

    woman smelling bread
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  6. Stay away from mindless eating. Our gut health and our digestion actually starts in the brain.  Crazy, right? No so much! When we are stressed or eating in a stressed environment, this causes our digestion and ability to digest our food to get a little wonky and not operate as effectively. And, when we are not paying attention to our food, we may eat more and feel less satisfied. There are two common mindless eating environments that happen — First, eating at your desk at work while you are working or even eating while driving in your car. Both of these are being done mindlessly, but also in a potentially stressed environment. You are less likely to pay attention to how the food is tasting and feeling and smelling, which then decreases your satiety and can increase your cravings for more. The second common environment is sitting in front of the tv or a computer screen and snacking. You may not be stressed, but you do have the mindless component! When you are not paying attention, it is so easy to get lost in the bag and not even come back to reality until your hand hits the bottom. Make sure that when you do eat, it is mindful and you are connected into what you are eating. It is also super duper important to eat your food somewhere that feels comforting or low stress. Both of these tactics will cause you to eat less and feel more satisfied, but they will also more likely keep your cravings at bay as the day moves on!

Stabilizing your blood sugar so that you feel at your best all day long is not impossible, but it does take some attention. These 6 tips are an effective place for you start and help get your energy and your blood sugar under control!

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The Silent Fire Within: How to Extinguish Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation in the body is a good thing … until it’s not. Your healing cells start to rapidly fire towards an injured source as soon as your immune system becomes compromised.  It’s like a siren going off and saying, “It’s time to heal- let’s go.” If you sprain your ankle, for instance, you will almost instantly see and feel the symptoms of acute inflammation — pain, redness, immobility, swelling and heat. This is often referred to as PRISH.

Don’t worry — This type of inflammation is actually good and an essential part of a healthy immune system; it signals that the body is attempting to heal itself, and any pain and immobility you experience are a warning to you to stay off your ankle. This is also when you probably have heard the old adage of applying RICE. No, I don’t mean the grain you eat! I mean RICE — rest, ice, compression and elevation. This helps to ease discomfort. When the healing process is complete, the inflammatory response normally shuts itself off.

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Photo by Murilo Folgosi on Pexels.com

But, what happens when it doesn’t shut off?

Chronic inflammation, however, is a different story. Because you can’t see or actually feel this type of inflammation, it’s often referred to as the body’s “silent fire”—which makes perfect sense, because the word “inflammation” derives from the Latin word for “to set on fire.” Chronic inflammation occurs when the body’s immune system doesn’t shut off for some reason and begins to burn out of control, like a fire that can’t be extinguished easily. It just keeps producing immune cells, leaving your body in a constant state of alert. And the body remains in a constant state of stress.

When the immune cells can’t find an injury or illness to repair, they eventually attack healthy cells, damaging your tissues and organs. This is when you start to have noticeable problems! This damage has been linked to a slew of diseases and disorders, including asthma, ulcers, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, ulcerative colitis, allergies, some types of cancer and even Alzheimer’s.

Unfortunately, you can’t see low-grade, chronic inflammation and squash the silent fire ahead of time. It is easy to think that living with the symptoms of chronic inflammation is merely how you are SUPPOSED to feel. It isn’t until the damage is done that you really start to step back and notice; even then you may not immediately link it to chronic inflammation.

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THE INFLAMMATION MYSTERY

Around 30 A.D., Celsus, a Roman physician, first identified the signs (and purpose) of acute inflammation. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH),  research on chronic inflammation didn’t see much headway until the second half of the 20th century. Regardless, there are still a number or unknowns on the chronic inflammation topic. According to Michelle Petri, MD, the actual triggers and how inflammation occurs are still not well understood — it’s a combination of genetics and environmental and hormonal factors.

So, while it’s widely accepted that chronic inflammation can either cause or advance many diseases and disorders, the main question that needs to be answered is how it does that!

Did you know that chronic inflammation can cause digestive issues? You bet it can! A study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology concluded that “inflammation, regardless of its location or extent, sends many local and systemic signals, which in turn may cause changes in the intestine.” Chronic heart failure, the study reported, is also “associated with increased levels of inflammatory markers.” So, even though we may not know exactly where it is coming from, it is super important to keep tabs on how your body is holding chronic inflammation in order to keep your ticker ticking and your gut from not gurgling so much.

And, in a 2017 interview with the American Association for Cancer Research, addressing the correlation between chronic inflammation and cancer, molecular biologist Michael Karin said, “When inflammation goes on for a long time, it can stimulate the growth of cancer cells. This chronic inflammation also inhibits people’s immunity, suppressing the ability of the immune system to recognize cancer as foreign and reject it.”

EXTINGUISHING THE FIRE

Although it’s somewhat difficult to detect the “silent fire” of chronic inflammation, the body offers a number of clues if you’re paying attention.

Excess inflammation in the body can cause weight gain (especially in the belly), mental fog, and an overall ‘blah’ feeling. It can also lead to fatigue, digestive issues, depression, sleep issues, and random aches and pains. This is only to name a few!

It is important to consult with your doctor if you suspect that you are dealing with an inflammation issue. A doctor typically diagnoses through a series of questions and by running certain blood tests. It is recommended that you ask for a blood test to check for C-reactive protein, or CRP for short. This measures the chronic inflammatory response.

After a diagnosis can be reached, then you can start to pinpoint specifics on how to lead an anti-inflammatory lifestyle and nutrition plan. The digestive tract is a primary target for making changes — 80% of the immune system is located within the gut, and gut microbes can drive inflammation.

There are four main goals of an anti-inflammatory nutrition plan:

  1. Keep blood sugars balanced
  2. Eat the right types of fats
  3. Consume anti-inflammatory phytochemicals
  4. Promote a healthy gut flora

It may sound complicated, but the good news is is that if you make a few small changes, for even a few minutes each day, you can drastically lower inflammation levels in the body.

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UN-JUNK YOUR DIET

Here are some anti-inflammatory eating tips that can help you ward off chronic inflammation:

  • Load at least half your plate with vegetables and fruits at every meal.
  • Get anti-inflammatory phytochemicals from flavonoids in raw cocoa, tea and berries; carotenoids in yellow and orange vegetables, such as carrots; and anthocyanins in red fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, raspberries, red peppers and red apples.
  • Layer in plant proteins, like legumes and some eggs (and some non-plant proteins like poultry or fish, if you consume them).
  • Get rid of processed grains and move towards whole grains, such as oats, brown rice, and quinoa.
  • Enjoy healthful fats, such as olives and avocados and their oils.
  • Snack on raw nuts and seeds.
  • Eat fermented foods daily, like unpasteurized sauerkraut and kombucha.
  • For supercharged nutrition, consume berries, leafy greens, matcha, mushrooms and brassicas (such as cauliflower) daily.
  • Eliminate refined flours.
  • Lower your overall sugar intake (even from natural sugars like date pastes and maple syrup).
  • Avoid concentrated sources of omega-6 fats from oils like soy, canola or corn.
  • Supplement with vitamin D, probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids.

Silencing the inner fire doesn’t have to be super challenging, but it does take an effort to change some of your lifestyle habits. Let’s get started today!


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Author Credit: Lisa Truesdale

Lisa Truesdale is a health freelancer writer, editor, proofreader and blogger.

Art Credit: New Hope Network