Salt and Sugar Cravings: What you can do to control them

When was the last time you craved something sweet?  How about salty?  Trying to stay good all the time certainly comes with its own downfalls, and cravings can be especially strong when you are restricting certain things from your diet.  So while you may be convinced that your body actually needs something because you are craving it, that may not be the case at all.  This week’s blog is about curbing those cravings with healthy choices.

Why do we crave salt?

There is salt in everything.  We get so used to having a lot of salt in our diet that when we cut back we go into a salt-shock.  We also may crave salt if we feel exhausted or stressed or if our bodies are craving natural salt minerals that you don’t normally see in table salt. High blood pressure and diabetes have even been linked to cravings for salt.

How to curb salt cravings?

If you are craving salt because you are now going through salt-withdrawals then cutting back slowly may be the answer.  Using herbs and spices to flavor your food as substitutions may be the best thing for you to do in your situation.

Try the low-salt versions obviously, and make sure to read your labels.  The recommended amount of salt per day is 2500 mg a day.  This may seem like a lot but it adds up fast.

If you are craving salt because you are stressed or exhausted you it may be that you are low in vitamin C and potassium.

Vitamin C foods to load up on include tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, kiwi, and broccoli.

Potassium-rich foods include bananas, avacados, orange juice, salmon, broccoli and spinach.

Why do we crave sugar?

It’s 3:00 again and a piece of candy is just the thing we need to get over our little hump to make it through the extra mile at work.  This low blood-sugar reaction may be due to a decrease in serotonin in our bodies.  If you are on a low-fat and high carb diet, you may feel these affects even more.  Your body signals to your brain that you need more glucose and this causes a craving for sugar.

How to curb sugar cravings

By simply eating a variety of food to keep your blood glucose stable you will be able to curb your sugar cravings.  A well-balanced diet of protein, fiber, complex carbs, and fat will allow insulin to store energy properly and glucagon to distribute glucose in your blood stream.

Protein

Having some sort of protein with each meal will offset the increase of insulin created by carbs and help your body to remain stable.  There are proteins you get from animal sources and also protein you get from plant sources.  Animal sources include lean meats, cheese, eggs, chicken, and fish.  Plant sources include soy milk, legumes, seeds, nuts, and tofu.  A good way to utilize the potential of protein in curbing your sugar cravings is to combine whole grains with protein sources.  This will keep you full longer and prevent those sugar cravings.

Fats

There is a common misconception that all fats are bad for you.  In actuality fat is essential in keeping you full, giving you energy, and yes, curbing your sugar cravings.  Fat slows down the processing of your food in your stomach resulting in steady glucose levels and aids in overall satisfaction.

There are fats that are good for you and fats that are bad for you.  The bad fats, which include trans fats and hydrogenated fats, can damage cells in your body because they cannot be metabolize.  The good fats that your body can digest are saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.  Polyunsaturated fats are the best for you, including omega- 3 fatty acids which reduce cholesterol and decrease coronary artery disease.

Avoiding high-fructose corn syrup and trans fat is a good start in curbing your sugar cravings.  Trans fats can be found in fast food, mayo, peanut butter, and non-dairy creamers.  High fructose corn syrup is popular in sodas and replaces sugar in a lot of products.  There is a link to obesity and diabetes with high fructose sugar.

The average person should have no more than 32 g of sugar a day, which unfortunately is surpassed in a single 12-oz bottle of Pepsi or large McDonald’s shake.  No wonder the withdrawal effects you would feel if cutting back on sugar.

Carbs

Carbs are what give you energy.  If they are not used as energy then they are stored as fat, that simple.  If you are eating a lot of carbs and not enough protein or fats, then you are sure to get hungry again, and grab for the all-familiar sugar fix.  Since there is no trigger of getting full with just carbs, you will end of overeating without ever getting full.  Similarly if you do not eat enough carbs, then you are starving your cells out of energy and what results is fatigue, depression, and bone loss.

To maintain a healthy balance, look for carbs that last in your body longer.  These are called complex carbs.  Complex carbs can be whole grains such as brown rice or wheat bread.  Others include whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, and barley.  Refined grains such as white bread and flour do not have the lasting power that complex carbs do and you will get hungry faster and are more successible to sugar cravings.  Complex carbs can be found in fruits and vegetables which also can maintain your sugar levels and metabolism.

Fiber

Fiber helps you to stay full longer and help absorb other nutrients in your body, making sugar cravings a thing of the past.  There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.  Soluble fiber absorbs water and aids in digestion while insoluble fiber is what keeps you full and aids in metabolism.

Soluble fiber includes foods such as oats, berries, plums, sweet potatoes, onions, and peas.

Insoluble fiber food include whole grains, green beans, avacodos, zucchini, tomatoes, and lentils.

Salt and sugar cravings don’t have to be taking over your life.  Take control over your eating habits to ensure stability in your diet.  You will feel better and won’t have to depend on quick-fixes to keep you going.

One Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Richard
    Apr 12, 2011 @ 23:08:17

    Thanks to your excellent article on salt and sugar cravings, and because of it I have gone on a salt-free diet.

    But I’ve been undergoing these terrible side effects: burning in the abdomen, legs and feet; thirst, grainy eyes, morning aches and pains; swollen feet and so on.

    Is this normal? Is drastically reducing salt a long drawn-out process? Will these symptoms continue for some time?

    Congratulations and you are doing a whole heck of a lot of good

    Reply

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