Refined sugar isn't good for you. But you know that already! What you might not know is that you can fight refined-sugar cravings – and that doesn't have to mean giving up dessert. Keep reading for our quick tips on fighting sugar cravings while satiating your sweet tooth.
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Giving up refined sugar can do your body a world of good. Benefits include:
- Stronger immune system
- More energy
- Better sleep and mood
- Weight loss
- Clear skin
- Reduced risk for disease, including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, even some cancers
- Your tastebuds can reset in just two weeks – which will make you less inclined to crave sugar AND more likely to enjoy natural sources of it (like fruit!)
1. Understand the difference between refined and natural sugar
While natural sugars, found in whole fruit, are part of a whole food plant-based diet, refined sugar is not. Unlike natural sources, refined sugar does not have nutrients or fiber in tact. Without the fiber in particular, our blood sugars aren’t regulated, causing dangerous spikes in glucose levels. Refined sugar also stores in your body as fat and causes inflammation.
Fruit, on the other hand, is loaded with natural sugars...and a whole lot of other goodness, like anti-oxidants and micronutrients. The natural sugars found in fruits provide you with sustained energy.
The reason your body reacts differently to the 14 grams of sugar from a banana, and 14 grams of table sugar is your new BFF: Fiber. Fiber allows glucose to feed steadily into your blood stream, preventing spikes. It also helps you process and digest the sugar quickly so it doesn't store as fat.
So the moral of the story is: when sweets cravings strike, you can absolutely enjoy a big bowl of fruit, guilt-free.
2. Find a whole food replacement
One of the best things about a whole food plant-based diet is that you don't actually have to give up dessert. It's all about finding whole food swaps for your processed food cravings.
Craving a chocolate bar? How about ice cream? Here are two simple, whole food plant based replacement milkshakes to scratch that itch instead.
1. For vanilla fans: dairy-free vanilla "milkshake"
Blend together: 1 frozen banana, 3/4 a cup of unsweetened non-dairy milk, 2 Tablespoons of cashew butter, 2 dates, 1/4 a teaspoon of vanilla.
2. For chocolate lovers: dairy-free chocolate "milkshake"
Blend together: 1 frozen banana, 3/4 a cup of unsweetened non-dairy milk, 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter, 2 dates, 1 Tablespoon of cacao powder.
Can I bake and cook without refined sugar?
Yes! You definitely can. Simply swap refined sugars for whole food natural sweeteners like these.
3. Figure out your triggers
While sugar is indeed addictive, sometimes we have emotional triggers prompting us to binge on sweets. So think carefully about when you reach for something sugary. Is it after a stressful conversation? Is it before mealtime when you're hungry? Is it while you're on the phone?
Once you identify your trigger, you can be aware of the craving, and learn to watch it pass. Pull out your phone and TIME your cravings. You may just find that three minutes of cravings is doable, because it will eventually pass.
- Refined sugar is inflammatory and can wreak havoc on our entire system, from our blood sugar to our immunity. The good news is, giving it the boot can work wonders – and fast!
- Have a sweet tooth? Eat fruit! The natural sugars in fruit affect your body differently than refined sugars (which have been stripped of their fiber). Not to mention, fruit has a ton of important nutrients and minerals to aid in your immune system!
- Find whole food swaps for refined sugar – make dairy-free "milkshakes," or use natural sweeteners, like dates, in your baked goods.
- Figure out your triggers! Sometimes cravings are linked to an emotion. Identifying your own patterns can help you break free from refined sugar cravings.
By Caroline DiNicola Fawley
Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies