Nutrition & Lifestyle Factors! Let’s talk about two important hormones that relate to carbohydrate release of sugar into our bloodstream: Insulin and Glucagon.
All sugar taken into our bodies (whether from simple or complex carbohydrates) is broken down in glucose (which is the simplest form of sugar that is used for energy throughout the body). Insulin helps to accompany the glucose from our bloodstream and into our tissues where it is either stored for later use or burned as fuel. The more simple carbohydrates you consume the increase in glucose in the bloodstream and therefore the more insulin to be released. Our muscle tissue either uses the glucose right away for fuel, or shuttles some to the brain, also used for fuel. The rest of the glucose gets stored in the muscle or liver for later use, but both have storage limitations, the remaining glucose will get stored in our fat cells. However, our fat cells are the last resort when our body is calling on glucose for energy, it will go to the immediate muscle and liver stores first. So you can see how a continuous supply of simple carbohydrates can lead to fat gain?
What about the counterpart? Glucagon? Glucagon, like insulin is secreted by the pancreas but instead of responding to carbohydrate intake, glucagon is secreted with protein intake. So the great thing about complex carbohydrates is that they also contain more protein than simple carbohydrates as well as glucogon helps to get stored glucose out of our fat cells and used for energy. Adding in protein rich foods (fish, chicken, eggs, beans etc.) and you have a better chance at burning fat instead of storing it.
OK now that you know a little bit about the science let’s get to the juicy stuff: How can we decrease our sugar cravings.
Again although sugar cravings are individualized, there are some key dietary solutions in order to help you balance blood sugar levels.
- Stay hydrated- when we are thirsty and dehydrated our bodies can actually think that we want sugar when really we just want some H20.
- Eat primarily complex carbohydrates and avoid simple carbohydrates.
- Eat protein with every meal- as described earlier, protein is very important in order to slow down the release of sugar as well as increase glucagon.
- Eat fermented foods help to make digestion more efficient, ensuring you are absorbing and assimilating the nutrients from the food you are eating. If we have an imbalance in good/bad gut bacteria our bad bacteria in our gut prefers to feed off of sugars, hence making you crave more and more. Fermented foods include: kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, yogurt etc.
- Avoid processed foods and eat a whole foods diet (meaning eat from nature and avoid any packaged foods). Processed foods are filled with more salt, more sugar and more fat.
- Satisfy your sweet tooth naturally with fruit or like the maca macaroons below. Dates are also really high in fibre so you will help you to stabilize your blood sugar. And maca—I know that it has been associated with the “bedroom” benefits but is really amazing for decreasing sugar and carb cravings due to helping to increase serotonin levels (the happy feel good hormone), which helps to decrease stress and intense cravings.
- Eat smaller more frequent meals- Yes, I’m sure you have heard this before but it really does make a difference in order to keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day.
- Decrease stress—stress is directly related to increase in cortisol which in turn increases blood sugar. Check out my blogs on ways to decrease stress through lifestyle and nutrition.
- Exercise: will help to boost serotonin levels (the happy hormone) while decreasing sugar cravings.
- Habit Changes: Notice what your triggers are for eating sweets and come up with a new strategy for that trigger: for example you are home alone at night and the chocolate bar in the cupboard is calling your name, get up and go outside for a walk, call a friend or get into a DIY project where you can be distracted from the habit of eating sweets at night time.