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Dr. Richard Isaacson

How to BEET Sugar Cravings

BEET The Sugar Out: Using root vegetables and lifestyle changes to stamp out sugar cravings

In my practice as a Holistic Nutritionist the past 5 years, many people came to me with concerns about their almost uncontrollable sugar cravings.  These sugar cravings were attributed as the major reason why they were not able to lose any weight prior to meeting me.  However, looking at things holistically, I discovered that sugar cravings are more of a “symptom” rather then a cause.  They are the result of any combination of ten basic concepts that were missing from, or related to, my clients’ daily activities.  I structured these concepts into a list that I call:

The top ten recommendations to BEET Sugar Cravings:

1) Start out the day eating a meal that is basically complex carbohydrates-like steel cut oatmeal, rolled oats with roasted nuts and flax seeds, or even better, some kind of whole grain pilaf, like millet or quinoa or bulgur wheat. A morning meal primarily comprised of complex carbohydrates from a whole grain or cracked grain source should sustain your hunger for 3-4 hours, which would cut down on cravings in general.  For many people, carbohydrate intake earlier in the day dictates carbohydrate need after 3pm, which is when many people feel the need for something sweet. 

2) Pungent, hot, and strong flavored foods: the strong flavor of Hot and Spicy food, like hot peppers, chilies, and bell peppers, and pungent foods like garlic and chives can, lead to sugar cravings.  The sweet flavor neutralizes the pungent, strong flavors of these foods.  So if your diet is very high in peppers, it is possible that your body is trying to find balance through craving the sweet flavor.  Try to reduce the amount of hot or pungent food you eat each day, and create balance by eating sweet vegetables or a small piece of fruit after an exceptionally spicy meal.  This also applies to bitter greens, like collards and kale; sweet vegetables balance the bitter flavor of certain leafy greens.  Try cooking kale with a sweet root vegetable like carrots, yams, sweet potato, beets, and parsnips.

3) Salty, heavy or “contractive” foods:  Have you ever had a bunch of salty potato chips then immediately craved a cookie after?  Too much salt in the diet or an imbalance in a particular meal can lead to a sudden craving for sweets.  Try to cut down on table salt, too.  Eating too much heavy or “contractive” food, meaning foods that can give you a weighed down, or “grounded” feeling, like fatty meats, thick sauces, peanut butter, nuts, or Miso can lead to a craving for “expansive” foods, namely, sugar.  The sugar would provide a lighter, less grounded feeling (ever have a “sugar high”?) to balance the overly grounded feeling from the heavier foods.  The best way to handle this is to cut back on fatty meat and eat leaner selections instead, avoid sauces with too much sodium in it, and try to balance your diet by eating at least one serving of leafy green vegetables per day.  The greens can create a similar “uplifting, lighter” feeling to that of sugar.  Try it and see what happens.

4) Eat sweet vegetables, roots like beets, carrots, parsnips, and turnips, and try squashes like acorn, pumpkin, and butternut in the fall and winter, when they are in season.  These foods are naturally sweet, but don’t contain “sugar”.  A GREAT vegetable to counter sugar cravings is the yam (also see sweet potato).  It’s naturally sweet flavored, but doesn’t spike blood sugar, and helps calm sugar cravings.  Try eating a baked yam with olive oil and basil in the morning for breakfast

5) Are you chewing your food effectively? Try to chew each spoonful of grains or vegetables 35 times. Chewing your vegetal food breaks down the carbohydrates and increases its surface area for optimum absorption. Poor chewing can lead to poor absorption, which in turn can eventually lead to cravings.

6) Are you stressed out from work?  Is your job rigorous and does it require you to exert a tremendous amount of energy? This can lead to increased energy needs, hence increased sugar cravings. Maybe you need more energy to start your day (see#1)?  Try to incorporate healthy carbohydrates into your daily diet, with grains like Quinoa and brown rice, and of course, sweet root vegetables.

7) Are you using sugar to meet your emotional needs? If so, then try to meet your own emotional needs with out using food to self medicate. Instead of cookies and cakes, try journaling, a hot bath, deep breathing, or a good brisk walk. Maybe you aren’t craving sweets, you are craving company; a good conversation can be a great sugar substitute!  Try to engage stimulating dialogue at least once per day.

8) Water intake and dehydration: A lot of people confuse thirst with a desire for sugar-I can only guess it’s because since carbohydrate and water are both required for energy production, instinctually someone may crave one and think it’s a craving for the other. Make sure you are drinking water in regular intervals, and if you are craving sugar drink 8 oz of water and see what happens.  Sugar cravings can usually be a good indicator of chronic dehydration.

9) Eating sugar leads to sugar cravings!  Sweet flavor and simple carbohydrates are important to the diet.  So instead of using white table sugar and the dreaded artificial sweeteners, why not try some really tasty natural alternatives?  Try Agave nectar in coffee and tea, rice syrup in place of sugar for baking, as well as honey, barley malt, and black strap molasses in your oatmeal in the morning.  These sweeteners have many nutrients still intact and are good choices to help alleviate sugar cravings.

10) And finally, if all else fails, I suggest that that you brush your teeth after each meal. Have you ever tried to eat a cookie with the taste of Aquafresh in your mouth? ...exactly!

Michael J Macaluso, HHC, is a board certified Holistic Health Counselor with a specialization in Holistic Nutrition and is an expert on food allergies.  He has a private nutrition counseling practice in Seaford NY.  Initial 30 minute evaluation is free.

You can contact him here:

Or call (516) 804-8825 or (516) 298-1644

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