“I am 35, female and in good shape with no obvious health issues. However, like most of us at the moment I’m feeling trapped and isolated during lockdown and turning to food, especially sweet treats, for comfort. I know I should have more self-discipline but am finding it difficult to control my cravings. Any help would be greatly appreciated.”
Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer answers.
I completely understand! Unfortunately, the more sweet foods you eat the more intensely you’ll crave them and the pattern will continue.
Blood sugar balance
Eating lots of sweet treats upsets blood sugar balance – the delicate balance of glucose broken down from the foods we eat. Refined cakes and biscuits, sugary drinks (even artificially sweetened ones), alcohol, sweets and chocolate are quickly digested in the body, allowing glucose, a simple sugar, to flood in.
Glucose needs to be removed from the bloodstream fast, and so a quick release of insulin happens, rapidly reducing levels and storing nutrients and energy around the body. Unfortunately, this can soon leave you feeling low and needing another sweet treat. Also, worth noting is that insulin is a fat-storing hormone, so any excess glucose will be quickly stored as fat.
The importance of protein
The good news is that the pattern can be reversed. Eating protein with every meal is important. Meat, poultry, eggs, beans, soya, dairy or fish are all good sources. Protein stimulates the opposing hormone to insulin called glucagon, which balances out blood sugar levels helping to relieve cravings.
This is also an important ‘rule’ to adopt with snacks. If you’re feeling peckish between meals, then have some sliced apple, for example, and eat some nuts at the same time. Nuts and seeds make great snacks, again because they contain protein but also some additional immune-boosting nutrients such as zinc.
Another key nutrient is the mineral chromium, which is also involved in blood sugar balance and helps reduce cravings. Wholegrain foods are a good source of chromium, but it can also be taken in supplement form if you need additional help.
Enjoy dark chocolate
It’s also important to stress that a life of denial, especially right now when life is tough, is not what it’s about. Why not allow yourself a day each week for sweet treats? Dark chocolate contains antioxidants which also help protect the immune system. A couple of squares a day of minimum 70% cocoa will seem like a treat and also do your health some good.
Are you thirsty?
Once you start to increase your protein intake, you’ll find your cravings will reduce naturally. It’s also worth taking a moment when you feel a craving coming on to decide whether you’re actually thirsty. Dehydration can also cause cravings, so maybe try a herbal or fruit tea with a small snack to avert the sugar crisis. Or add some fresh fruit to water and sip away!
And above all keep positive. Try the above measures and you’ll soon get these cravings under control.
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