Ways to Curb That Diabetic Sweet Tooth
Diabetes and Sugar
Diabetes rates are rising at an alarming pace. The modern American diet is largely to blame. Sweets and junk food, along with the prevalence of processed white flour all contribute to an increasing number of diabetics. For people who have already developed this condition, sugar is a deadly enemy. Diabetics cannot properly use the sugars from foods, so the blood stream is flooded by high amounts of sugar, which can damage organs. Controlling blood sugar levels is the first, and most important, step in dealing with diabetes. This can be hard though, especially if you have a sweet tooth.
Why Do We Crave Sugar?
As babies, we are born craving sugar. Human breast milk is high in sugar, so we develop an association between sweets, good food, and comfort, early in life.
Sugar also has direct effects on the body's chemistry. Eating foods high in sugar or simple carbohydrates increases the brain's serotonin production. Serotonin is one of the brain's main neurotransmitters, and among a host of other functions, it also regulates mood. Higher serotonin levels equal better mood. This is the basis of most anti-depressant medications.
When we are anxious or unhappy and give in to our sweet or carbohydrate cravings, we are basically self-medicating. Sweets also stimulate the release of endorphins, the body's own opiates, usually associated with exercise. These hormones help you relax and feel happy. These mood-altering benefits provide powerful incentives to eat sweets, so breaking a sugar addiction can be very tough.
Healthier Alternatives to Satisfy a Sweet Tooth
Not all sugars are created equal. In addition, the sugars found in some foods go hand in hand with many important nutrients and minerals, whereas others are simply empty calories. Depending on the severity of your diabetes, simply switching out some sugary foods for others might do the trick. Drinking milk may help lower diabetes risk. You're still satisfying your sweet tooth but without ruining your health. Here are some tips for healthier alternatives:
- Fresh fruit. The sugar in fruits (fructose) is absorbed more slowly into your bloodstream than most other sugars, so it doesn't raise glucose levels very quickly. Fruits also contain many nutritious vitamins (like vitamin C ), minerals, and fiber.
- Add jam or honey to a whole grain slice of toast. The complex carbohydrates will slow the absorption of the sugar from the honey while providing you with a healthy snack. Flavored multi or whole grain rice cakes server the same function.
- Use applesauce or fruit concentrates in recipes rather than table sugar, and add fruit toppings to pancakes and waffles rather than syrup.
- Add cinnamon for flavor and sweetness. Cinnamon is a naturally sweet spice that also slows the absorption of sugar. Vanilla also adds sweetness.
How to Reduce Cravings
If simply replacing some foods with others isn't doing the trick, or if your diabetes is too severe to let you allow sugar in any form, there are ways to help reduce craving. Eat a healthy, well balanced breakfast that includes both carbohydrates and protein. Then continue by eating small meals regularly throughout the day. Eating big meals or meals high in simple carbohydrates can cause abrupt spikes in blood sugar followed by equally sudden dips that then induce craving. Thus, eating a good breakfast followed by several small meals will keep your blood sugar stable and reduce cravings.
Regular exercise is important for all diabetics, but exercise also stimulates endorphin production, just like sweets. Next time you're craving carbohydrates and sweets, try exercising for a while instead. After a while, you can transfer your addiction from sweets to exercise. As you change your eating patterns, you'll notice a gradual shift in cravings to different foods that are good for you instead of sweets. It may take time, but you'll get there eventually. Give it a try!