You know how detrimental sugar can be to health, but as someone who has a sweet tooth, you can’t just throw all your ice cream down the drain. Sugar dependency is not easy to get rid of, especially when chocolates, pastries, and other snacks packed with refined sugar have been part of your regular diet.
So, how do you let go of your sugar cravings and take one step closer to a healthier diet?
The Science Behind Sweet Tooth
Before you swear off donuts and caramel, you should understand why your body wants them so much.
Your liver is partly to blame. According to a recent study, a hormone in the liver regulates a person’s preferences for sweets. The FGF21 hormone sends a signal to the brain to increase or decrease your sugar craving.
Moreover, some people are just more likely to want sweets than other people—and that’s because of their genetic makeup. When researchers studied how hundreds of people tasted natural sugars and artificial sweeteners, they found out that genetic factors are to blame for 30% of the variation in sweetness.
This means that different people taste sweet things in a different way, and if you crave sugar more than other people, your genetics might be at fault.
Alternatives for Your Sugar Snacks
Despite your genetic predispositions, you can still remove refined sugars from your diet. The best way to shake off your dependency on chocolate and ice cream is to find healthier alternatives. Instead of stuffing your pantry with sweets, load up on these snacks.
Fruit contains sugar, but it’s different from the sugars found in snacks. The body metabolizes the sugar from fruits differently compared to the refined sugar found in processed food.
In sugary snacks, the body breaks down the refined sugar quickly, making your blood sugar levels spike. Additionally, because the body digests refined sugar rapidly, you rarely feel full after eating them.
In contrast, fruit contains a lot of fiber, which slows down the digestive process. As such, you feel full, and your blood sugar levels don’t skyrocket. Fruits also contain vitamins and minerals that feed and fuel the entire body.
Here are some super fruits — fruits rich in health-boosting compounds — to snack on:
- Plum — Plums contain hydroxycinnamic acids, a type of antioxidant that helps reduce damage to the cells.
- Apples — While one apple a day won’t keep the doctor away, research has shown that it helps reduce the risk of many diseases.
- Tart Cherries — A popular ingredient in gout maintenance supplements, cherries have a high concentration of Vitamin C.
- Raspberries — Raspberries are one of the best sources of fiber among fruits.
- Gogi Berries — Gogi berries have compounds that help protect your vision and boost your immune system.
There’s a long list of chia seed benefits. A one-ounce serving of chia seeds contains 18% of your daily calcium needs, as well as 27% of phosphorus and 30% of manganese. Chia seeds are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to increase good cholesterol levels. On top of that, it’s rich in antioxidants that prevent cell damage.
The best part is, you can consume chia seeds as a dessert. Chia puddings are easy to make and highly customizable. Just add two tablespoons of chia seeds for every half cup of milk, then add any sweetener you like — honey, fresh fruits, or maple syrup.
Cocoa is an excellent source of flavanols that may help protect the heart. However, white and milk chocolate bars don’t preserve much of the flavanols from the cocoa beans. Moreover, they contain a huge amount of refined sugar. In contrast, dark chocolate has up to three times more flavanol-rich cocoa solids than milk chocolate.
The benefits of chocolate-derived flavanols include:
- Decreasing your blood pressure
- Decreasing your cholesterol levels
- Reducing the risk of heart disease
- Helping reduce inflammation
If you’re eyeing dark chocolate bars, go for those that contain at least 80% cocoa solids. The higher the cacao content, the less sugar it has and the healthier the bar is.
Don’t worry, the dessert possibilities for dark chocolate are endless. You can use them for chocolate truffles, chocolate-dipped fruits, and more.
Acai berries are nutrient-dense and relatively low in sugar compared to other berries. Rich in antioxidants, acai berries help neutralize the damage from free radicals on your cells.
What makes acai berries a favorite is that it’s easy to turn them into a healthy snack or meal. Puree acai berries with (equally nutritious) yogurt, and voila, you’ve made a smoothie. Top it with fresh fruits and nuts, and you have a healthy (and Instagram-worthy) dish.
Refined sugar can be difficult to cut off from your daily diet, but with these delicious alternatives, you’ll wean yourself off refined sugar in no time. Try them today to start your journey to a healthier life.