Nearly every diet—vegan, Paleo, ketogenic, etc.—has something in common with the others: they all recommend eliminating added sugar. These sugars are typically injected into foods to give them more flavor (especially low-fats) or to make them sweeter, but unlike the naturally occurring sugars found in whole foods like fruits, added sugars can wreak total havoc on your health. Worst yet, these sugars are incredibly addicting.
If you’ve ever tried to give up sugar for any period of time, you know how difficult it can be. Cakes, cookies, and other treats are usual suspects, but added sugar is also stealthily prevalent in foods like sliced bread, yogurt, and tomato sauce. But if you can kick the white stuff for good, the results are totally worth it: In addition to dropping some excess pounds, you’ll also have more energy for those morning 5Ks, a lowered risk for type 2 diabetes, better sleep, and a reduction in stomach issues like constipation and bloating.
If a nasty sweet tooth has been standing in the way of you eating a diet free of added sugars, adding the following foods to your diet will help eliminate those cravings for good. And the best part? When you eat these foods regularly, your body will actually start to crave them—instead of sugary treats. Now, that’s sweet!
Replacing sugary foods with protein is one of the best ways to stabilize your blood sugar levels. In fact, depending on the food, a protein-rich meal can actually slow down the absorption of sugar and prevent glucose spikes, which, in turn, can reduce your sugar cravings.
Eating more protein doesn’t just mean chowing down on a piece of steak, either. While grass-fed beef is a great source, chicken, lentils, black beans, wild-caught salmon, eggs, and full-fat dairy (like yogurt or kefir) also make the list for best protein foods.
2. Healthy fats
While fat has gotten a bad rap in the past, experts are finally realizing that healthy fats are great for your body, particularly when you’re transitioning to a low-sugar diet. When it comes to burning energy, your body turns to sugar first. But when you’ve eliminated sugar, it starts burning fat. In addition to using any dietary fat sources for energy, you will also start to burn any fat reserves in the body. So not only will it help you become a lean, mean fat-burning machine, but your body will become accustomed to using fat for fuel and will actually crave more healthy fats, further crushing those sugar cravings.
The best fats to add to your diet are avocados, which are also rich in protein; raw, organic or grass-fed butter (not to be confused with butter-like substances or margarine); extra virgin olive oil; and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like nuts, fatty fish, seeds, and leafy greens. I also recommend coconut oil. Coconut oil is very healthy and should definitely be a regular part of your diet. Coconut oil is high in (healthy) saturated fat, and the AHA recommends that men and women consume no more than 30 grams per day, and 20 grams per day, respectively. The good news is that most people are unlikely to surpass that amount unless they are on a high-fat, low-carb diet like the ketogenic diet.
Grocery store shelves are packed with foods that are enriched with fiber (i.e. the fiber is added artificially during processing), but when it comes to managing that sweet tooth, you’ll want to choose foods that are naturally high in soluble fiber like nuts, flaxseeds, berries, and carrots. The fiber in these foods slows down the speed of digestion, which then stabilizes blood sugar levels. This process effectively reduces blood sugar spikes as well as the risk of diabetes.
Another benefit of a high-fiber diet is that you’ll feel full for longer after eating since the food is not being digested quite as quickly. That translates to fewer mid-day snacks or cravings for post-dinner treats. You might even find yourself losing a pound or two when you cut down on nibbling between meals because you’re satiated for longer after eating.
4. Probiotic-rich foods
What do probiotic foods have to do with reducing sugar cravings? As it turns out, a lot. Probiotics are natural enemies of the Candida yeast, which can cause a host of health issues including skin rashes like psoriasis, brain fog, weight gain, and vaginal yeast infections. Candida feeds on sugar, so when it is allowed to grow unchecked, it can trigger intense sugar cravings as it seeks to secure its primary food source.
By eliminating sugar, you’ll also start to starve the Candida, but adding probiotic foods to the mix can ramp up those results. By eating more probiotic foods, the good bacteria in your gut will flourish, while keeping Candida and other bad bacteria at bay (an ideal ratio is about 85% good/neutral bacteria and 15% bad). That means fewer sugar cravings, and also better skin, a happier tummy, and a more powerful immune system.
Kefir, apple cider vinegar, Greek yogurt (plain, organic varieties are best), and kombucha are all packed with probiotics and are easy to find at the grocery store.
5. Sour foods
When you want something sweet, one of the best ways to fight that urge quickly is to eat something sour. And as an added bonus, many sour foods are also high in probiotics or organic acids, which support good bacteria growth and further elimination of sugar-loving Candida.
Sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented foods are great foods to add to meals or salads to curb that sweet tooth. Adding lemon or lime slices to your water can also help. The acids found in these fruits slow down digestion, keeping blood sugar levels from spiking and crashing, and improving nutrient absorption. Hello, detox. Goodbye, sweet tooth.
6. Herbs and Spices
Finally, increasing the number of herbs and spices used in your kitchen will help release your body from the addictive grip of sugar, reduce cravings and improve your overall health.
Ginger, for example, is a natural anti-inflammatory that enhances insulin sensitivity, which protects against diabetes. It’s fantastic added to a smoothie or brewed into a tea with a little raw honey and fresh lemon.
Turmeric is another powerful spice that’s great for fighting sugar cravings. It’s known to lower blood sugar and fight against insulin resistance. And if your cholesterol is higher than you’d like, turmeric helps with that, too. One of my favorite ways to enjoy turmeric’s healing benefits is in a homemade turmeric latte.