The sugar craving monster is a dangerously addictive one to be a victim of. It’s not only addicting, physically and mentally, but it’s also hard to let go of and avoid, understandably. Refined and added sugars are found in most all processed foods, even some that are labeled as “natural”. This makes choosing whole foods more important than ever when it comes to your health.
Sugar can deplete certain nutrients from the body, such as magnesium, potassium, and other critical vitamins and minerals that actually lead to sugar cravings. What we see as a need for a piece of candy or a cookie could easily just be our body telling us we’re lacking in a certain vitamin or mineral.
Sugar is also just generally hard on the body, so let’s look at how we can combat sugar cravings the healthy way, instead of just going on another restrictive diet. Lucky for us, certain foods in whole foods plant-based diet can help fight sugar cravings, and they’re not just fruit and veggies.
How to Really Beat Sugar Cravings: Proper Nutrition
The best way to fight sugar cravings is to outsmart them. Eating certain foods that are rich in magnesium, B vitamins, fiber, protein, zinc, and iron, are one of the best ways you can combat sugar cravings through nutrition. When your body receives these nutrients, it no longer sends out a quick cry for something to give it a quick source of energy (which we usually call a sugar craving), nor does it need sugar to steady your frayed nerves. Greens, nuts, seeds, and some low-glycemic, high-protein beans and legumes, (such as lentils and black beans), are all examples of foods that support healthy blood sugar levels and healthy neurotransmitter function.
The Nutritional Benefits of Raw Cacao
Another delicious (and a bit more exciting) food that also does this is raw cacao. Cacao is actually a bean by nature, so it’s packed with protein, more iron than beef per serving, more zinc and Vitamin C than most vegetables or other beans, and more magnesium than any plant-based food that exists. One really helpful nutritional benefit of raw cacao is that it is a powerful source of chromium. Chromium is a mineral that has been shown to reduce sugar cravings and improve insulin function in the body. Most beans and legumes are good sources of chromium (along with green, broccoli, nuts and seeds) but raw cacao is much higher per serving. Cacao is also higher in zinc content, which is also helpful for metabolizing sugar and carbs effectively.
The key to choosing the best cacao product for your blood sugar (and weight) is to choose raw cacao powder. It has no sugary sweeteners added and is not heated like processed cocoa powder. Sugar and heat can actually deplete many of the nutrients found raw cacao, so choose your chocolate wisely! Raw cacao powder also has more fiber than a bowl of oatmeal per 2 tablespoons, with just 60 calories, 8 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber, 2.5 grams of fat, and over 60 percent of your daily iron and magnesium needs.
So, How do These Nutrients Help With Sugar Cravings?
Magnesium is an incredible nutrient “weapon” to help with blood sugar swings and sugar cravings. It not only stabilizes insulin in the body but also triggers neurotransmitters in the nervous system that signal satiety and relaxation. Sugary cacao products do not provide these same benefits.
The protein and fiber in cacao also help stabilize insulin levels, and signal the release of two “feel-good” hormones in the body known as serotonin and dopamine. These are the same hormones that are produced when sugar is eaten, however, there is no blood sugar crash and depletion of serotonin and dopamine just minutes after you eat raw cacao powder. Unlike caffeine and sugar, cacao reacts differently in the body. Instead of a quick jolt of energy, the nutrients in cacao provide a balanced feeling with a steady stream of energy similar to the effects of the superfood maca.
Raw cacao also has natural properties that lower blood pressure, (which is one reason dark chocolate is said to be so good for you). Mood benefits aside, this superfood (which is really just a humble bean) is packed with more health benefits than most people can imagine.
What to Remember …
Always remember to go for raw, certified organic, and preferably fair-trade cacao. Why? Much for the same reasons you should choose organic, fair-trade coffee, buying raw certified organic and fair-trade cacao means you’re putting the best in your body, supporting a healthier food industry, and also supporting farmers that grow cacao.
Now, let’s go eat some chocolate, shall we? Here are some raw cacao recipes you can enjoy that are all free of any fake ingredients and all made from whole plant-based foods. Also, don’t forget that raw cacao should be part of a whole foods diet, not eaten in replacement to whole meals or healthy snacks. Add a tablespoon or two at breakfast in a smoothie or oatmeal, have a piece of raw cacao chocolate at lunch or dinner, or make a healthy dessert with raw cacao powder. Adding this healthy superfood to your diet will surely be a delicious way to lower those cravings for unhealthy sugary foods because your body is receiving raw nutrition.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy raw cacao?
Lead Image Source: William Ismael/Flickr