Sweet cravings are challenging when you want to eat healthier and lose weight.
Sweet cravings are symptoms of an imbalance.
They’re not the problem, they’re the solution to a problem. When you give in to your sweet cravings, it’s like putting a band-aid but on a gushing wound.
You crave sweets because you have a dip of energy in the middle of the day or night or because you feel stressed.
So to get a quick boost of energy or feel calm and relaxed, you reach for the sweets. They’re an effective band-aid short term but a dangerous one long term.
Whether the problem is of physical or emotional/mental origin, the long term solution is to begin to introduce strategies that will correct the imbalance.
How to resolve sweet cravings with diet?
One of the reasons you may experience a dip of energy in the middle of the day is because you don’t have enough natural sweet taste in your diet.
You may be eating a diet that has too many processed foods, sugary foods, too little whole foods or too much animal protein.
Therefore, the first step is to begin to introduce foods that will give you a sweet taste without escalating your blood sugar levels.
These types of foods are complex carbohydrates like whole grains, but also root and starchy vegetables like winter squashes.
The body takes longer to break down complex carbohydrates to be transformed into glucose.
The body and the brain needs glucose for energy.
When you eat whole grains, your blood sugar levels or glucose levels take longer to rise and therefore will take longer to fall. You won’t experience a sudden crash of energy and need a sugar rush to keep you going.
Root and starchy vegetables satisfy the sweet taste without the sugar. There’s little glucose, fructose or sucrose in those types of vegetables.
To satisfy the body’s need for the sweet taste without creating an imbalance, Ayurveda also suggests small amounts of healthy fats, legumes, constitution-appropriate dairy foods and of course fruits.
“Fructose is handled by the body in a different way to glucose as it is metabolized in the liver. As a result, blood sugar (glucose) levels do not rise as rapidly after fructose consumption compared to other simple sugars,” writes Jo Lewin, nutritionist
Ayurveda also suggests that you provide your body all 6 tastes.
In my Ayurvedic coaching in the kitchen, I teach my clients how to use spices like cumin, coriander, fennel, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, thyme, oregano and rosemary; and herbs like parsley, cilantro, mint, and sage to satisfy all 6 tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter.
I teach them how to create flavorful dishes with mirepoix.
According to Ayurveda, when you have all 6 tastes, you feel satisfied and satiated and naturally your cravings go away.
Another cause for sweet cravings is a lack of routine.
Lacking routines throughout your day or traveling a lot will increase your cravings for sweet. So will not sleeping at appropriate times between 10 pm and 6 am.
In Ayurveda we call that a Vata imbalance. If you experience a Vata imbalance as a result of these things, then instinctively your body will start craving the sweet taste to balance itself out so to speak.
However, if you satisfy your sweet cravings with sugary foods, whether natural or artificial, instead of bringing balance, this will increase the imbalance. You’ll fall into an addictive cycle.
I had a client who was experiencing a Vata imbalance and had turned to candy. It became very addictive and she had a very hard time letting go of the candy. Before she met me she was trying to beat her addictive behavior with will-power. This is almost impossible. I then introduced in her life foods and lifestyle routines that would satisfy her taste for sweet and bring her back to a state of natural balance.
Other lifestyle strategies to manage the sweet cravings
Eating meals at regular times everyday.
Moving the body regularly.
Sleeping in sync with the body’s circadian rhythms
Having a self-care routine, that may include self-massage, hot baths, time in nature.
Laughing and playing
Being creative whether you have talent or not!
What Ayurveda tells us about the sweet taste will help us have more compassion for our sweet cravings.
In Ayurveda, the sweet taste is the most important taste. It is said to nourish the body and the mind. It reduces hunger and provides hydration. Finally it builds Ojas. Ojas is the power of our immune system. When our Ojas is low, we’re susceptible to infections, disease and death.
Psychologically, the sweet taste is related to a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. So when we crave sweets it may be a way for our body-mind and spirit to tell us that we are out of alignment with our deepest desires.
This is an opportunity for you to stop and take stock of your life. And perhaps re-assess your plans and move towards your heart’s longing.
What about honey, maple syrup and agave nectar?
Like cane sugar, they are simple sugars which get the blood sugar levels elevating fast and dropping just as fast.
The only difference is that honey and maple syrup aren’t as processed as cane sugar. Honey provides small amounts of nutrients and antioxidants. Maple syrup while lacking vitamins, contains small amounts of minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper and manganese.
Agave syrup on the other hand is highly processed. It’s high in fructose so it’s said not to affect the blood sugar levels. But it doesn’t have the high water, fiber, vitamin and mineral content that fruit does.
From an Ayurvedic point of view, it IS important where we get our nutrients. Whole foods have high prana. A word that is virtually impossible to translate. Prana in the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, what we see, hear, feel, taste and smell IS what creates the quality of our life.
For a high quality of life, we need to limit our consumption of simple sugars.
The current World Health Organization guidelines concerning added sugars recommend no more than 7 teaspoons of sugar a day. A single teaspoon is roughly 4 grams. You can see how easy it is to reach that amount.
But when you follow the strategies to resolve the real issues behind sweet cravings then the body no longer needs the cravings.
Here’s a link to a very interesting article about sweet cravings according to each dosha from banyanbotanicals.com
I mostly use fruit pastes when I create desserts. Either date, mango or pineapple. It’s pretty easy to make. Buy them dehydrated or dehydrate them yourself. Then soak them in water overnight. Drain and blend only adding water if necessary.
I also like to use maple syrup, but I never use more than 1/4 of a cup which is about 8 teaspoons. To get my vegan banana muffin recipe, click here.
In Ayurveda, the sweet taste is the hardest to digest, so it is recommended that you eat it first. So eat your dessert first!