Say "Shh" to your cravings for sugar

There are many reasons to crave sugar. Sometimes you’ve had a stressful day and need a pick-me-up, other days you have a big accomplishment to celebrate. Maybe you’re at a work gathering with great catering, or you have family in town and Grandma made her secret cookie recipe.

But the urge to reach for sweet treats and comfort foods isn’t all mental — our bodies are physically programmed to like sugar. Eating something sweet causes our bodies to produce happy hormones.

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    Stimulates serotonin, the brain’s feel-good chemical

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    Triggers the release of endorphins, which help us feel calm 

Despite this immediate rush of good feelings, it’s important to not overindulge on a regular basis. Excess sugar is harmful to your oral health and your overall health, and can contribute to plaque and tartar buildup, tooth decay, gum disease, and other problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Dietary needs vary from person to person, but general health guidelines set the recommended daily allowance for added-sugar intake at:1

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    36 grams for men

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    25 grams for women

Give your sugar cravings the cold shoulder

Limiting sugary snacks and desserts can be tricky, and delicious food is a great part of life — but there are ways to satisfy your sweet tooth and still enjoy a healthy diet. Try these strategies and see what helps you avoid the urge to overindulge.

Read food labels

Knowing the nutrition content of what you eat will help you stock your pantry with healthier choices, and knowing portion sizes can help you avoid accidental sugar splurges.

Start the day right

Eat a healthy, well-balanced breakfast (like this sweet potato hash recipe). Consuming too much added sugar early can trigger cravings later in the day.

Find healthy substitutions

Eat fruit instead of fruit candy, for instance, or make an all-natural fruit smoothie instead of ice cream.

Clean out your cupboards and freezer

You can’t snack on candy during work or pop the top off some ice cream after supper if you don’t keep any of those foods in stock.

Don’t get too hungry

Saying “no thanks” to sugar is a lot harder when your stomach is empty. Eat nutritious meals and small, healthy snacks to keep cravings at bay.

Find food-free ways to relieve stress

It’s natural to reach for comfort food when you have a hard day. Instead of food, try boosting your mood with friends, a walk, or a favorite movie or book.

Want a sugary treat?

Try savoring every bite of a smaller snack instead of consuming too much sugar in one sitting.

Eat sugary foods at mealtime when your saliva will help wash away the bacteria.

Don’t let one treat start a sugar splurge — just satisfy your sweet tooth and move on.

Some of these methods may feel right and some may not. But experimenting with these and other methods will reveal what works for you and help you have a healthy relationship with sugar. Better moods and better health? That’s pretty sweet.

In addition to long-term risks such as cavities, tooth decay, diabetes, and obesity, excess sugar can also cause short-term problems. Too many sweets can cause your glucose levels to spike and then plummet, which leads to mood swings, fatigue, and headaches. Learn to manage your daily sugar cravings for a healthier and happier smile!

1American Health Association

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