The body is an amazing source of intelligence. It is always there for you, pumping blood, never skipping a heartbeat, digesting whatever food you put in it and maintaining homeostasis. Is this reliable, intelligent bio-computer making a mistake by craving ice cream or a hamburger or chocolate? Are cravings due to lack of will-power or discipline? I’d like to suggest that cravings are not a problem. They are critical pieces of information that tell you what your body needs.
The important thing is to understand why you crave what you crave. Perhaps your diet is too restrictive or devoid of essential nutrients. Perhaps you are living a lifestyle that is too boring or stressful. Your body tries to correct the imbalance by sending you a message: a craving. A craving for something sweet could mean you need more protein, more exercise, more water or more love in your life. The key to stopping the sugar craving is to understand and deliver what your body really needs.
No book or theory can tell you what to eat. Only awareness of your body and its needs can tell you. Of all the relationships in our lives, the one with our body is the most essential. It takes communication, love and time to cultivate a relationship with your body. As you learn to decipher and respond to your body’s cravings, you will create a deep and lasting level of health and balance.
The next time you have a craving, treat it as a loving message from your body instead of a weakness.
Try these tips to respond to your body:
Have a glass of water and wait 10 minutes.
Eat a healthier version of what you crave. For example, if you crave sweets, try eating more fruit and sweet or root vegetables.
What is out of balance in your life? Is there something you need to express, or is something being repressed? What happened in your life just before you had this craving?
When you eat the food you are craving, enjoy it, taste it, savor it; notice its effect. Then you will become more aware and free to decide if you really want it next time.
Food Focus: Natural Sweeteners
Who among us doesn’t love sweets? The sweet flavor releases serotonin in our brains, the chemical responsible for our sense of well-being and contentment. But when it comes to sweeteners, not all are created equal. There are side effects and health risks from refined sweeteners like white table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, and from artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet, saccharin and Splenda. Since refined sweeteners have been stripped of vitamins, minerals and fiber, they can spike blood sugar, which can often lead to cravings and mood and energy fluctuations. Instead, using naturally and minimally processed sweeteners can reduce cravings for sugary things.
Here are a few natural sweeteners to substitute in drinks, food and baking. Since they are all approximately 1.5 times sweeter (stevia is 300 times sweeter) than refined sugar, so you can use less. You can find them in most supermarkets or natural food stores. When replacing sugar with liquid sweeteners in a recipe, reduce the amounts of other liquids.
This leafy herb has been used for centuries by native South Americans. The extract from stevia is 100 to 300 times sweeter than white sugar. It can be used in cooking, baking and beverages, does not affect blood sugar levels, and has zero calories. Stevia is available in a powder or liquid form, but be sure to get the green or brown liquids or powders, because the white and clear versions are highly refined.
Also referred to as xylitol, this natural sugar substitute can be made from tree fiber or corncobs, and occurs naturally in many fruits and mushrooms. Birch sugar is sweet, yet low on the glycemic index, and can be used by those with diabetes and hypoglycemia. It has 40% fewer calories than sugar, prevents tooth decay, and repairs tooth enamel.
Maple syrup is the concentrated extract of the sap of maple trees. It adds a rich, deep flavor to foods and drinks. Make sure to look for 100% pure maple syrup, not maple-flavored corn syrup. As with all sweeteners, organic varieties are best. This doesn’t have the nutrition that raw honey has but is still a little better option then refined table sugar and since you are using less since it is sweeter, it is a better choice.
Everyone seems to love honey, one of the oldest natural sweeteners on the market. Honey will have a different flavor depending on the plant source. Some are very dark and intensely flavored. Wherever possible, choose raw honey, as it is unrefined and contains small amounts of enzymes, minerals and vitamins.
Recipe of the Month
Pumpkin Pie Smoothie!
Fall’s right around the corner. Celebrate the changing of the seasons with this delicious and nutritious treat.
- 2 large bananas, very ripe, sliced and frozen (still works with fresh bananas)
- 1 can organic unsweetened coconut milk or 1 1/2 cup almond milk or milk of choice (I use Native Forest brand organic coconut milk BPA free can)
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (I use Farmer’s Market brand Organic Pumpkin BPA free can)
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I like to use 2 pinches of raw organic vanilla bean powder )
- 1 or 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice to your taste (I use 1 teaspoon of Frontier brand salt free blend)
- 1 1/2 cup ice (if banana wasn’t frozen or if you like a thinner consistency)
- Combine the bananas, milk of choice, pumpkin, maple syrup, and spices.
- Blend until smooth and creamy.
Add an extra cup of ice for a thinner consistency.