With the holiday season in full swing, it’s (way too) easy to OD on sugary cookies, cakes, and treats at every turn. Of course, indulging in a Christmas cookie (especially a healthier one) is good for the soul, but going overboard on treats may not be the best decision. The next time you find yourself tempted with holiday sweets, reach for one of these spices to stop sugar cravings in their tracks.
Stress, food sensitivities, loneliness, a yeast overgrowth in the gut, blood sugar imbalances, and even hormone fluctuations can leave you searching for the sweet stuff.
Why do we love sugar so much? When we consume sugar, our brains reward us with a release of the neurotransmitters serotonin (the feel-good hormone). And beta-endorphins, which act as natural painkillers, produces a sense of well-being, increasing self-esteem and settling anxiety. At least, temporarily.
This also happens when we consume other simple refined carbohydrates that are easily converted to glucose (sugar). This is why digging into that holiday cookie pile just feels so good.
Unfortunately, sugar overkill can lead to some serious health issues including obesity, heart disease, dental disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, type-2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, hormone irregularity, and depressed mood and anxiety. Not to mention, sugar is also rather addictive.
4 Herbs and Spices that Stop Sugar Cravings
1. Cinnamon: This warming and naturally sweet spice has been utilized for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. Loaded with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and polyphenols, cinnamon helps the body to fight oxidative damage and lower the risk of disease.
Cinnamon also naturally helps to stop sugar cravings. Numerous studies have shown that the potent polyphenols in cinnamon help to reduce sugar cravings by controlling blood glucose levels. This helps to minimize insulin spikes that result after an unbalanced meal which typically lead to more hunger and more sugar.
Uses for cinnamon: Cinnamon is great in tea or smoothies, sprinkled on apple slices, stirred into plain yogurt, and sprinkled over roasted vegetables like sweet potatoes.
2. Fenugreek: The seeds of this herb have a taste similar to maple syrup or burnt sugar, and are used for ailments ranging from anemia and stomach disorders to diabetes and heart health. With trace nutrients (iron, manganese, copper) and a variety of antioxidants, fenugreek is an herb that needs to be added to your arsenal.
Ayurvedic practitioners consider fenugreek to be effective in the management of metabolic and nutritive disorders such as diabetes, while Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners use it as a phlegm mover to break stuck energies and cool inflammation.
Fenugreek can be used to control blood sugar and sugar cravings effectively. In a study published in the Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders, "fenugreek delayed the onset of diabetes in subjects with prediabetes and even helped to reduce fasting plasma glucose, postprandial fasting glucose, and LDL cholesterol." It was also observed that the control ground had a "4.2 times higher chance of developing type-2 diabetes compared to subjects in the fenugreek group."
Uses for fenugreek: This herb is most commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern food. Add ground seeds to spice blends, tea blends, or curry powder. You can also add a pinch to plain yogurt or over sautéed greens like kale.
3. Cloves: This warming and sweet spice (found in lots of holiday recipes) boasts numerous health benefits, including stomach soothing and blood sugar regulating properties.
Along with antioxidants, anthocyanins, and quercetin, cloves contain an active component called eugenol, a compound with potent anti-inflammatory effects. Eugenol may help lower the risk of digestive tract cancers and reduce joint inflammation. These little spices also contain trace manganese, vitamins C and K, calcium, and magnesium.
Consuming cloves can help stop sugar cravings as well. In a study, 30 type-2 diabetics were given capsules containing zero, one, two or three grams of cloves each day for a month to observe their serum glucose levels.
It was found that serum glucose dropped from "225 to 150 milligrams per deciliter with a significant drop in triglyceride, total cholesterol and LDL levels. Researchers of the study suggested that consuming one to three grams of cloves per day is beneficial for type-2 diabetics to better manage their glucose and total cholesterol levels."
Uses for cloves: Tea (especially chai tea), sauces, stews, sprinkled over roast vegetables, and marinades.
4. Ginseng: Ginseng is one of the most widely used and well-known herbal medicines in the world. This adaptogenic root is thought to help boost the immune system, relieve stress, reduce the risk of certain cancers, and improve mental performance and wellbeing. This may be due to ginseng’s potent class of compounds called ginsenosides, which function as strong antioxidants that can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.
Ginseng is also an effective blood sugar stabilizer. In several human studies American ginseng lowered blood sugar levels in people with type-2 diabetes. The blood sugar lowering effect was seen both on fasting blood sugar and on postprandial (after eating) glucose levels.
Uses for ginseng: Teas.