Think you're addicted to sugar? According to Mark Hyman, MD, sugar consumption is more serious than you think. Check out these facts:

• Sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine.
• The average American eats 1 pound of sugar every day.
• There are 600,000 processed food items in our environment, and 80% of them contain added sugar.
• 90% of kids and 50% of the U.S. population drinks soda once a day.
• One can of soda a day increases a kid’s chance of obesity by 60%.
• You have to walk 4 1/2 miles to burn off one 20-ounce soda.
• 15% of our calories come from sweetened beverages.
• Obesity (not just being overweight) has risen from 9% to 36% since 1960. It’s projected to hit 50% by 2050.
• Nearly 70% of Americans and 1.5 billion people worldwide are overweight.

Pretty alarming, right? Sugar has been labeled by many as a toxin, and for good reason. It’s been linked to diseases that dominate our healthcare system, such as: cancer, obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and liver disease.

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The average American consumes 150 pounds of sugar a year! Eating refined sugar on a regular basis can cause inflammation, resulting in negative effects on your weight, skin, sleep, energy, stress levels, and mood. So not sweet!

The first thing you need to do is figure out why you’re craving sweets + carbs. Here are 8 reasons you may be experiencing cravings:

1. LACK OF PRIMARY FOOD. Being dissatisfied with a relationship or having an inappropriate exercise routine (too much, too little, or the wrong kind), being bored, stressed, uninspired by a job, or lacking a spiritual practice may all cause emotional eating. Eating can be used as a substitute for entertainment or to fill the void of primary food.

2. WATER. Lack of water can send the message that you are thirsty and on the verge of dehydration. Dehydration can manifest as a mild hunger, so the first thing to do when you get a craving is drink a full glass of water. Excess water can also cause cravings, so be sure that your water intake is well balanced.

3. YIN-YANG IMBALANCE. Certain foods have more yin qualities (expansive), while other foods have more yang qualities (contractive). Eating foods that are either extremely yin or extremely yang causes cravings in order to maintain balance. For example, eating a diet too rich in sugar (yin) may cause a craving for meat (yang). Eating too many raw foods (yin) may cause cravings for extremely cooked (dehydrated) foods or vise versa.

4. NOSTALGIA. Often times, cravings come from foods that we have recently eaten or foods from our childhood. A clever way to satisfy these cravings is to eat a healthier version of those foods.

5. SEASONAL. Often the body craves foods that balance the elements of the season. In the spring, people crave detoxifying foods like leafy greens or citrus foods. In the summer, people crave cooling foods like fruit, raw foods, and ice cream, and in the fall people crave grounding foods like squash, onions, and nuts. During winter, many crave hot and heat-producing foods like meat, oil, and fat. Cravings can also be associated with the holidays, for foods like turkey, eggnog, or sweets.

6. LACK OF NUTRIENTS. If the body has inadequate nutrients, it will produce odd cravings. For example, inadequate mineral levels produce salt cravings, and overall inadequate nutrition produces cravings for non-nutritional forms of energy, like caffeine and--you guessed it--sugar.

7. HORMONAL. When women experience menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and estrogen levels may cause unique cravings. Ever notice how badly you want chocolate or chips during your time of month?

8. NOT EATING ENOUGH. Busy schedules and a stressful lifestyle often cause us to skip meals. This results in low blood sugar and even strong mood swings. We then crave comfort foods to make us happy.

Now that you know the reasons behind your cravings, here are 10 tips to beat them!

Tip 1: Eat naturally sweet fruits and vegetables, like berries, apples, apricots, sweet potatoes, onions, beets and carrots.

Tip 2: Swap white sugar for natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar or date sugar.

Tip 3: Incorporate greens into your meals. Fiber in leafy greens keeps you full longer.

Tip 4: Increase healthy fats, such as olive oil, nuts, wild-caught salmon, avocados, grass-fed beef, and coconut oil to keep you satiated.

Tip 5: Drink filtered water throughout the day. Many folks mistake dehydration for sugar cravings. 

Tip 6: Incorporate self-care. Many people reach for sugar when they’re upset or stressed out. Treat yourself with non-food items and activities, such as a warm bath, self-massage with lavender oil, a walk in nature or watch a funny movie.

Tip 7: Reduce stress. Not only does it cause high blood pressure, it also causes hormonal imbalances, sleep issues and weight gain. Make stress reduction a top priority.

Tip 8: Sleep well. It improves your memory, immune system, cognitive skills, keeps your heart healthy, reduces stress and speeds up your metabolism. Speedy metabolism=bye-bye extra pounds. 

Tip 9: Stop dieting. When an item is “low-fat” or “fat-free”, the fat is usually replaced with sugar or sodium to add flavor. This causes you to get accustomed to sweet foods, resulting in cravings.

Tip 10: Find healthy sweets! A piece of fruit is my go-to when I want something sweet. But there’s nothing wrong with indulging now and then with some good quality dark chocolate, chia pudding, or even ice cream.

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