Have all that leftover Halloween candy sitting around your house tempting your sweet tooth? Maybe your sugar cravings are increasing as the weather gets colder? It is very common to begin to crave sugar this time of year. The holidays bring more fat, sugar, and carbs into the diet, which is necessary to combat the seasonal symptoms, but we tend to see that not all of the options are necessarily the healthiest versions of those crucial nutrients we need in our diet.
In the warm months of Pitta season, our bodies burn the stored calories from our fat cells that accumulated from the winter season. This provides us energy through the summer along with the seasonal high carb foods. But as we come out of those warm months, we start to dry out as we have burned through our stores of fat, and become colder with the dropping temperatures. To combat this, we should reach for high-protein, high-fat content foods, which is exactly what nature has to offer for us during these months. Foods such as bananas, avocados, beets, winter squash, nuts, meat, fish and other healthy oils bring moisture and ground the body.
Sweet, Salty, Sour
As we talked about last week, the three tastes that pacify these seasonal symptoms are sweet, sour, and salty. Sweet taste should not be confused with sugar intake however. We will talk about this in a few minutes. Salt brings heat to the body, sweet, such as sweet potatoes, deeply nourishes the body’s tissues, and sour stimulates digestion, which tends to be light and slow during the vata and kapha months. Sour foods like citrus are ripe and fresh in winter for this reason. This also provides increased immunity during the cold and flu months.
Vata season is drying and cooling to the body. Because of this, our mucus membranes dry up and quickly overcompensate, producing excess mucus. This excess mucus can breed bacteria, which is why the cold and flu is common. Staying healthy and maintaining a balanced diet is critical in boosting immunity and reducing your intake of processed sugars is an essential step.
Sweet vs. Sugary
Eating sweet tasting foods is not the same as increasing your sugar intake! Sweet foods in Ayurveda are dates, bananas, cooked carrots, sweet potatoes, rice, cashews, honey, basil, vanilla, almonds, and several more. These are naturally sweet and can be identified by the body during digestion allowing for deep nourishment for the tissues. When you eat processed sugars or simple carbs (which is broken down into sugar ultimately), your body identifies these as toxins and generates an immune response. This distracts your body from other priority functions, one main function being digestion. Lack of proper digestion and weakened agni (digestive fire), can send undigested food into the body, increasing ama (toxins) leading to major health problems such as leaky gut.
How to Combat the Cravings
So how do you deal with sugar cravings this time of year and how do you know if the craving is a good one or a bad one? Here are a few ways to create balance:
- Eat High Quality Fats – Your body may be craving the calories from lack of sugar. High quality fats such as avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds provide high amounts of calories, can satisfy sweet craving, and keep you nourished.
- Eat High Quality Protein – Organic, wild animal protein for the meat eaters is the best way to prevent sugar cravings when we are eating way less carbs after summer. Protein will keep you full longer and help your blood sugar level stay balanced. Non-meat eaters should reach for quinoa, beans, nuts and seeds to supplement more protein into the daily meals. Processed meats will contain refined sugar and should be avoided.
- Stick to Seasonal Whole Foods – Wherever you are, the local harvest in your area is sure to provide you exactly what you need to supplement yourself this season. Whole foods are identifiable to the body, making them digestible and will help boost immunity. Any processed foods are sure to have replacement chemicals that can be just as harmful as what they are trying to replace!
- If you have a Craving, Satisfy it! – Sometimes, it is healthier to satisfy a craving, rather than fight it. Fighting it can cause us to overindulge and then start the wheels spinning on a train we don’t want to move! If you are craving chocolate, eat a square of chocolate. If you are craving pasta, eat some pasta. If you are craving ice cream, make a smoothie! Don’t restrict yourself in an unhealthy way. Moderation is always better!
If you find yourself with intense sugar cravings, ask yourself, have I been eating less carbs? Am I eating enough fat? Where is this craving coming from? Am I craving this because I have been overindulging? How has my diet changed the last month? Cravings are your body’s signal and should be listened to, never ignored!
3 Season Diet, John Douillard