According to the American Heart Association, the average American consumes approximately 16 teaspoons more added sugar than is recommended per day.

Sugar stimulates the brain to release serotonin, the “feel good” chemical, which provides a natural high. The endorphins released after eating sugar calm and relax us, leaving us wanting more. Eliminating a sugar addiction can be difficult, but following these steps can greatly reduce cravings and make it easier to kick the habit for good.

Nix the artificial sweeteners.  Artificial sweeteners have not been proven to curb sugar cravings. The taste, artificial or real, will have the same effect on the body creating the same cycle of wanting more and more.

Eat protein. Protein deficiency can contribute to sugar cravings as the body searches for a quick energy source. Adding protein to every meal ensures that the body always has fuel to access and maintains a steady blood sugar level, preventing any spikes and crashes.

Eliminate or reduce processed foods. The amount of sugar in processed food is usually underestimated. Something as seemingly innocent as whole-wheat crackers can have as much as 4 grams of sugar per serving. Always read the label to double check the sugar content, or steer clear of packaged foods altogether.

Eat a balanced diet. Eating too much of one flavor profile can create extreme cravings for the opposite flavor. A diet high in salty foods tends to create cravings for sweet foods. Listen to your body and take note of what you’re eating to find balance with a variety of flavors.

Sweeten up with vegetables. Sweet vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, podded peas, beets and sweet bell peppers can provide you with a quick burst of energy when you need a pick me up. By regularly incorporating these sweet flavors you can more easily keep intense sugar cravings away since you’ll be satisfying the need for sweet flavors.

Season with sweet spices. Spices such as coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and cardamom will naturally sweeten foods without the need for added sweeteners, working wonders to reduce cravings.

Check your mineral levels. Magnesium is used in the regulation of glucose, insulin, and the neurotransmitter dopamine; a deficiency can manifest in the form of intense sugar cravings, especially for chocolate. Zinc is needed for proper insulin and glucose utilization; a deficiency can also lead to sugar cravings.

Supplement with L-glutamine. This amino acid has been found to help reduce, and even eliminate, cravings by helping to steady blood sugar. Add 500 milligrams three times a day with meals and an extra dose when a craving hits. Taking as little as a quarter teaspoon at the onset of a sugar craving should stop it in its tracks.

Get moving, then rest. Being overtired will create a craving for a quick energy source, such as sugar, to counteract exhaustion. Instead, get plenty of sleep and move your body daily to reduce tension, boost energy and diminish your chances of needing a quick sugar rush.

When a craving hits and feels uncontrollable remember that it won’t last for more than 20 minutes. Distract yourself until it passes. The more you resist the easier quicker your cravings will disappear.