If you typically crave something sugary after meals, find it hard to pass up dessert, or rely on sugar-filled coffee drinks for an afternoon pick-me-up, you’re not alone. According to a study published in June 2017 in Appetite, 86 percent of people who had food cravings thought about high-calorie foods, especially those that contain chocolate. Luckily, eating healthy foods rich in nutrients such as protein and fiber can help fight those sugar cravings.
Foods that can help manage cravings for sugar include:
- Nuts, such as pistachios
- Seeds, like sesame and chia
- Pulses, like beans, lentils, and chickpeas
Though sugar is satisfying to the taste buds and the soul, frequent fluctuations in blood glucose can lead to a wide range of unpleasant health effects such as fatigue, irritability, and anxious thoughts, among others.
Blood glucose spikes can also promote even more sugar cravings. When you’re eating sugar, you end up getting onto this roller-coaster ride of blood glucose imbalance, and that in and of itself can perpetuate physical stress, which then makes you experience more sugar cravings.
Added sugar can be especially insidious for your health. A November 2016 study in the journal Nutrients has found that eating too much added sugar can increase your risk for obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, cognitive decline, and certain types of cancer.
What’s more, it can ruin your dental health faster than you think. High sugar consumption can provoke tooth decay and speed up its progression. This can lead to an infection of the nerves. Fortunately, dentists have found a way to prevent tooth loss through root canal therapy. However, sugar not only affects your teeth, and can also contribute to gum inflammation and even periodontal disease.
Reasons for Sugar Cravings
Let’s look at some of the medical reasons why you crave sugary foods.
1. Poor diet
Diet quality plays a huge role in triggering sugar cravings. For instance, eating higher amounts of simple carbs or unhealthy fats that are typically found in processed foods can increase hunger and sugar cravings.
Gut dysbiosis,an imbalance of the bacteria in the gut, or an overgrowth of yeast can contribute to sugar cravings as well. It often stems from improper diet. If you’re consuming highly processed carbs, poor-quality proteins, and a lot of saturated, processed, unhealthy fats, you will have some terrible effects on your health and promote sugar cravings.
Stress is another common reason for sugar cravings. Scientists have found that chronic stress has a huge direct effect on food cravings, and food cravings in turn have a big effect on body mass index (BMI) when indulged.
When your cortisol levels are constantly high, which always accompanies chronic stress, eating sugar can provide a hit of dopamine, a neurotransmitter often dubbed “the happy hormone”. But when consumed in excess, sugar can throw your blood glucose out of whack, promoting even more stress and creating a vicious cycle.
Thirst can often be felt like hunger or a food craving. To avoid overeating, sip on water during your cravings to see if you are in fact experiencing hunger or your body just needs some water.
4. Hormonal changes
Hormone fluctuations can also cause women to crave sugar. Changes in estrogen, progesterone, and estradiol (or oestradiol) levels can occur before and during menstruation.
Scientists have discovered that estradiol can be linked to an increase in food cravings. Women with higher estradiol during the luteal phase of their menstrual cycle, or the time after ovulation, tend to eat carbohydrate‐rich foods and experience an increase in sugar cravings. Therefore you’ll hear women report that they suddenly have this intake or this uptake of a craving for chocolate during their menstrual cycle.