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How to Help Curb Sugar Cravings

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Sweets can be part of a balanced diet when enjoyed in moderation. But what happens when moderation turns into frequent sugar cravings? The truth is that most people crave sugar, so the question is how to manage them.

The good news is that researchers have studied sugar cravings and their findings may give you some relief. Find out why you have these cravings so you can learn how to curb them.

Verywell / Cindy Chung

Why do we crave sugar?

If you crave sugary foods, you’re not alone. Studies estimate that up to 90% of the adult population may experience cravings. These cravings are often for sugary foods.

Scientists have long believed that cravings for carbohydrates and other sugary foods are due to a desire to improve mood due to the fact that consuming sweets increases serotonin levels in your brain.

Serotonin, also known as the feel-good hormone, is a brain neurotransmitter that enhances your feelings of well-being.

While serotonin may be the cause of your cravings, there are many other potential causes that can also act as a factor:

  • Emotional stress: If you’re experiencing stress at home, at work, or in your relationships, you can find comfort in food. Because of the effect sugar has on your feel-good hormones, sweet foods are a natural choice when you’re feeling down.
  • Macronutrient imbalance: If you eat a diet low in protein, healthy fats, and fiber, you may experience blood sugar changes that affect your appetite. For example, if you eat a breakfast that is high in sugar and low in fiber and protein (such as donuts or cakes), you may feel hungry again soon after eating it — and your body craves sugar when it wants to eat. quick energy.
  • Sleepless: Scientific studies have established that sleep deprivation often leads to cravings for sweet, salty, and starchy foods. Researchers have also found that we tend to make poor food choices when we’re tired.
  • Low calorie consumption: If you’re fasting — or simply aren’t consuming enough calories to meet your body’s needs — your sugar cravings are likely to increase. This is because your body is craving that quick energy.
  • Eat a lot of sugar: The more sugar you eat on a regular basis, the more sugar your body will crave. Research has shown a strong correlation between commonly consumed foods and your preference for that type of food.
  • Regular use of artificial sweeteners: Zero-calorie sweeteners can alter your sensitivity to sweets, causing you to crave more sugar. Depending on the brand you use, your artificial sweetener can be anywhere from 200 to 20,000 times sweeter than natural sugar.
  • Lack of micronutrients: Some nutritionists have suggested that a magnesium deficiency can lead to increased sugar cravings. While there may be some truth to this relationship, the evidence is limited.
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Food cravings versus addictions

If these potential causes sound familiar, you may be worried that you are addicted to sugar. Although not all scientists agree, the researchers note that the evidence does not prove that sugar is an addictive substance.

Chemical addiction requires that you have a strong compulsion to use a substance, you experience uncontrolled use of the substance, and you experience physical withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the substance. Sugar addiction can be explained as a dependence on the pleasurable chemicals released when eating sugar.

It can also be explained as a behavioral addiction. These types of addictions are not based on the substance, but on compulsive behavior. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) only officially recognizes gambling as an addictive behavior. But other examples of similar compulsions can also occur with food, shopping, and video games.

While it’s possible that your sugar cravings are strong enough to fit the clinical description of an addiction, it’s important to keep your eating habits in check.

Understanding the difference between a sugar addiction and a sugar craving can help you break your sugar habit.

In general, addiction requires the support of trained professionals to reduce it. In fact, you may benefit from the assistance of a registered dietitian or dietitian in your efforts to cut back. However, you can also curb frequent sugar cravings on your own.

How much is too much?

Avoid all of unrealistic road. Some sugars — especially those from natural sources like fruit or milk — can be a healthy addition to your diet. Restricting certain foods can also lead to binge eating or overeating the foods you’re avoiding.

But most of us consume too much sugar, which can be harmful to our health.

As you evaluate your sugar consumption and compare it to these recommendations, keep in mind that sugar is added to many unwanted foods. For example, bread, peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, and ketchup often contain added sugar.

Monitor import volume

So how do you track your sugar? One of the best failure-proof methods is to check the ingredient labels of packaged foods. If you see an ingredient ending in “-ose,” it’s sugar. For example, maltose and sucrose are both sugars.

In addition, many of the healthy-sounding ingredients are in fact sugar, such as natural maple syrup, raw honey, organic cane sugar, molasses, and fruit juices. You will need to use detective skills in most cases to keep track of your sugar intake.

How to fight cravings

These tips can help you curb your cravings and reduce your sugar intake. The process will be challenging but will become easier along the way. Remember, your body needs time to adapt to new habits, even if those habits are healthy ones.

Use artificial sweeteners with caution

Replacing sugar with low- or no-calorie sweeteners can help cut calories, but the safety of regularly consuming these artificial sweeteners is often questioned.

It has also been suggested that weight gain is a possible side effect, even though calorie intake has been reduced. This is due to the fact that artificial sweeteners can encourage eating behaviors that increase cravings not only for sweets but for food in general.

Make sleep a priority

Getting enough sleep is an important key to success for good health. Not only will it help you suppress your sugar cravings, but it will also keep you energized throughout the day.

Set a regular bedtime and minimize distractions in your bedroom. Try moving the TV out of the bedroom and charging the phone in another room.

Complete nutrition

Use a food diary or see a dietitian to make sure you’re getting all of your essential micronutrients. Although a magnesium deficiency has not been shown to cause sugar cravings, it is still possible, so you may want to consider assessing your vitamin and mineral intake.

Amount of insects

The more sugar you consume, the more sugar you crave. Try to be more aware of the amount of sugar in the foods you buy. Stock up on healthier alternatives:

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  • Incorporate foods that are high in protein and fiber for breakfast, such as eggs, plain Greek yogurt, or unsweetened oatmeal.
  • If you’re craving sweets, try eating a piece of fresh fruit first.
  • Slowly reduce your consumption of sugary drinks, like soda, sports drinks, and sweetened coffee drinks — and make sure you’re drinking enough water.

You can also try keeping mint-flavored treats on hand (like mint tea or sugar-free gum), which can help curb cravings.

Eat more fruit

When you cut back on added sugars, your cravings will increase at first. Bring easy-to-eat fruit (like berries, bananas, cut melons or citrus fruits) to sweeten yourself with the added benefit of fiber and vitamins.

Consume Healthy Carbohydrates

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that we consume 45% to 65% of our daily calories from carbohydrates. For example, if you consumed 2,000 calories per day, you would eat 900–1,300 calories from carbohydrates or about 225–325 grams of carbohydrates per day to meet the guideline.

Try to get most of your carbohydrates from whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy. Sweeter vegetables and grains, like oatmeal, corn, or sweet potatoes, can help increase sweetness as an alternative to foods high in sugar.

Enlist support

If you are constantly surrounded by sugary foods, it will be difficult for you to control and reduce cravings. It’s important to speak up if you need change at work, at home, or at school. Do what’s best for you and ask for help along the way.

A very good word

Food cravings can be overwhelming and out of your control. But you are not alone in this. Conquering cravings will take time, so don’t hesitate to reach out to a registered dietitian for help and ask friends and family for support. An organized plan from a licensed professional can give you the confidence and tools you need to succeed.

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