You’re not alone if you often find yourself craving sugary treats. Sugar isn’t the first thing that comes to most people’s minds when they think of addiction because of how harmless it may seem as, but it can be more addictive than opioids like cocaine. The first taste babies prefer is sweet and it stimulates the release of feel-good compounds like serotonin in the brain.
Consuming sugar also leads to the release of endorphins, similar to feeling after a good work out session which helps relax and calm you. It gives you a natural high of sorts. Sweets have a pleasant taste and consuming some makes you crave more.
Sugar is a form of carbohydrate, but other types of carbs, like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, are healthier. Consuming sugar isn’t an issue if you don’t overindulge, but that’s easier said than done in a world where sugar is added to most processed foods like sauces, bread, and juices. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar consumption to less than nine teaspoons daily for men and six teaspoons for women.
Sugar cravings are quite common, particularly among women. About 97 percent of women and 68 percent of men report craving foods, including sugar. These cravings often lead to people consuming too much sugar, which is linked to various health issues like diabetes and obesity.
Fortunately, there are ways to satisfy your sugar cravings while keeping your calorie consumption to a minimum.
Sugar cravings might feel random, but there’s typically something responsible for them. Some of the factors that make you crave sugar include:
- Dehydration: People often confuse feeling thirsty with being hungry. Research shows about 62 percent of people respond to sensations of thirst and hunger inappropriately. This might manifest as sugar cravings.
- Poor Diet: The quality of your diet affects how much you crave sugar. For instance, people who consume a higher ratio of carbs compared to healthy fats and proteins are more likely to feel hungry and experience sugar cravings. If you’re craving sugar within a couple of hours after your last meal, consider making some changes to how your meals are structured, and adding more protein and fat.
- Hormonal Changes: For many women, sugar cravings can be the result of hormones like estradiol, progesterone, and estrogen. A woman’s hormones increase during her menstrual cycle and pregnancy. This often leads to very specific food cravings. For example, a study conducted in 2013 showed that women with higher estradiol levels during their menstrual cycle or after ovulation showed an increase in sugar cravings. Many of these women craved chocolate specifically.
- Stress: Stress is another common cause of sugar cravings. Chronic stress, in particular, significantly impacts how much you crave foods like sugar. Stress increases cortisol levels in the body, but sugar increases dopamine production which makes you feel good. It can set off a vicious cycle as people look for sugary things to cope with stress.
- Poor Sleep Quality: Not getting enough sleep during the night increases your odds of craving sweet things during the day. Sugar is converted into energy in the body and people who feel fatigued often crave sugars for an energy boost. The sugar high doesn’t last long, so they end up snacking on sweet things all day to give them extra energy.
- Nutritional Deficiencies: Not getting enough minerals like manganese, calcium, iron, chromium, and zinc can lead to sugar cravings. For example, magnesium deficiencies have been shown to increase insomnia, stress, anxiety, and depression; things that also make you more likely to crave sweets. Magnesium is also used by the body to convert food into energy, so you feel lethargic when you’re deficient, making you more likely to crave sugar. You can ensure your body has all the nutrients it needs by adding lots of fruits and vegetables to your diet and taking dietary supplements as needed.
15 Foods That Help Fight Sugar Cravings
Ready to put your sugar cravings behind you? Here are fifteen foods that help:
Berries are a high-fiber fruit that helps to stop sugar cravings. They naturally taste sweet, which satisfies your sweet tooth, but they’re low in sugar. This makes them a great choice for days you just want something sweet to snack on.
Love snacking on sweets while watching movies? Substitute with berries and you’ll get to satisfy your cravings without consuming a lot of sugar. You’ll also get some vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber in your system. The antioxidant properties of berries help to reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease when consumed regularly.
2) Sugar-Free Gum And Mints
Chewing minty sugar-free gum is another effective way to manage your sugar cravings. Most of these products have a sweet taste but contain few calories. Sugar-free mints can be just as effective at reducing your sugar cravings.
Some studies also indicate that chewing gum helps to alleviate hunger and reduces your intake of carbohydrate-heavy foods during the day. As a bonus, chewing sugar-free gum increases saliva production, which is good for your teeth.
Grab a bowl of yogurt the next time you crave sugar. It’s rich in calcium, proteins, and live cultures that are great for gut health. Yogurt helps to reduce sugar cravings and control your appetite. One study on healthy women who consumed Greek yogurt as afternoon snacks showed they ate less later in the day and were less hungry compared to women who had a low protein or no snacks at all. Protein takes longer to digest than carbs, making you feel fuller for longer periods.
4) Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are sweet, filling, and nutritious, making them perfect for your sugar cravings. The sweet taste will satisfy your desire for something sweet, and you’ll also get lots of potassium, vitamin C, Vitamin A, and fiber.
Sugar cravings are sometimes caused by not eating enough during the day. Adding a source of carbohydrates like sweet potatoes can help to combat this by balancing your meals and providing the sweet taste you crave.
Add some paprika and cinnamon to your sweet potatoes and roast them over a grill for a tasty, healthy treat.
5) Sugar-Free Soda
Many people often satisfy their sugar cravings with an ice-cold glass of soda. It’s loaded with sugar (about 35 grams per cup), but it’s also associated with serious health issues like diabetes, strokes, and heart disease.
Cutting soda completely out of your diet can be quite challenging since it’s a habit most people pick up during childhood. Those who try to stop drinking soda cold turkey often develop intense sugar cravings.
Sugar-free soda is an excellent alternative since it still gives you the fizz and sweet taste of soda, using only artificial sweeteners. Don’t overdo it though, since artificial sweeteners also have health risks like disrupting gut bacteria.
Reach for a sweet fruit whenever your sugar cravings hit you. Most fruits are naturally sweet and contain lots of vitamins, nutrients, fiber, and minerals. The fiber in them slows down how fast your body absorbs the sugars in them and fills you up.
Fruits like grapes, oranges, and mangos can help to satisfy any sugar cravings. Don’t confuse eating fruit with drinking fruit juices. Many juices contain almost as much sugar as soda without the same levels of fiber.
7) Dark Chocolate
Chocolate is one of the top things people reach for when their sugar cravings hit. Women, in particular, often reach out for chocolate when craving sweet things. While milk chocolate is loaded with sugar, dark chocolate is the healthier alternative.
Dark chocolate is chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cocoa. These snacks contain compounds called polyphenols that help improve heart health. They also provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
You can find dark chocolate brands made with artificial sweeteners to keep your calorie consumption to a minimum. The best part? It’s virtually impossible to differentiate between dark chocolate made with sugar and dark chocolate made with artificial sweeteners.
Adding rich sources of protein, like fish, poultry, and meat, to your diet can help prevent sugar cravings. Making protein about 25 percent of each meal helps to reduce your food intake by up to 60 percent, and it can cut your desire for a late-night snack in half.
You can also get your proteins from plant-based sources like legumes. Protein regardless of its source makes you crave and eat foods less.
A smoothie might be all you need to satisfy your sugar cravings. The sweetness of all the fruits in the smoothie gives you the sweetness you’re looking for while delivering lots of vitamins and minerals. Add some yogurt to your smoothies to make them more satisfying.
Make sure you use the entire fruit and not just its juice when making smoothies since fruit juice is loaded with sugar. You also get all the benefits of fiber in fruit when you use them whole.
Prunes are dried plums and they’re similar to dates. They are rich in nutrients and fiber and taste very sweet. This makes them a healthier alternative than candy when your sugar craving hits. Prunes contain naturally occurring sorbitol, which is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol. This gives prunes their sweet taste, but it’s slowly absorbed by your body so it doesn’t give you a huge sugar spike.
Grab a handful of prunes the next time you’re craving sugar. They’ll get the job done.
High-protein foods like eggs help to keep your cravings and appetite in check. Research shows that having a protein-rich breakfast that contains foods such as eggs leads to less eating throughout the day. Proteins help to curb hunger, reducing your cravings for anything.
Start your day with some eggs to give you a head start against your sugar cravings. You can even add a little bit of something sweet to your eggs like jam to give you a sweet taste.
12) Whole Grains
Whole grains are rich in nutrients like phosphorus, iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese, and B vitamins. Consuming whole grains regularly is linked to a healthier, longer life. Their high fiber content makes you feel full, reducing sugar cravings and hunger.
Whole grains also promote the growth of healthy stomach bacteria like Bacteroidetes, Lactobacilli, and Bifidobacteria. It is believed that a combination of the effect whole grains have on gut bacteria and their high-fiber content helps to make you feel full.
13) Trail Mix
Trail mix can be as satisfying as candy when it comes to reducing sugar cravings. Trail mix is a combination of dried nuts and fruits. The dried fruits give you all the sugar you need, while the nuts contain proteins that help reduce your cravings.
Nuts also contain fiber, fats, and plant compounds that provide a wide range of benefits like reducing your risk for diabetes and heart disease. Trail mix allows you to satisfy your sweet tooth while still eating healthy. However, consume trail mix in moderation since it can be high in calories. About a handful of trail mix is more than enough to quench your cravings.
14) Fermented foods
Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and yogurt are excellent sources of healthy gut bacteria. These microorganisms help to maintain the balance in your gut and reduce the population of disease-causing bacteria.
Gut bacteria are linked to many processes in the body and they even communicate with your brain via the hormones and compounds they produce.
Gut bacteria influence your food intake by making hormones that tell your brain you’re full. Adding fermented foods to your diet can help to reduce sugar cravings.
A bowl of vegetables might be the last thing on your mind if you’re craving sugar, but making them a regular part of your diet can help. Vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber. They also contain lots of beneficial plant compounds and nutrients.
Eating more vegetables is one of the best things you can do for your general health and it lowers your risk of developing chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Vegetables being low-calorie makes them an excellent way to bulk up your meals so you feel full long after your last meal. The fuller you feel, the less likely you are to crave sugar.
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