If you are out there struggling with a sweet tooth or sugar is becoming addictive and impossible to resist, you are not alone, many people have an uncontrollable urge to eat sweets and they are seeking how to curb cravings for sugar. Research shows that 97% of women and 68% of men admit to food craving, including cravings for sugar.
How to curb cravings for sugar: try chewing gum, avoid hunger, reduce stress, drink enough water, exercise, substitute carbs with fats, get plenty of sleep, reach out for fruits, check product labeling, eat more proteins, and plan your meals.
Craving vs hunger
Craving should never be mistaken for hunger. It is instigated by the brain’s need for a reward; that is to say forces you to eat even when the body needs no more. On the other hand, hunger is driven by the body’s need to refuel.
Craving is therefore different from hunger in the sense that it is directed to a specific food, taste, and texture.
Craving vs addiction
Some people have it that sugary and fatty foods might be addictive, making people overeat and hence obesity. But should we regard food in the same way as alcohol or cigarettes? Or we are confusing “addiction” and “craving”?
Despite the similarities between eating and drug use, craving should not be viewed as an addictive act. An addiction is a condition that manifests due to compulsive substance use regardless of harmful consequences.
Sugary foods and those high in carbohydrates stimulate the feel-good chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and other endorphins in the brain. This effect may make a person more likely to go for sweet foods repeatedly.
Why do we crave sugar?
Before we learn how to curb cravings for sugar, the starting point should be learning why the cravings exist in the first place. This will give us a foundation for intervention modality. Some of the causes of sugar craving include;
Desire to improve mood
Research shows that craving sugary foods and carbohydrates are due to the desire to improve mood. This is because sweet foods increase the level of serotonin; which is the feel-good hormone for the body.
When some people are stressed either at home, job, or in a relationship, they resort to eating sweet food. This is because sugars are associated with feel-good hormones.
The macronutrients such as proteins, carbs, and fats have to balance up in your body. For example, if someone had a breakfast that’s high in sugar and low in fats and protein, he or she is likely to feel hungry shortly after eating the body will crave sugar as a quick fix for energy.
Lack of sleep
Sleep deprivation is often characterized by increased cravings for sweet, salty, and starchy foods. Also, individuals tend to make the wrong food choices when they are exhausted.
Under consumption of calories
Normally if you are fasting or happen to consume fewer calories than what your body requires, sugar cravings tend to increase. This is because the body needs a quick fix for energy.
High sugar intake
Research shows that there is a positive correlation between the type of food consumed and the preference for that particular food. Therefore, the more sugar you eat daily, the more sugar the body will crave.
Frequent use of artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners can alter one’s sensitivity to sweetness. These sweeteners are about 200 to 20000 times sweeter than natural sugar. This can result in craving increasing amounts of sugar.
What is the recommended daily sugar intake?
According to the American Heart Association, men should not consume more than 9tsps of added sugar per day. That is 36 grams or 150 calories from sugar. On the other hand, women should not consume more than 6tsps of sugar per day. That is 25 grams or 100 calories.
That said, eliminating or consuming the right amount of sugar may be difficult to achieve because almost every food including fruits contains sugar. Bearing in mind that restricting certain foods can also lead to binge-eating of the very sweet food we may be avoiding.
How to carb cravings for sugar
Sweet treats can be part of a balanced diet when enjoyed in moderation. The truth is almost everyone gets sugar cravings, so the question becomes how to manage them.
Stress plays a big role in hunger cravings and when people are stressed, they crave sugary or more calorie-dense foods. Therefore engaging in stress-relieving activities can help cut off sugar cravings. Breathing exercises and meditation can all help relieve stress.
People who are dieting normally cut back on calories which leads to increased hunger. If you, therefore, structure the diet and layout specific periods for meals, it can train the brain and the body to be hungry at specific times.
You can also have a healthy snack at hand in case you can’t settle down for meals. This prevents snacking on refined fast foods that are normally high in sugar.
Try chewing gum
Having a piece of sugar-free chewing gum may be one way of avoiding sugar cravings. A 2015 study discovered that chewing gum may reduce appetite and cravings.
Plan times when you treat yourself to sugary foods
Ignoring craving completely may lead to overeating of the very food you are trying to avoid. Therefore, have a cheat day when you indulge.
Eat more proteins
Proteins help you feel fuller longer. This helps to keep hunger pangs and craving at minimal. For example, starting your day with a heavy breakfast can keep you the entire day without craving food.
Drink enough water
When sugar craving sets in, reach out for a large glass of water. If the craving stops, the body might have been thirsty. Since some times the body miss interprets thirst for hunger. Drinking water just before meals also makes you half-full thereby reducing the amount of food intake.
Visit our article “drinking water for weight loss” and learn how water can successfully help you keep in shape.
The idea here is to try to divert the mind to focus on something else other than hunger pangs. A 2015 research on the effect of quick exercise sessions on craving for chocolate in overweight people discovered that brisk; 15-minute walks were more effective at reducing cravings than sitting passively.
Get plenty of sleep
Quality sleep controls appetite and you are in a position to make better health choices. However, with sleep deprivation resistance to sugary foods or refined carbs is quite challenging.
Check the labeling of products
Always look at the labeling of the products before picking on certain food products. Make it a habit to read the ingredients on product labels before purchasing an item to avoid artificial sweeteners and hidden sugars.
Swap refined carbs for fat
When we replace the carbs with fat, the body will get the extra energy by burning fat other than burning carbohydrates. This reduces our carbohydrate consumption.
Reach out for fruits
Fruits contain low levels of natural sugars. Always have fruits at hand just in case you crave sugars. You’ll get fiber and nutrients along with some sweetness.
Having looked at how to curb cravings for sugar, let us look at the foods to eat to satisfy a sweet tooth healthily in the next section.
How can I healthily satisfy my sweet tooth?
Sugar craving relates to a strong urge to eat something sweet and that it’s difficult to control around food. This leads to overconsumption of sweet foods regularly. Here are some of the ways you can crave sweets in a healthy way.
Replace sugary foods with fruits
Most people reach out for high-fat, high-sugar foods like chocolate when they feel sugar cravings. However, replacing junk food with some fruit could give you the sweet hit you need and stop your craving. This allows you to satisfy your sweet tooth healthy. Examples of fruits include;
Include a source of proteins
Like we discussed above, protein is more filling and can hold on to for some great time before the next meal which significantly reduces cravings for sugars. Examples of protein foods include;
Include whole grains
Overall, whole grains are high in fiber and can keep you full for some good hours. Make sure you eat enough whole grains to keep you full and manage sugar cravings. Examples of whole grains include;
- Brown rice
Vegetables are high in fiber yet low in calories. Adding vegetables to your diet fills you up, preventing sugar cravings due to hunger. Vegetables include; Asparagus, broccoli, beetroot, and more.
Chocolate is what most people eat when they crave sweets. This is common with women. However dark chocolate is a healthier form of chocolate compared to other choices. It is less in sugar and high in plant compounds known as polyphenols. Therefore, choosing dark chocolate will help to reduce sugar intake.
Smoothies have a filling effect. They can satisfy your need for something sweet while providing lots of beneficial nutrients. Therefore smoothies from whole fruits will combat craving for sugars.
How long does it take to break the habit of cravings for sugar?
The body reacts to quitting sugar differently from one person to another. Withdrawal from sugar comes with symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and more. The severity of these symptoms depends on how much sugar you were consuming.
However, withdrawal symptoms can last from a few days to two weeks. The longer you go without sugar, the less intense your symptoms and cravings for sugar will be. Therefore, within a few days, one can able to train their taste buds to be satisfied with less.
What happens if you stop eating sugar for a month?
Sugar is food for us and it’s in almost all the foods we eat. But have you ever wondered what would happen to your body if you stopped eating sugar altogether? Or stop ordering an ice-cold cola with your burger and candy dish?
Eliminating sugar from your diet has a significant impact on your health. If you regularly treat yourself to desserts with a cup of tea after dinner or bars of chocolate, there might be a tough transition period at first.
Studies have it that; when you stop eating sugar, you experience the same effects as when people get off drugs. You may experience exhaustion, headaches, brain fog, irritability, and gastrointestinal distress. After a few days, your energy will start to improve, and you will feel more alive.
Do you crave sugar if you have low blood sugar?
In simple terms, when blood sugar levels drop, we lose our ability to control desire or the urge to eat. This means that with low blood sugar the body will crave sugar to get a quick fix of energy.
Dangers of sugar to the body
Too much sugar may lead to impaired glucose and insulin function which can lead to more serious issues like
- General weight gain
- Increase in cholesterol and
- It suppresses our immune system
- Triggers mood disorders
- Amplifies pain
- Amplifies inflammation
Curbing sugar craving may not happen overnight, as it involves a lot such as hormones and nutrient imbalances. Reach out to a registered dietician to come out with an organized plan to follow to succeed.
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