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  • Writer's pictureRedwood Naturopathic Medicine

Sugar Cravings & The Meaning Behind Them

What are your Sugar Cravings Telling You?

Are you someone with a constant sweet tooth? Do you need dessert every night? Or maybe you are craving something sweet everyday around 4 pm? Sugar cravings are extremely common, especially in a world where sugar is put into everything. Sugar cravings can stem from a multitude of reasons, anything such as a nutritional deficiency to a bad habit to an overconsumption of certain foods. So next time that sweet tooth kicks in, take a moment and step back to evaluate where this craving might be coming from.

Where is Your Sugar Craving Coming From?

  • Sugar Substitutes

    • Artificial sugars are often used as substitutes for 'real' sugar because they are calorie-free. But artificial sweeteners can change our relationship with taste and sugar. Artificial sweeteners are anywhere from 180 to 20,000 times sweeter than sugar. Prolonged consumption of artificial sweeteners can increase your taste bud's tolerance for sugar. This can lead you to find mildly sweet foods such as fruit less appealing.

So what is the best sweetener? The best approach is moderation. If you need a sweet treat, try a piece of fruit. Fruit provides sweetness and fiber to slow the digestive process.

  • Diet

    • A diet high in sugar will lead to increased sugar cravings. When your blood sugar drops low too quickly, you will often experience sugar cravings as a way of your body trying to get quick fuel to regulate. When you consume a diet high in refined carbs, the blood sugar sharply spikes up and then crashes a few hours later.

      • How to Approach Diet:

        • High-quality Fats & Protein at Every Meal

  • Engrained habits

    • It is likely you continue to crave carbs because you have made it part of your daily routine when it comes to sugar cravings. Years of sugar over-consumption can make the body dependent on that habit. For example, one place large amounts of sugar hide are drinks such as soda, lemonade, flavored coffee drinks& fruit juice. Sugar-sweetened drinks might be something you consistently consume without even realizing it. Sugar cravings also often develop post-dinner if we have made it a habit to have dessert at the night's end. To break these habits, you might need to retrain your processing. The following tips can help wean off sugar.

      • Low sugar drink alternatives: sparkling water, fruit-infused water,

      • When eating sugar, opt for smaller portions of that food.

      • Choose the sweets that contain natural sugar, such as a piece of fruit or dark chocolate.

  • Emotional Connection

    • Sugar cravings can be caused by an excess of stress within your life. When you resort to food for consolation, you build cognitive habits that urge you to eat when you're stressed. As a result, you may crave sweets during challenging situations or stressful events. Stress stimulates the consumption of unhealthy foods and leads to many health problems.

      • What to do Instead?

        • Take a moment to reflect and recognize when you eat emotionally. From there, identify the triggers that lead up to the moment of the craving. Looking for the root cause of why you are stressed or triggered can help you overcome the craving.

        • Opt for a healthier alternative for the comfort food

        • Try a healthier coping mechanism such as exercise, journaling, deep breathing, reaching out to a friend, or listening to music.

        • Sleep more

  • Dehydration

    • When you are dehydrated, your hypothalamus kicks in to trigger thirst; when doing so, it can trigger other food cravings. As well as, lack of proper hydration can interfere with your body's ability to metabolize glycogen (the energy stored within the body). So our bodies respond with a sugar craving to get that quick energy source instead.

  • Lack of Sleep

    • Studies show that lack of sleep is associated with hormonal shifts, which lead to increased hunger cravings (particularly sweet and high-fat cravings). Ghrelin and cortisol increase, leading to more enormous appetites. Leptin, which suppresses appetite, decreases. So when there is a lack of sleep, there is less regulation when it comes to feeling hungry or full.

  • Hunger/Fullness

    • Awareness of your hunger and allowing yourself to eat when you are hungry will prevent extreme hunger levels. When you do get to extreme hunger levels, the body often reacts with sugar cravings for a quick hit of glucose, aka energy.

  • Candida Overgrowth

    • Candida is a yeast found throughout the body and aids in digestion. Everyone has small amounts in the GI tract, but the issue is when it becomes overgrown. Candida thrives off diets high in sugar, so the more you eat, the more likely candida will grow. The overgrowth produces unpleasant side effects such as bloating, gas, skin issues, anxiety, depression, and intense sugar cravings.

Daily Practices to Keep Sugar Cravings at Bay

  • Drink plenty of water, at least 1/2 your body weight in ounces

  • Do Not Skip Breakfast (except if intermittent fasting)

  • Sleep at least 8 hours each night (or the amount you feel at your best)

  • Avoid Artificial Sweeteners

  • Make Sure You Eat Enough! (and avoid over-eating)

  • Keep It Simple: Bring your meals back to the basics, fruit, veg, whole grains, healthy fats & high-quality protein.

Snacks for When the Sugar Craving Kicks

  • First, drink a glass of water. Then aim for a slightly sweet snack that also contains protein/fat. These will help keep you full and feeling satisfied when craving sugar.

    • Fruit and Nut Butter

    • Dark Chocolate

    • Yogurt (be aware of the added sugar in flavored yogurts)

    • Trail Mix

    • Smoothie

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