Struggling with sugar cravings? You aren’t alone. Since our ancestors required sources of quick energy, we are biologically programmed to crave sugar. However, we are no longer hunters and gatherers expending countless calories in search of food. With sugar so widely and easily available now, it is easy to overdo it. Too much sugar, even natural sugars, is proven to be harmful to overall health. If you are looking to figure out what deficiency causes sugar cravings and how to eat to fix this, read on.
What Vitamin Deficiency Causes Sugar Cravings?
More research is needed, but certain mineral deficiencies may contribute to sugar cravings. Getting enough iron, calcium, chromium, and zinc is important for overall health and may be helpful for reducing sugar cravings.
If you want to beat sugar cravings, it is also important to pay attention to your magnesium intake. Magnesium helps your body convert calories into energy.
Magnesium deficiency has been linked to insomnia and increased anxiety and stress. These mental effects can decrease sleep quality. A lack of sleep can lead to an increase in the desire for simple sugars and carbohydrates, creating a vicious cycle of sugar cravings.
What Else Could Be Increasing My Sugar Cravings?
It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of sugar cravings, but there are many potential possibilities.
Here are some culprits that may be causing your sugar cravings.
You may think you are hungry, but are you actually just thirsty?
Thirst can be mistaken for food cravings or hunger. To help ensure you stay adequately hydrated, drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water a day and consume water-rich foods such as cucumbers, melons, broths and soups, pineapple, and celery. You can also try drinking a glass of water half an hour before every meal.
Too Much Stress
Research shows that chronic stress can have a direct impact on sugar cravings. Too much stress raises the body’s level of cortisol. This can cause your body to crave dopamine, a neurotransmitter that provides a mood boost and triggers the brain’s reward center.
What is a way to increase dopamine? Sugar consumption! This means your body may seek out sugar when you are feeling stressed.
Stress has also been linked to an increase in ghrelin, a hormone that causes increased hunger and strong cravings.
Hormonal shifts, especially for women, have been linked to increased sugar cravings.
Hormonal imbalances can lead to low serotonin levels, causing the body to crave a release of ‘happy hormones’ such as dopamine.
Poor Overall Diet
Poor diet quality can contribute to increased sugar cravings. Consuming too many refined, simple carbohydrates and not enough complex carbs, healthy fat, and lean protein can contribute to a cycle of constant blood sugar highs and lows. This can lead to even more cravings for simple sugars and processed foods.
A diet high in fast food, high sugar foods, and processed foods can also have negative effects on your gut bacteria. This lack of diversity in the gut bacteria can drive sugar cravings.
Related Reading: The Best Alternatives to Fast Foods
How Long to Stop Sugar Cravings?
The big question is, “How long to stop sugar cravings”?
This depends on the individual, but a good rule of thumb is that it takes a couple of weeks to around a month to break a habit, such as stopping sugar cravings.
Benefits of Cutting Out Sugar
Reducing your sugar intake may improve your overall health in a variety of ways.
Following are six potential benefits of cutting out sugar.
Supports Weight Management and Weight Loss Efforts
Evidence shows that high-sugar diets promote obesity and weight gain. High sugar intake is also linked to increased belly fat, or visceral fat. This harmful fat surrounds organs and contributes to a variety of negative health effects.
Improve Oral Health
When you consume sugar, bacteria in your mouth feed on it and produce acids and a sticky film known as plaque. This plaque can eat away at tooth enamel, leaving you susceptible to decay, cavities, gum disease, and other oral health issues.
Along with paying attention to your sugar intake, brushing and flossing daily can help ensure you maintain a bright smile, healthy gums, and strong teeth.
Can Help Support a Healthy Heart
Added sugar can contribute to high triglycerides and to heart issues. Even if you maintain a healthy weight and an active lifestyle, reducing your sugar intake can help support a healthy heart.
Help Support Balanced Blood Sugar Levels
To process sugar, the pancreas releases insulin, a hormone that lets sugar get into your cells. If you eat a lot of sugar at once, the pancreas can struggle to keep up with the amount of insulin it needs to release.
Over time, this can contribute to insulin resistance, a condition where your cells do not respond as insulin as well and sugar can build up in your blood. Insulin resistance is linked to a variety of negative health effects.
Cutting back on your sugar intake, staying active, and eating a nutritious diet can help support insulin sensitivity.
May Reduce Acne and Support Healthy Skin
Cutting back on sugar may also help you fight acne and support healthier skin. Since sugar is inflammatory, too much sugar can aggravate acne and cause your body to increase its production of androgens. Androgen hormones, such as testosterone, can lead to increased oil production and acne.
Further research is needed, but some scientists believe reducing your intake of added sugar can also help fortify the skin against ageing.
Related Reading: 10 Anti-Aging Foods to Keep Your Skin Glowing
May Support a Better Overall Mood
More research is needed, but cutting back on sugar may help support a better overall mood. Studies have found a link between depressive symptoms and intake of sugary beverages.
Tips on How to Beat Sugar Cravings
It can feel overwhelming to cut back on sugar, but remember you can start with a few small steps and increase your efforts from there.
Here are tips on how to beat sugar cravings.
Check Labels Carefully
One of the best ways to cut back on sugar is simply to read ingredient labels on the foods you buy. You may be eating far more sugar than you realise. Added sugar hides in many unsuspecting foods, including foods that are perceived as healthy, such as marinara sauce.
By reading ingredient labels, you may be able to cut back on your sugar intake simply by switching to a different brand of pasta sauce that has no added sugars, or by choosing a bread made without added sugar
Limiting your sugar intake doesn’t need to mean restricting your entire diet. It is still important to consume enough calories and nutrients every day to support your overall health, keep your energy levels up, and nourish your body. Staying filled up on healthy foods can also help fight the impulse to reach for sugar snacks on impulse.
Related Reading: 25 Healthy Foods to Eat Every Day
Skip Artificial Sweeteners
A zero-calorie, sugar-free sweetener.
Sound too good to be true? It is.
Although artificial sweeteners may seem like the ideal way to cut out sugar while still eating your favourite treats, these sweeteners can have negative effects.
Even if they are calorie-free, artificial sweeteners can actually increase your sugar cravings by changing how your body perceives sweetness.
If you are going to eat sugar, opt for sugar from natural sources, such as fruits, sweet veggies (i.e. carrots), and honey or maple syrup. It is still possible to overdo it on natural sugars, but naturally sweet foods, such as fruits, also contain fibre, phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
The fibre in fruits helps the sugar get absorbed more slowly, while also helping you feel more satisfied. Natural sweeteners such as maple syrup and honey also contain trace minerals and micronutrients.
Don’t Be Scared of Fat
Healthy fats can help keep you full and satisfied, while also helping with nutrient absorption. It is important to prioritise healthy fats (monounsaturated) rather than saturated fats.
To increase your intake of healthy fat, consume foods such as:
- Fatty fish (anchovies, sardines, mackerel, salmon)
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Nuts and seeds
- Unsweetened, full fat cheese and yoghurt
Fill Up on Fibre
Some excellent high-fibre foods to add to your diet include:
- Beans and lentils
- Brussel sprouts
- Whole grains
- Dried Fruits
- Chia seeds
- Artichoke hearts
Eat Foods to Beat Sugar Cravings
The right foods can help balance your blood sugars, prevent cravings, and fuel your body.
Focus on filling your diet with nutrient-rich, whole foods such as
- Chia seeds
- Low glycemic, non starchy vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, spaghetti squash, zucchini)
- Extra virgin coconut or olive oil
- Plain, unsweetened, full fat Greek Yoghurt
- Fatty fish and lean protein
- Sweet potatoes
- Dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao or higher)
- Leafy greens
Indulge on Occasion
Treats and sweets can be part of a healthy diet.
The important thing to remember is that you do not have to completely cut out sugar. A sweet treat now and then is ok and can be part of a balanced diet. Being overly restrictive can backfire and cause your sugar cravings to increase.
Final Thoughts on Sugar Cravings
Cutting back on sugar may help you lose weight, improve your overall health, support a mood boost, and promote balanced energy levels.
Focus on filling your diet with high-quality whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, and make a point to participate in regular physical activity.
For questions on your health and weight loss journey or for personalised product recommendations, we welcome you to reach out to our team. We are here to support you every step of the way!