FFC Gold Coast Registered Dietitian Chelsea Rice shares information on sugar cravings, their causes and what they might mean (oh yeah – and how to combat them). Read on!

Do you crave sugar after every meal? First thing in the morning? Mid-day to help you through your afternoon work slump? Well, you are not alone. Sugar cravings are highly common and, in this sugar filled world, it is very easy to reach for quick, easy, sugary snack such as a granola bars, chocolate, cookies, etc. Consuming foods with added sugar on a daily basis can make you feel out of control and defeated. You get a strong urge for something sweet and feel as though nothing can help overcome it other than giving in.

Many people ask, “what can I do to stop sugar cravings?”. Before answering that, have you ever thought about the “why” behind a sugar craving? Let’s dig a little deeper into a few possibilities for what may be driving those cravings so you can begin to feel more in control of them when they occur and improve your nutrition.

Possible Sugar Cravings Causes

Lack of sleep.

Lack of adequate sleep can make your body feel depleted, which leads us to feel like we need something to help increase our energy. Most people use sugar as a way to feel that “boost”. However, that boost of energy from a sugary food or beverage is very short lived by sending your blood sugar levels soaring, then quickly crashing, which can lead to more fatigue.

Instead of making a trip to the vending machine or snack area of the office, take a 15-minute walk and sip on an unsweetened green tea. This will help you feel energized without crashing again a few hours later!

Imbalanced gut bacteria.

A diet high in processed foods and added sugars can decrease the amount of “good” bacteria and increase the “bad” bacteria in your gut. This imbalance can actually increase sugar cravings, which can then damage your gut further. It is a vicious cycle! The sugar-loving “bad” bacteria actually may increase your sugar cravings by changing your taste receptors, releasing hormones that make you feel good, and affect appetite by making you feel hungry when you aren’t.

Introducing probiotic (live bacteria and yeasts) and prebiotic (types of dietary fiber that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut) foods into your diet can promote healthier bacteria and level out the imbalance. Sipping on a smoothie made with Kefir (probiotic) and unripe green banana (prebiotic) is an example of a good breakfast/snack to help heal your gut. 

Related: need some yummy low-sugar ideas for breakfast or snacks? Check out this post!

Magnesium deficiency.

A sugar craving in the form of chocolate could signal lack of magnesium in the diet or a magnesium deficiency. If you feel stressed, tired, or irritable, chocolate may seem like the best answer. However, it could actually be your body asking for more magnesium instead. In chocolate, cacao is the rich source of magnesium, but the sugar in the chocolate could turn into a potential problem with causing insulin spikes and future cravings. Instead of always relying on chocolate, try to reach for other lower-sugar alternatives that are high in magnesium including nuts, seeds, beans, and dark leafy greens.

You didn’t eat enough.

When you don’t eat enough calories or balanced macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat), your body starts looking for fast fuel as a way to catch up. For most people, this quick fix that your body is looking for is acknowledged as a sugar craving. When your body is lacking intake of fiber, healthy fats, or lean proteins, you won’t feel full. Try to have a fiber, fat, and protein rich snack instead, such as an apple with peanut butter, to help you feel satisfied and craving free.

Related: how to have a better relationship with food & make healthier habits.

You created a bad habit.

Some people bite their fingernails. Some people chew food with their mouth open. And others, well, their bad habit is eating a chocolate bar daily at 3 PM. When something becomes a daily habit, you have to ask yourself: Do you even realize you are doing it? Are you truly craving what you are eating or eating it because it is a part of your routine? Do you really want to be doing it?

Breaking a habit is hard work. But with the right mindset and support it’s easier to change the habit in the long run. I recommend starting with one small change at a time. Instead of cutting cold turkey, maybe work towards decreasing the portion size first, then spreading out the habit. For example, if you eat a chocolate bar daily, work towards eating only ½ a chocolate bar daily. Once you have accomplished that work towards eating ½ a chocolate bar every other day. Slowly wean off the habit until you’ve created a new healthy habit.

When it comes to sugar cravings causes, there are a ton of different reasons. While this information is meant to help steer you in the right direction, it’s always a good idea to consult your healthcare provider if you have any additional questions.

Post written by FFC Gold Coast Registered Dietitian Chelsea Rice.

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