Craving sugar once in a while is not anything to be concerned about. It becomes a problem when we start craving sugar constantly and we end up consuming a large amount of sugar every day, whether in the form of breakfast cereal, donuts, cookies, or soda.
Craving sugar is not only a problem for overweight people, but for everyone, young and old. This is because regardless of whether you are obese or not, too much sugar has a detrimental effect on your health. Diabetes, cavities, and yeast infections are just a few of the well-known health impacts of too much sugar.
If you notice that you are craving sugar all the time and consuming a large volume of sugar, it is time to take action!
Why Am I Craving Sugar? Causes of Sugar Cravings
So what causes sugar cravings?
One reason appears to be dopamine.
One of the things associated with dopamine is drug addiction. For example, when cocaine is used, it causes a huge boost in dopamine, which causes feelings of enjoyment and bliss, and causes the user to seek out that drug again repeatedly (1).
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Studies have shown that the brain chemical dopamine is released when sugar is consumed as well. And when there was sugar binging with an empty stomach, there was a “surge” of dopamine released (2).
Therefore sugar is certainly something some people can get addicted to, especially if their body is already deficient in dopamine, or if they are trying to offset a negative emotion with dopamine.
While other things and activities such as alcohol, sex, and gambling can also release dopamine (3), sugar may be the preferred option for most people due to its invisible effects (at least initially) and availability.
In a study (4) involving 57 women, 77% of the stressed-out females reported craving sugar compared to only 31% of the relaxed females. While this study looked into the connection between stress, sleep, and sugar, this could also be a reflection of women seeking dopamine-inducing activity to offset the negative emotion of stress they were feeling.
In conclusion, the reason why you are craving sugar may be to offset a negative emotion you are experiencing, such as stress, fear, or boredom.
Lack of Sleep
It may not be that you are craving sugar so much as you are needing an energy boost!
If you are constantly sleep deprived, your energy level will be low and your body may simply be looking for a quick energy boost to get through the day.
Another negative side effect of sleep deprivation is that it reduces leptin in your body, which is a hormone that tells your brain that you are full.
If you find yourself tired and craving sugar, try drinking black coffee instead.
Deficiencies That Result in Sugar Cravings
You may also have nutritional deficiencies that are causing you to crave sugar constantly. From a nutritional point of view, craving sugar may mean your body needs more protein, fiber, and good fats.
Protein has shown to reduce hunger (5) and naturally increase dopamine in your body (6). Lack of protein may be causing you hunger and stress, leading to intense sugar cravings.
Fiber and good fats enable your body to digest and absorb any sugar and starches slower in your body, which prevent negative insulin reaction such as sugar crashes. Lack of fiber and good fats in your diet may be causing a negative insulin reaction and causing your sugar cravings (7).
What To Eat When Craving Sugar: Foods That Stop Sugar Cravings
A likely permanent solution to stop your sugar cravings is to address your negative emotions such as stress, get enough sleep, and incorporate more protein, fiber and good fats into your diet.
In the meantime, what should you do once your sugar craving hits? Below are foods that may stop your sugar cravings, or at least reduce the amount of sugar you end up consuming.
Below are dopamine-producing non-sugary foods (8) that you can try:
(1) Science News for Students; Explainer: What is dopamine?: https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/explainer-what-dopamine
(2) Dr. Weil; Can You Be Addicted to Sugar?: https://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/nutrition/can-you-be-addicted-to-sugar/
(3), (6), (8) Be Brain Fit; How to Increase Dopamine Naturally: https://bebrainfit.com/increase-dopamine/
(4) Women’s Health; A Surprising Reason You May Be Craving Sugar: https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/stress-and-craving-sugar
(5) Healthline; 14 Simple Ways to Stop Eating Lots of Sugar: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/14-ways-to-eat-less-sugar
(7) Dr. Mercola; Lower Your Grains & Lower Your Insulin Levels! A Novel Way To Treat Hypoglycemia.: https://www.mercola.com/article/carbohydrates/lower_your_grains.aspx