Dealing with sugar cravings is difficult in itself, and even more so if you are trying to manage your weight.
Your sensation of sugar craving can occur for several reasons including hormonal impulses - specifically, a fall in the serotonin and endocrines. Both of these hormones are involved in maintaining feelings of wellbeing and happiness. With low levels of these hormones, self-control becomes increasingly difficult and it’s easier to give in to cravings.
How do I prevent sugar cravings?
- Check your sleep. Make sure you are feeling well-rested after sleep. Aim for the recommended 7 consecutive hours of sleep, and/or increase the quality of your sleep.
- Exercise regularly. If you are unfit, your body has not been conditioned to transform fat into sugar effectively. So after exercise, you experience a drop in blood sugar that leads to sugar cravings. Make sure to get moving consistently.
- Reduce your consumption of coffee. Research from Cornell University indicates that drinking coffee decreases your perception of sweetness (1) - the dulled sense of sweetness drives your craving for something sweet, like a cookie or donut.
- Avoid eating refined foods (e.g. sugar, white bread) which tend to cause a spike and crash in blood sugar levels. Instead, choose low-GI alternatives.
- Avoid extremely restrictive diets that may lead you to a yo-yo diet. See a registered dietician or nutritionist to develop a personalised plan to address your needs.
- Ensure you are eating adequate fibre every day, as fibre prevents cravings from arising by delivering longer-lasting satiety. You can source fibre from vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. For instance, the recommended 25 grams of fibre can be obtained from 5 apples.
How do I manage my sugar cravings?
Some people are more vulnerable to falls in serotonin, and therefore more vulnerable to sugar cravings. If you frequently have crave something sweet, try the 4 foods below that to quickly satisfy your craving for something sweet, without compromising your diet:
- SULTANAS OR GOJI BERRIES. Besides being a natural source of sweetness, both are rich in vitamins and minerals.
- DARK CHOCOLATE. Have ~2 squares of dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao. It not only stimulates the production of serotonin and endorphins, but it is also rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are the molecules responsible for battling cellular aging and preventing cardiovascular diseases.
- CARROTS. These are an excellent snack with just a touch of sweetness, and are rich in vitamins A and E.
- DRIED APPLE CHIPS. These pack the sweetness of an apple, and are also easy to pack for work or school. Dried apple chips contain minerals including potassium, phosphorus, calcium and iron.
Don’t be afraid to eat a bit of something sweet to quell your cravings. Remember to review and adapt your overall diet, sleep patterns and habits to minimise your cravings.
What's your biggest struggle with your diet? 🧐
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(1) Choo, E., Picket, B., & Dando, R. (2017). Caffeine May Reduce Perceived Sweet Taste in Humans, Supporting Evidence That Adenosine Receptors Modulate Taste. Journal of food science, 82(9), 2177-2182.