Sugar is almost everywhere — added to countless products advertised on every form of media, and included in nearly every holiday and casual meal.
According to a
It might be a good time to take a closer look at why we crave sweets and what we can do about it.
People crave sugar for many reasons — some of them physiological and some of them psychological. So, if you’re asking yourself why, here are some possible causes to consider.
What you eat — along with when, why, and how much you eat — can turn into behavior patterns.
In a different
In short, you may crave sugar because your mind and body have been trained to crave it.
An intense craving can feel a lot like a compulsion or a habit-forming experience.
Sugar and habit-forming behaviors
Are sugary foods habit-forming in the same way as drugs? The science isn’t completely clear on that point.
Nevertheless, sugary processed foods may trigger the release of the “feel-good” neurochemical dopamine in your brain’s reward center. More dopamine could mean more cravings.
It’s possible that artificial sweeteners, which are much sweeter-tasting than sugar, may change people’s taste preferences over time.
Some researchers think that when people get used to the hyper-sweetened taste of artificial sweeteners, their desire for sweeter foods could get stronger.
After 2 weeks, 86.6 percent of them reported that they no longer had sugar cravings. This led researchers to say that doctors should recommend that their patients participate in a no-sweetener health challenge for 2 weeks.
Your body responds to stress by secreting hormones that are also related to food cravings. In a
A 2016 research review showed that the hormone ghrelin, which controls appetite, was released when people were stressed out.
And if you’re exposed to stress over a long period, a
The relationship between what you eat and how you sleep is complex. A
This may be because they’d like to boost their energy levels.
In the United States, there’s a really common belief that chocolate cravings and periods are linked.
According to a
The difference leads some researchers to think that this particular sugar craving may be based in culture, not biology.
Are sugar cravings genetic?
According to the
Researchers found that the Prkar2a gene, which is expressed in the part of the mouse brain that controls anxiety, may also play a role in the desire for sweet, fatty foods.
Mice without the Prkar2a gene consume less sugar and run around more than mice with the sugar-craving gene.
More research is needed to understand whether there is a genetic connection to cravings in humans.
The short answer is yes. Research shows that even when cravings are intense, resisting them can eventually lead to fewer cravings overall.
An older 2005 study found that restricting your eating too much actually led to more cravings, not less.
Cravings on their own are not necessarily harmful to your health, it’s how you respond to cravings that could become problematic. Here are some options for managing cravings when they come upon you:
Eating the odd square of chocolate or piece of cake on your birthday is probably not going to damage your health. And it can be good for your mental health to savor something luscious now and then.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, health experts say that the occasional sweet indulgence is fine — just not every day.
Glance at the label
Sometimes a reality check can curb your craving. If you’re craving something that has a packaging label, look closely at the nutritional content, so you can make an informed choice about what to eat.
Take a quick walk
Opt for a nap instead
If you’re one of the millions of folks who are chronically sleep deprived in this age of overstimulation, a power nap may do more to revive your energy levels than something sugary.
Swap it out
If you want a hint of sweetness without the glycemic overload, you could choose healthier alternatives like:
- fresh fruit
- trail mix
- dark chocolate
And if you’re feeling hungry, a meal that features protein may be what you need instead.
If sugar cravings are driving your daily stress levels up too high, or if you are concerned you may be eating too much sugar, it might be a good opportunity to talk with a:
- healthcare provider
They can give you some personalized guidance on managing your cravings.
Sugar cravings on their own are probably not an indication of a health concern. In fact, they’re one of the most common cravings people experience.
You could be craving sweets because you’re:
- used to eating them
- associating them with certain life events
- having a period
To decrease cravings, you could try:
- educating yourself about the health risks involved
- eating more protein
- getting more rest
- satisfying the craving with a healthier sweet-tasting alternative
And if resisting the urge to eat sweets is taking up too much of your time and energy, don’t hesitate to contact a health expert for some help.