The term "sugar craving" refers to intense desire for sweet foods, such as chocolate, ice cream or cookies. Numerous factors may contribute to sugar cravings, including nutrient deficiencies, certain foods and emotional factors. Although moderate intake of added sugars, such as cane sugar, brown sugar or corn syrup, is generally harmless, consuming excessive amounts can lead to weight gain, tooth decay and nutrient deficiency. For best results in constructing a diet that is right for you, seek guidance from a qualified professional.
Cut Back on Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose, are calorie-free food additives used to add sweetness to sugar-free candy and low-calorie foods and soft drinks. Artificial sweeteners may trigger cravings for additional sweets and lead to poor dietary choices. If you consume diet soft drinks, sugar-free gum or candy or add artificial sweeteners to beverages like coffee, try reducing the amount of sweetener you use. You may also try omitting artificial sweeteners entirely for a time to determine if your sugar cravings reduce as a result.
Healthy alternatives to sugar-free soft drinks include water, sparkling water, skim or low-fat milk and naturally sweet beverages like 100 percent fruit juice. Low-fat dairy products contain protein, which enhances blood sugar balance and appetite control. Replacing artificial sweeteners with small amounts of natural sweeteners like honey can add substantial amounts of sweetness to your food while not triggering sugar cravings.
Eat Complex Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and starchy vegetables, provide rich amounts of vitamins, minerals and fiber. According to Dr. Sanjeev K. Gupta and Sanjeev Gupta, authors of Kick Your Sugar Habit, sugar cravings may stem from trace mineral deficiencies and blood sugar imbalances. For this reason, increasing your consumption of complex carbohydrates may help you stay sated between meals, enhance blood sugar balance and reduce your cravings for sweets.
Examples of nutrient-rich complex carbohydrates include 100 percent whole-grain breads, pasta and cereals, brown rice, wild rice, air-popped popcorn, butternut squash, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkin. If you desire added sugars, Gupta and Gupta recommend a whole-grain cereal with added sugar as a valuable alternative to sugary foods such as cake or cookies that contain few vitamins, minerals or fiber. Replace simple carbohydrates, such as commercially prepared cookies, cakes, pastries and candy, with complex carbohydrates regularly for optimum benefits.
Avoid Hidden Sugars
Hidden sugars are sugars added to foods that we generally do not consider sweet. According to Gupta and Gupta, cutting back on hidden sugars may also help reduce or prevent sugar cravings. Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, glucose, mannitol, molasses, xylitol, sucrose, sorghum and fructose are examples of sweeteners that may be hidden among food ingredient lists. Eating a diet based on whole, natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, can help reduce your intake of hidden sugars since they are generally found in processed foods. Preparing homemade baked goods and snacks using natural ingredients like applesauce and whole grain flour can add nutritional benefits to you diet and potentially alleviate sugar cravings.
Sugar cravings can also stem from emotional causes. When you feel stressed from work, school or personal situations, you may feel drawn to comfort foods — foods eaten to satisfy emotions rather than physiological needs. According to a Psychology Today article from February 2010, psychologist Susan Albers suggests heightening your awareness during meals and eating with healthy intentions rather than grasping for convenient foods that often contain processed carbohydrates and added sugars. The more habitual mindful eating becomes, the less likely you will be to crave sugar or other less-than-healthy foods. If emotional factors trigger your sugar cravings, dealing with your emotions in other ways is also important.
- The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine: Gain Weight By "Going Diet?" Artificial Sweeteners and the Neurobiology of Sugar Cravings
- "Kick Your Sugar Habit"; Dr. Sanjeev K. Gupta, Sanjeev Gupta
- Psychology Today: Mindful Eating in Six Words