7 Foods to Eat When You're Craving Sugar

Eating foods with protein during meals and drinking more water can help stop sugar cravings.
Image Credit: Alexander Spatari/Moment/GettyImages

There seem to be new myths about what curbs sugar cravings each day, but only a few are backed by research. With a surplus of rumors surrounding what can remedy your sweet tooth, it's hard to know what foods are best to grab when you're craving sugar.

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We've examined the myths and truths to find out which foods can actually stop sugar cravings. After doing extensive research and talking to experts, we were able to compile a list of what foods can — or cannot — curb your cravings for sugar.

1. Fruit (Strong Evidence)

Fruit is a great source of fiber, which can help balance blood sugar levels, Isabel Smith, RD, says. After tracking 3,518 Australians over the course of 12 years, researchers found that eating a moderate amount of fruit was linked to a 36 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a June 2021 study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

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The type of sugar in fruits is called fructose, and fructose has shown to have little effect on blood sugar levels when taken in moderation, per June 2009 research in the Journal of Nutrition. And while it won't cause a huge spike in blood sugar levels because of the fiber, the natural sugars will still give you your sweet fix.

Experts at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggest that highly processed sugary foods trigger the brains' reward center and cause cravings, while the natural sugars in fruit don't have as much of an effect.

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"Consider berries like raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. Those can be an excellent source of nutrients, but can also take care of that sweet craving that you're having," Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDE, says.

2. Protein (Strong Evidence)

The key is to pair fruits with protein, Sheth says. Combining the two into one meal can help you keep your blood sugar balanced.

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Research shows that eating more protein can reduce food cravings. In fact, increasing protein in the diet by 25 percent showed to reduce cravings significantly in adults with obesity in a September 2015 study in Obesity.

When comparing the effects of a "normal" protein breakfast, which included 13 grams of protein, versus a high-protein breakfast, which included 35 grams of protein, researchers discovered that a meal that was high in protein lowered cravings for processed sugary foods in teenage girls with overweight or obesity, per a small August 2014 study of 16 participants in ​Nutrition Journal.

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3. Drinking Water (Good Evidence)

If you've gone a long time without drinking water, you may start craving something sweet, even if you're not hungry. Thirst and dehydration are often confused as hunger and may lead to sugar cravings, Sheth tells LIVESTRONG.com.

Drinking more water has been associated with fewer food cravings and feelings of hunger, per October 2018 research in Physiology and Behavior.

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A group of people with overweight drank an extra 1.5 liters of water per day in a July 2014 study in the ​Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine.​ By the end of the study, the participants weighed less, had less body fat and reported significant appetite reduction.

When this happens, Sheth encourages you to grab a bottle of water instead of a sugary snack.

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4. Chewing Gum (Some Evidence)

Chewing gum is linked to lowering cravings for sweet and salty snacks, according to the Mayo Clinic. As long as it is sugarless, a stick of gum is suggested as a quick way to curb cravings.

Chewing gum was found to suppress appetite, specifically the desire for sweets, and even helped people snack less, according to May 2007 research in Appetite.

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"If you need something in your mouth to give you a little taste, then sugarless gum is great," Sheth says. Smith agrees that gum can be helpful.

5. Vegetables (Some Evidence)

"Often when we're craving something, we're craving for some crunch," Sheth says. In those moments, she recommends eating celery sticks with peanut butter or almond butter or cucumbers, which are hydrating.

Additionally, leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, and kale contain thylakoids — which research shows may reduce cravings. Eating more thylakoids reduced the participants' snacking and want for sweet foods, per an August 2015 study in Appetite.

6. Seeds (Some Evidence)

"Seeds, in general, are fibrous and contain healthy fat and protein, so they fit the criteria," Smith says.

Sheth says fennel has an aromatic fragrance and can help with digestion, so chewing on fennel seeds could possibly help with cravings. But, the effect that fennel seeds have on sugar cravings has not been thoroughly researched.

Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber and omega-3 fats, Sheth says, and they swell when they're placed in liquids.

"When we eat something with chia, it bulks up in our stomach so we feel fuller," Sheth says. Some research backs this up. Adding chia seeds to yogurt caused people to eat fewer calories and feel more full between meals, according to an October 2017 study in Nutrition Research and Practice.

A fun dish Sheth recommends is chia pudding — chia seeds with almond milk, sprinkled with fruits and nuts on top.

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7. Cinnamon (Limited Evidence)

Cinnamon may be effective for insulin sensitivity and keeping blood sugar levels balanced, according to February 2008 research in Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. That being said, there aren't any studies that have focused specifically on how cinnamon affects cravings.

More research is needed in this area, but Sheth suggests that the natural sweetness of cinnamon may help keep your sweet tooth at bay. "Adding cinnamon powder to your toast, coffee or pudding adds a nice taste and aroma, and there's no sugar in it unless you add it," Sheth says.

More Tips to Help Stop Sugar Cravings

Smith also recommends eating at regular time intervals like every 3 to 4 hours and ensuring that you've had enough sleep. People who don't sleep enough may have more frequent cravings, especially for sugary foods, per February 2014 research in Nature Communications.

Sheth says that another reason people may experience sugar cravings can be because they're just bored or stressed and see comfort foods as a solution.

"We think we have cravings for these foods when in fact we are actually dealing with something else. And if you found a different way of dealing with it, you might not need that food itself," she adds.

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