What is the answer to overcoming one’s desire for sugar? Many individuals are having difficulty figuring this out. It is a fact that the desires for sugar are one of the most commonly experienced food cravings in the United States, and many people are continually looking for effective methods to kick their craving.
The typical American ingests roughly 152 pounds of sugar on an annual basis. That’s roughly 22 teaspoons every single day. Children consume an average of 34 teaspoons of sugar per day, causing approximately 25% of teens to be pre-diabetic or type 2 diabetic. The cause of the prevalence of obesity in America lies in the fact that 70 percent of adults and 40 percent of children are overweight.
Research has found that the majority of women, 98%, and nearly two-thirds, 68%, of men have experienced a craving for something sweet. The greater amount of sugar you consume, the stronger your urge for it will be due to the fact that sugar has eight times the addictive potential as cocaine.
It’s simple to have a craving for sugary treats when you’re feeling down, stressed, or exhausted—besides, it may even boost your mood in the immediate time frame. In the end, too much sugar consumption can result in an increase in weight and cause medical challenges, including diabetes and cardiovascular illness. If you find yourself wanting something sweet, the wisest option is to try and resist the urge before it takes over.
There is no surefire way to quash your hankering for sweets, but these 10 suggestions can assist you in conquering your sugar cravings and sticking with your diet.
The Neural Cravings Circuit
Lots of evidence, like an analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2018, has revealed that sugar can be habit-forming. Experts now maintain that sugar can be 8 times more habit-forming than cocaine, with a similar impact on the brain’s regions that respond to morphine.
Sugar cravings involve multiple brain regions and neurotransmitters, including:
Eating sugar causes the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which contributes to active interest and drawing attention.
The nucleus accumbens, which is situated in the basal ganglia, is responsible for providing pleasure and motivation in the brain. The nucleus accumbens gives the emotional impetus and encourages action, which are essential components of one’s actions. Think of the nucleus accumbens as a pleasure button. Every time a bite of the sweet food is taken, the button is pushed. In the same way, overuse of cocaine or other addictive substances can result in needing higher doses for the same feeling of joy; if the pleasure button is repeated excessively, it can weaken, requiring stronger stimulation to produce similar levels of delight.
The depths of the brain’s limbic system have an effect on longing for sugar. The recollections connected to special times, such as birthday parties and happier moments, like eating ice cream, make you yearn to duplicate this experience. It’s almost like the ice cream will bring you back to that amazing experience in your life.
The prefrontal cortex of the brain serves as the “brake” in controlling impulses, making judgments, and exercising self-discipline. The reminder is that indulging in ice cream is not conducive to reaching your objectives and will leave you feeling remorseful afterward.
It’s as if there is an internal battle in your head that happens when cravings show up. The reward system triggered by dopamine in your brain encourages you to go to the freezer for some ice cream, giving you a feeling of satisfaction. Meanwhile, the PFC tries to put on the brakes.
Which part of your brain do you listen to? It depends.
A robust prefrontal cortex in a healthy brain enables proper decision-making and the ability to manage emotions, thus allowing you to resist the temptation of ice cream. When the PFC is not functioning sufficiently, the enjoyment and emotional regions can overpower the mind and become the dominant forces. When this occurs, you give in to your sweet tooth repeatedly… and again… and again.
Even if your brain’s reward and emotional control centers have taken charge, you can still bolster your prefrontal cortex and teach your brain to conquer sugar desires. Here’s how.
Even though your brain may be trying to make you indulge in sweet treats, you can find ways to enhance the prefrontal cortex, which will help you resist the temptation of sugars.
Why Do You Crave Sugar?
You can find sugar in almost every food item that comes to your mind, such as ice cream, cake, cookies, and candy. However, it’s not just sugary snacks that you find delectable; bread, chips, starchy foods, and different salty meats have had sugar added or been otherwise improved with added sugar to make them tastier.
It is possible to become addicted to sugar, and the majority of individuals who are hooked on it cannot visualize life without it. Multiple elements can lead to desires for sugar, like hormone alterations that influence how you metabolize sugar. Eating sweet items yields dopamine (a hormone that makes you pleased) in the brain.
A region in the brain stores what it remembers from the pleasure of the dopamine release, resulting in a programmed reaction towards that trigger. So now your brain craves the stimulus. Your brain craves sugar!
The results of sugar consumption give you a rush that is comparable to the sensation of taking other addictive substances like nicotine or cocaine.
2. An imbalance in blood sugar.
It is possible to have an urge for sweets if your glucose level in the bloodstream is low.
Glucose in its sugar form, functions as an energy source for various cell activities. When the body doesn’t have enough glucose, it sends signals in the form of hunger and cravings for sweets as a way of obtaining a quick dose of sugar.
If you consume a lot of refined foods and do not have enough dietary fiber, this is especially frequent. Fiber moderates the increase and decrease of sugars in the body, whereas processed foodstuffs will induce a rapid elevation and decline of glucose, resulting in an intensified desire for sugar.
3. Magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium has an effect on glucose, insulin, and dopamine levels, and if there aren’t adequate amounts, an individual may experience a craving for sugar, particularly chocolate.
When experiencing stress, your body will produce an elevated amount of cortisol. A hormone called cortisol, which helps your body manage stress, is released during times of tension. Yet, if your cortisol is continually elevated, it will begin to diminish serotonin, another hormone that leads to good feelings.
The physique responds adversely to insufficient serotonin levels. It is willing to put in whatever work is necessary to increase those rates. In this scenario, your body will crave sugar to increase its levels of happiness-inducing hormones.
5. Lack of sleep.
The hormones leptin and ghrelin are what control your hunger.
Leptin reduces the desire to eat by prompting a feeling of contentment and completeness, while ghrelin is a hormone associated with hunger and cravings. Studies have demonstrated that when people don’t get enough sleep, their ghrelin levels go up, and leptin levels go down, resulting in more of an appetite and a feeling of being hungrier.
6. Lack of exercise.
A study demonstrated that engaging in regular brisk strolls can decrease the desire for sweet nourishment in obese individuals. Taking short episodes, around 15 minutes of fast strolling, can help maintain yearnings under control.
12 Steps to Conquer Your Sugar Cravings
1. Keep your blood sugar balanced.
Low blood sugar levels have been linked to considerably less brain activity, including less activity in the PFC, which is the brain’s inhibitory control. There is a propensity for cravings and negative choices when the brain’s activity is low. A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that when blood sugar levels are down, it is probable that a person will struggle with self-control. What causes blood sugar levels to drop? Consuming alcoholic drinks, treats with a lot of sugar, sugary drinks, and other food items that have a high glycemic index (like rice, spaghetti, and breakfast cereals). Stabilizing blood sugar levels throughout the day improves self-control. Here are simple tips to help you do it.
- Eat protein and healthy fats at every meal.
- Have smaller meals throughout the day. This helps eliminate the blood sugar rollercoaster ride that can impact your emotions and increase cravings.
- Replace simple sugars and refined carbs with healthier options. For example, swapping candy for a few squares of sugar-free dark chocolate can help you kick the habit.
- Try nutritional supplements, such as chromium and alpha-lipoic acid. They have very good scientific evidence that they help balance blood sugar levels.
2. Eliminate artificial sweeteners.
If you want to reduce your urge to indulge, you should eliminate artificial sweeteners from your diet. You may perceive these sweeteners as “without charge” because of their lack of calories, but they are as much as 600 times sweeter than sugar, which may trigger the brain’s hunger centers and cause you to want to consume even more sugar. If you train yourself to abstain from all forms of sweeteners, your brain will eventually no longer feel the urge for anything sweet if you have to; substitute fake sweeteners with all-natural ones, such as stevia or erythritol.
3. Get enough sleep.
Getting fewer than 8 hours of sleep every day can result in an increase in your hunger hormones, which may encourage you to eat more than you should. Consuming excessive quantities of both caffeine and alcohol can lead to a lack of sleep.
Plants make some excellent contributions to better sleep. Chamomile tea, tart cherries, juice, some seeds, and kiwi are all ideal for enhanced rest.
Craving is a good indication that something is missing. If you want something sweet, it could be an indication of several things, such as being trained to eat sugary things, not having enough essential minerals, having uneven blood glucose levels, fatigue from not enough rest, or being under pressure and anxious. Take a look at yourself and be brave in confronting the specific things that make you want to indulge. With time the cravings will fade off.
4. Outsmart sneaky cravings triggers.
At nearly every location, someone is attempting to persuade you to consume something sugary. Contemplate the candy rack located next to the checkout at the supermarket, which is deliberately created to entice you to purchase something spontaneously. In order to resist temptation, you have to limit the things that incite your desires. Be aware of the individuals, locations, and objects that are the source of your longing, and prepare ahead for when you are prone to giving in. Pick the section of the grocery store that has razor blades and batteries instead of candy.
5. Find out about hidden food allergies.
Eating sensitivities and allergies that are not readily apparent can lead to longings and cause you to go back to your past dietary custom. Did you know that an allergy to gluten and milk can reduce the circulation of blood to the brain, which in turn affects your mental judgment? Apart from this, food allergies can lead to difficulty in focusing and feelings of stress, which in turn can cause strong desires to eat. Discover if you have any allergic reactions to food by trying an elimination diet. Go without corn, soy, dairy, gluten, artificial sweeteners, and food colorings for three weeks, then slowly put them back into your diet, one by one, to check for any responses.
6. Practice willpower.
Willpower is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. Start training yourself to reject activities that are not beneficial for you, and eventually, it will be much simpler.
7. Get moving.
Physical exercise can cut cravings. Research that was published in Appetite in 2012 reported that a quick 15-minute walk could help curb one’s craving for chocolate. It was observed that not only did the short walk diminish the enticement to eat, it also kept hunger away for an additional 10 minutes after the exercise. Exercising for a short time may be enough to take your mind off the tempting desserts that you want so much and which usually only last around ten minutes.
8. Manage your stress.
When you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed, the hormone cortisol increases, leading to the urge to eat something sweet.
Eating plant-based products rich in fiber, like green peas, flaxseed, pistachios, kale, broccoli, almonds, berries, and sesame seeds, can lessen stress and stop desire for snacks.
9. Try nutritional supplements to curb cravings.
Evidence in scientific studies has demonstrated that N-acetylcysteine, alpha-lipoic acid, chromium, dl-phenylalanine, and l-glutamine are 5 natural supplements that can effectively reduce cravings.
10. Avoid hidden sugars.
Even if you no longer sweeten your meals or snack on cookies, you may still end up consuming sugars without even knowing it. Many so-called health foods contain hidden sugars. A lot of salad dressings, milk substitutes, and pre-blended smoothies are full of sugar. It is essential to become an expert at examining food labels in order to locate hidden sugars.
11. Practice healthy habits in the morning.
One of the best strategies I know of to reduce the need for sugar is to cultivate healthy habits during the early part of the day. Having a nutritious breakfast, exercising, and organizing your day are definite contributors to success, which in turn can help you dodge additional, undesired calories afterward.
12. Eat protein and fat with every meal.
Protein and fat help to prolong digestion, enabling you to stay satiated for a longer time and eventually restraining excess cravings for sugar. Eating a small number of nuts or a trail mix when your sweet tooth is especially intense can be very helpful. Avoid sugary treats if you are needing a snack, as it will only worsen the situation. Stick with fruit or yogurt. If you are looking for something sugary, opt for fresh or frozen fruit instead of canned. You’ll get less added sugar that way.
Most individuals have likely experienced an urge to consume something sweet at some point in their lives. It can be hard to suppress the desire for sugar if you regularly partake in it, but there are strategies that can assist you in quelling the inclination for sweets when you’re feeling peckish.
Instead of using sugar, one could add sweet spices; try to eat unprocessed whole foods, make sure to eat enough protein and fat, avoid energy drinks, and make healthy choices at the beginning of one’s day that could include exercise.
Targeting the primary causes that lead to desiring sugar is a more effective way to overcome the urge to consume it.