What Causes Sugar Cravings?
lady eating a donut

For some they appear at the same time everyday, and for others they can grab hold at any hour of the day. The fact is that many people struggle with sugar cravings on a daily basis. The question everyone wants to know is what causes these cursed cravings? And what can be done about it?

In this article I provide 4 common causes of sugar cravings together with some potential solutions. Please note that for many people there is more that one factor that causes sugar cravings.

1. Habit

We are creatures of habit and there is no denying that sugar can be addictive. If we get used to eating something sweet at a certain time of day, the chances are that our bodies, like clockwork, will begin to crave sugar at that time. For some it can be stimuli other than time of day that trigger sugar cravings e.g. watching TV or studying. It may even be connection to other food and drink, I know many people who can’t drink a cup of tea of coffee without a sweet treat!

The solution to overcoming habitual sugar cravings is simple… break the habit. Ok maybe it’s easier said than done, but unfortunately there is no other path to take. It will certainly require willpower and lots of patience, but the longer you commit to this the easier it will become. Some days will of course be harder than others.

One thing to steer clear of with habitual sugar cravings is attempting to get rid of them by eating other “healthy” food. Usually the habitual sugar craving is separate to hunger, and therefore your body isn’t craving food it’s craving sugar. It doesn’t matter how much “other” food you eat, unless its sugar the craving won’t pass.

2. Emotion

Sugar and emotion go hand in hand. It is quite a strong connection built from our childhood. Think back to some of your happiest childhood memories and I would be willing to bet that at least some involved sugar. Think back to all the birthday parties you attended and try and think of one without lollies, cake or cordial. The fact is that sugar is associated with fun and happiness, and guess what, when we are sad or stressed, who doesn’t want to escape to their own little party to cheer themselves up? And what better way to do this than chocolate and cake!

Emotional sugar cravings can be very strong and difficult to break down. But it can be done. The first thing to acknowledge when experiencing emotional sugar cravings is that sugar itself is only a temporary distraction and not a solution. The problem will not go away until the actual problem is addressed. In fact eating sugary food or drink may take our mind off things temporarily but can also make things worse.

Secondly, it’s important to be aware that sugar craving are at their strongest point when they first hit you. After that they only get weaker and weaker. Sometimes it may only take 5 minutes until cravings pass completely, however 5 minutes can feel like an eternity!

Thirdly, acknowledge the role of sugar in emotion. Its primary role is distraction and also to cheer you up. There are many things other than sugar than can do this. Some examples are going for a brisk walk, listening to your favorite CD, playing music or calling a friend. The key to overcoming emotional sugar cravings is to acknowledge what role sugar is playing, and trying to use other activities to fill this role instead of food!

3. Low blood sugar levels

Low blood sugar levels can cause sugar cravings. It’s the body’s way of protecting you from danger. Blood sugar is our primary source of fuel (especially for our brain) and so when our fuel supply starts to run out our body responds. The quickest way to restock our energy supplies is, you guessed it, sugar! So that’s exactly what we start craving.

Usually with this type of craving it will be accompanied with other symptoms like hunger, fatigue, lightheadedness, loss of concentration and shakiness. The best way to get rid of this type of sugar craving is to prevent it from happening in the first place. To do that requires you to eat healthy food regularly starting with breakfast. Skipping meals is the number one cause of low blood sugar levels, followed by refined carbs at breakfast and lunch.

4. Artificial sweeteners

Ok I had to throw this in. Recent studies have demonstrated a strong link between artificial sweeteners in diet products and increased sugar cravings. Instead of providing a healthier alternative to sugary snack and drinks, these products actually make you crave sugar even more. I would recommend excluding these from your diet completely!