Why Do We Get Sugar Cravings? The Underlying Causes
Have you ever found yourself craving something sweet after dinner? Or reaching for a chocolate bar during a mid-afternoon slump? If so, you’re not alone. Sugar cravings are common and can be difficult to resist. But why do we get sugar cravings in the first place? In this blog post, we’ll explore the underlying causes of sugar cravings and what you can do to reduce them.
Blood sugar imbalances
One of the primary reasons we experience sugar cravings is due to imbalances in our blood sugar which helps us to regulate our energy throughout the day. We will be exploring some of the main reasons why our blood sugars go out of balance below.
Hormones play an important role in regulating our appetite and metabolism, so if they are out of balance you can experience intense sugar cravings. It is normal to want to eat more food leading up to a period if you are a menstruating female, as this comes with the rise in progesterone to prepare the body's energy stores for the monumental task of shedding the uterine lining. If however your sugar cravings feel out of control then it’s important to rule out conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). To combat hormone-induced sugar cravings, consume good quality complex carbohydrates like wholegrains to support a more sustained release of energy. Look at incorporating more essential fatty acids like fish, avocado, nuts/ seeds and ghee in the diet to support the healthy synthesis of hormones and practise stress-reducing activities like yoga or meditation.
Lack of sleep
When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies produce more ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, which can cause us to crave sugary, high-calorie foods. When we lack energy our bodies lean towards simple carbohydrates in the form of sugar to get a ‘quick fix’ which can further lead to imbalance blood sugar levels and more fatigue! Getting quality, restorative sleep is fundamental to managing sugar cravings. Consider establishing a sleep routine and switching off technology before bed. If you’re experiencing stress throughout the day it can lead to difficulties with sleep at night due to an overwhelmed mind, so be sure to become aware of your stressors and make active steps in managing your stress.
Skipping Meals & High Sugar Diets
When we skip meals, our blood sugar levels can drop, leading to feelings of hunger, fatigue, and weakness. The body then tends to lean more towards high sugar snacks to compensate for the drop in energy from missing a meal. Unfortunately this is only a temporary solution as our blood sugar levels quickly spike and come crashing down, leading us to feel hungrier and more fatigued. Eating three, balanced meals throughout the day with complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein will provide more sustained energy to the body and curb sugar cravings.
Sometimes if we experience heightened emotions like feeling stressed, sad or anxious, it can increase our intake of sugar. This is because sugar consumption triggers the brain’s reward system and releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine. To overcome emotional triggers, it’s important to find healthy ways to manage our emotions such as practising mindfulness, journaling or reaching out to a trained therapist to get to the underlying cause/s of your emotional imbalance.
Lastly, sugar cravings can also be caused by nutrient deficiencies such as magnesium, chromium, and zinc. Eating a balanced diet rich in whole foods including quality proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats can help to boost nutrient levels and reduce sugar cravings.
Sugar cravings are a common experience but understanding the underlying causes can help us to manage them better. By focusing on eating whole, nutrient-dense foods, getting enough sleep and managing stress, we can reduce our cravings and enjoy a healthier, more balanced diet.