What to do about sugar cravings

Are you craving sugar? Do you know how to reduce your craving?

Sweet things taste really good! I love sweet tastes too, just like most people. But why can we often not stop ourselves from eating too much? How we can change this?

Sugar releases serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, or 5-HT), which is a neurotransmitter that contributes to wellbeing and happiness, among other things. As the precursor for melatonin, it also helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, like an internal clock, and plays a role in appetite, our emotions, mood swings, and motor, cognitive, and autonomic functions too. That’s why the more sugar you eat, the more it will make you crave, and why it’s addictive and can contribute to diseases such as cancer.

There’s also a direct link between a variety of addictions and negative mood states. Sugar addiction has been recently categorized as another binge/compulsive/addictive eating behavior that can lead to a high number of significant health problems.

Studies have shown a strong connection between the consumption of added sugars and drug-like effects, including bingeing, craving, tolerance, withdrawal, cross-sensitization, cross-tolerance, cross-dependence, and reward and opioid effects. This research has revealed that, surprisingly, sugar and sweet rewards can not only be a real substitute to addictive drugs, but can even be more rewarding and thus more addictive than drugs like cocaine.

And added sugar is hiding in 74 percent of packaged foods!

There are some natural remedies that might help you overcome your compulsion for sugar, though.

First, regular exercise at moderate intensity has been shown to efficiently and positively impact sugar cravings, and the connected mood disorders.

Then there’s gymnema sylvestre, also called gurmar, and regarded as one of the plants with potent anti diabetic properties. In Hindi, it even means “sugar destroyer.” It has the ability to block the absorption of glucose from the intestines, and helps to reduce cravings for sugar.

You can find it in tea form called gymnema. You can also chew the leaves or sprinkle powdered gymnema sylvestre on your tongue, and you can use capsule form to temporarily suppress sweet receptors.

Another option is chromium, which is a mineral that humans require in trace amounts. It’s known to enhance the action of insulin, a hormone critical to the metabolism and storage of carbohydrate, fat, and protein in the body. And it also appears to be directly involved in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism. Most foods provide only small amounts of chromium, less than 2 micrograms (mcg) per serving. Meat and whole-grain products, as well as some fruits, vegetables, and spices are relatively good sources. However, foods high in simple sugars are low in chromium.

You can take it as a supplement too.

And of course vitamin C, which I’ve mentioned quite often in my articles, but I’ve still not listed all of its benefits! One of the benefits it helping to convert and increase serotonin in the brain, and regulate blood sugar level too.

Low levels of serotonin can increase sugar cravings, so when you consume foods that are rich in vitamin C, such as spinach, pepper, winter squash, and kiwi, you can reduce your cravings naturally.

The recommendations for daily added sugar limits are 6 tsp (25g) for women, 9 tsp (38g) for men, and 3-6 tsp (12-25g) for children. If you start looking on the packages of what you eat, you will be amazed at how much sugar is included in foods and drinks where you may not even expect any.

Many herbs and vitamins can help to reduce sugar cravings, but most importantly you need to be aware of your cravings, and act on changing them.

The best steps to get started are to cut out processed foods, and to eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juice. When you start to eat less sweet and sugary foods, you all surprised at how your taste buds will change.

Just remember, herbs may not work for everyone, so if you have certain health problems or use medication the please ask your physician before making any changes.


Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at DietDocHawaii.com, Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com or (808) 276-6892

  1. Midge A Swanson July 11, 2018 5:51 am Reply

    I really appreciated your article. As a victim of failed back syndrome, which leaves me housebound & confined to a La-Z-Boy 24/7, I’ve gained mountains of weight & Type 2 diabetes along with Alzheimer’s (which increases your cravings for food, especially sugars). I’ve tried everything on the market to conquer the cravings, all to no avail. I would like to see a series of articles addressing this seemingly unconquerable problem.

    Mahalo for caring enough to address this problem that plagues so many Americans!!

    Aloha & God bless!

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