THIS is why you crave sugar
November 10, 2023

THIS is why you crave sugar

Decode your sugar cravings, find out the real reasons behind them, and explore healthier sugar options.

The sweet deets on sugar

Currently craving a handful (or three) of candy? Same. It’s a common post-holiday dilemma: the daily quest for a sugar spike lingers for weeks—long after costumes are boxed up, Halloween decor is packed away, and jack-o’-laterns bid farewell. If that irresistible piece of chocolate is calling your name, you’re in good company.

But if you’re wondering why this craving persists, how you can navigate your temptations without the crash, and ways to keep your sugar cravings in check, we have just the guide for you.

Understanding sugar cravings—what is your body actually asking for?

Believe it or not, your sweet cravings aren’t entirely random. Turns out, that hit of sugar is your body’s way of asking for something specific. Often, our body's messages are more nuanced than simply seeking something sweet.

For instance, a hankering for chocolate may signify a desire for magnesium, while an urge for fruit could indicate a lack of energy or essential vitamins. Ultimately, craving sugar is triggered by various factors, and it's typically a combination of physiological, psychological, and environmental influences.

Common reasons you crave sugar

Sometimes the desire for a sweet treat is as simple as the craving itself. Think: you’ve finished a savory meal and want the satisfaction of a few squares of chocolate, a homemade cookie, or a fruit-filled dessert—that’s all! It is helpful, however, to pause and consider where your craving might be coming from. 

  • Is your blood sugar stable? Rapid drops in blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) can trigger sugar cravings as the body seeks a quick energy boost.
  • Are you stressed? Many of us turn to sugary foods for comfort during times of stress, as sugar can temporarily elevate mood and reduce stress-related hormone levels.
  • Is sugar a constant habit? If you have a long-standing habit of consuming sugary snacks or desserts regularly, your body becomes accustomed to these cravings.
  • Are you restricting food groups (like carbs)? Keep in mind, restrictive diets—those that eliminate or severely limit certain food groups—can lead to cravings, as your body may miss the taste and satisfaction that starchy foods provide.
  • Are you dehydrated? Dehydration can be mistaken for hunger, leading to cravings for sweet beverages or foods.
  • Do you have any known nutrient deficiencies? Cravings may signal a need for specific nutrients. As mentioned, a craving for dark chocolate may indicate a need for magnesium.
  • Are you seeking pleasure or comfort? The brain's reward system can become wired to associate sugary foods with pleasure and comfort, leading to cravings.
  • What is your sleep quality like? Poor sleep patterns can disrupt hormones that regulate appetite, making it more likely to crave sugary foods for a quick energy boost.
  • Are influences getting the best of you? Social situations, advertising, and the availability of sugary treats in your environment can trigger cravings.
  • Where are you at in your cycle? Most of us experience sugar cravings during our menstrual cycles, due to hormonal changes (particularly, during the luteal phase as PMS begins).

Is sugar actually the villain?

Sugar’s role in our diets (and its impact on our health) is nuanced. Sugar itself isn’t inherently the villain, but its consumption—in excessive amounts—can have negative health consequences. For example, consuming large amounts of added sugars is linked to various health issues: obesity, type 2 diabetes, estrogen dominance, heart disease, dental problems, and more. Furthermore, sugary foods and drinks often provide little-to-no nutritional value (other than rapid energy). 

Unless your healthcare provider has advised against it, sugar can be a part of a wholesome, balanced diet. Enjoying your favorite coffee shop’s pastry, a homemade cookie, or a decadent dessert on special occasions gets our stamp of approval. After all, deprivation is not the goal. You can still support your blood sugar using hacks such as having protein before and moving your body after. Listen to our interviews with Dr. Casey Means and Glucose Goddess for more blood sugar tips!

Healthier sugar options

If you’re aiming to reduce your refined sugar intake (granulated sugar, brown sugar, etc.), nature provides a variety of satisfying yet nourishing sweet options! First and foremost, fruit. If you’re craving vanilla ice cream, top your cup with fresh strawberries, cacao nibs, and a spoonful of almond butter to support a more stable glucose response.

Another unrefined sugar option? Raw honey. It’s sweet, delicious, and known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. A modest drizzle goes a long way. Pure maple syrup works as well. If you’re seeking a sugar substitute that doesn’t spike blood sugar levels, however, consider monk fruit. You can add it to your coffee, matcha, chia pudding, or even baked goods! It's derived from a small, green fruit and is virtually calorie-free, making it a blood sugar-friendly alternative.

A blood sugar-balancing plate

As mentioned, sugar cravings are often a result of mismanaged blood sugar. In other words, when blood sugar levels fluctuate significantly, it can trigger cravings for sugary foods. Here's how it works:

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar): When blood sugar levels drop too low, the body sends signals to increase blood sugar quickly. This often leads to intense cravings for quick sources of energy, such as sugary snacks or drinks.
  • Rebound hyperglycemia: After consuming an abundance of sugar or refined carbs, blood sugar levels can spike. This spike is often followed by a rapid drop in blood sugar levels, which leads to renewed cravings for sugar to bring levels back up. It’s a vicious cycle.
  • Insulin resistance: In cases of insulin resistance, the body's cells don't respond well to insulin, and this can result in higher levels of sugar in the bloodstream. The body may produce more insulin to try to regulate this, and increased insulin levels can also trigger sugar cravings.

So, how can you reduce your sweet tooth's call for sugary comfort? Create a plate with blood sugar-balancing foods. In essence, ensuring your meals support stable blood sugar levels can significantly impact your sweet tooth's demands. Here's how you can create blood sugar-balancing meals:

  1. Fiber-rich ingredients: Incorporate leafy greens, low-gylcemic veggies (tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, artichokes, etc.), and legumes into your meals. These provide a steady release of energy, preventing sugar spikes and crashes.
  2. Protein power: Including lean proteins like chicken, fish, tofu, or beans can help maintain blood sugar levels and keep cravings at bay.
  3. Healthy fats: Don't shy away from nourishing fats like avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil. They can contribute to a feeling of fullness and support stable blood sugar levels.
  4. Mindful eating: Slow down, savor each bite, and listen to your body's signals of hunger and fullness. This can help prevent overindulging in sugary treats.

A few favorites from this week

We are loving this Chicken Salsa Verde for fall!

Another recipe on repeat? These immunity shots!

Satisfy your sweet cravings, sustainably

Indulging your sweet tooth doesn't mean surrendering to sugar overload. Try these tips, tricks, and recipes for smart satisfaction:

  1. Fruitful treats: Quench your sweet cravings with natural sugars (and a dose of vitamins!) from fresh, seasonal fruits. Our current favorites include apples, pears, blackberries, figs, grapes, kiwis, and clementines. We love whipping up these apple pie dumplings and this chocolate chia pudding with berries and banana.
  1. Go dark: Opt for dark chocolate with a higher cocoa content. It's rich in antioxidants and has less sugar than milk chocolate. A few favorites: chocolate mousse bites, samoa cookies, muddy buddies, and chocolate coconut crunch.
  1. Sweet smoothies: Pumpkin pie smoothie, anyone? This strawberry matcha smoothie also hits the spot.
  1. Healthier delights: Experiment with healthier dessert options at home, such as cinnamon rolls, energy balls, protein bites, granola, or ice cream sandwiches.

Our seed cycling blends can help you feel and do your best

Want an easy way to feel good when you have your next sweet treat? Add a scoop of our freshly ground, organic seed cycling blends to support balanced blood sugar and healthy hormones!