Why Your Body Craves Sugar and Why You Shouldn’t Indulge It

By Sarah Kaminski – November 11, 2021

You’ve just finished a satisfying lunch, but something is missing – something sweet and delicious. 

Now, dessert can be a great treat, but it shouldn’t be a habit. Some people tend to crave sugar at the same time every day – it can be a matter of habit or deeper than that. Regardless of the reasons, indulging in sugar cravings can be detrimental to your mental and physical health. 

Let’s talk about the science behind sugar cravings before we move on to the reasons why you shouldn’t always indulge them.

Blame It on Your Brain

Some areas in your brain are responsible for the craving sensation. 

For example, the hippocampus, which is located in the temporal lobe of the brain, is in charge of producing short- and long-term memories. Because of this, it plays a role in reward-seeking behavior. 

Some parts of the brain (such as the caudate nucleus) do the same but also create new habits or conditioned responses – for example, snacking on sweets as soon as you walk through the door without even noticing it. 

Finally, the insula (in each brain hemisphere) produces emotional responses to sensory experiences. This is why you can associate some happy memories with eating chocolate, which makes even the first bite raise your dopamine levels and create pleasure. 

Other Foods May Be Triggering You

Fats and protein slow down the release of sugar into the bloodstream. When you don’t consume the optimal amounts of these nutrients, your body will crave the energy from sugar. 

On the other hand, a high-carb diet can cause similar consequences. Simple carbs enter the bloodstream quickly and raise blood sugar and insulin levels. They leave you wanting for more because they can never satisfy your nutritional needs. 

Your Lifestyle Can Promote Cravings

Lack of sleep can impact every aspect of your life. One night of poor sleep can influence your ability to make complex judgments and decisions. Furthermore, lack of sleep can disturb the balance between leptin and ghrelin, the hormones that promote and suppress food intake. That’s why chronic sleep deprivation can lead to constant food cravings, causing health problems and weight gain.

It Can Be a Health Issue

A mental or physical health issue may be the culprit behind your food cravings. It’s well-known that many people turn to so-called comfort food when they are stressed out. When the stress is excessive, your body uses all its energy stores and seeks sugar to replenish them. Depression can also cause sugar cravings because sugar boosts serotonin and causes a short-term feeling of happiness. 

Your sweet tooth can also be caused by mineral deficiencies. The most frequent one is iron deficiency, but zinc, calcium, magnesium, and chromium imbalances can also manifest themselves through the need for sweet food. 

Six Reasons Not to Indulge In Your Sugar Cravings

Depending on the root of your sugar cravings, there are always ways to resist your desire. Here’s some proper motivation to do so.

  1. You can always find a good replacement. There are alternatives to sugar that are significantly healthier. When you want to sweeten your coffee in a healthy way, you can use artificial sweeteners or oat milk. You can even make dessert using honey instead of sugar. Sweet fruits such as fresh dates are also a great alternative that can satisfy your sweet tooth.
  2. Just a bunch of empty calories. Sugar gives you no nutritional benefit, and it is not a good and steady source of energy. Eating empty calories undermines the value of other foods and causes imbalances.
  3. It leads to weight gain. Sugary foods and beverages are high in calories, and consuming too many of them can lead to significant weight gain. Not even regular exercise can neutralize the effect of eating too many sweets.
  4. It can cause diabetes. While a diet high in calories of any type can lead to diabetes, consuming a lot of sugary foods heightens the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  5. It can lead to tooth decay. Sugar consumption can contribute to the development of cavities. It allows the bacteria in the mouth to create a layer of plaque over the teeth, which triggers the release of teeth-damaging acid.
  6. It increases the risk of heart disease. A 15-year study found that people who consume a lot of sugar are more likely to die of a heart condition than those who eat minimal amounts of sweets.

Since sugar is not a required nutrient, it’s difficult to say how much of it is enough. However, there is a minimal amount suggested by the American Heart Association – about nine teaspoons (no more than 150 calories). If you consume more, try to cut down your intake, but first, check if there is a medical issue causing the craving. Some of the typical tips for cutting back on sugar include finding healthy alternatives and eating full-fat foods, whole foods and more protein.

About the Author

Sarah Kaminski looking down and smiling.

Sarah is a life enjoyer, positivity seeker, and curiosity enthusiast. She is passionate about an eco-friendly lifestyle and adores her cats. She is an avid reader who loves to travel when time allows.


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