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Sugar cravings are much more powerful than an urge to snack. They’re part of a fundamental feeding response we all have that drives us to seek out sugary, starchy foods when our blood sugar levels fall. Sugar and carbohydrate cravings can lead to binge eating, which results in whiplashing insulin levels. Gorging on sugar causes a brief spike in energy, followed by sluggishness, irritability, and fatigue. Stopping sugar cravings is an essential part of good health.
Sugar cravings are not caused by diabetes and usually have no connection to any dangerous health condition. They can be caused by a variety of circumstances, like a low level of hormones like leptin, which promotes a feeling of fullness. Low levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain can also cause sugar cravings, as indulging in sugar and simple carbohydrates prompts a brief increase in dopamine. Gorging on sugar causes a rapid but very short bump in serotonin. The combination of elevated dopamine and serotonin leaves us feeling great—but not for long, and the crash leaves us feeling worse. To feel good hour after hour requires a healthy diet, but supplements to beat sugar cravings may still be necessary.
Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar
- Feeling shaky, irritable and nervous
- Intense cravings for sugary or starchy foods
- Intense cravings for sweets
- Lightheaded if meals are missed
- Eating relieves fatigue
- Agitated, easily upset
- Nervous, anxious, panic attacks
The Role of Sugar and Carbohydrates in Illness
Sugar does not by itself cause diabetes. It does, however, make it worse by aggravating insulin resistance and contributing to weight gain. Type II diabetes is a complex illness caused by many issues colliding. However, just because sugar doesn’t cause it, doesn’t mean excessive sugar is ok. Too much sugar makes most illnesses worse by causing spikes in blood sugar that harm the body’s ability to produce and absorb insulin.
Simple carbohydrates share a similar relationship to diabetes that sugar does. Simple sugars break down rapidly in the body once consumed. After being eaten, simple carbs like
Beating Sugar Cravings
- Increase your protein intake. Proteins increase the level of satiety hormones, like leptin. Rapid energy production is not one of protein’s immediate functions, but it produces the amino acids required for healthy energy levels, as well as repairing the body’s tissues. Protein supplies a slow, steady source of energy that keeps the body active for long durations, preventing blood sugar surges and dips.
- Reduce or eliminate your use of artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners have low to no calories, but they do nothing to stop a sugar craving. In fact, they don’t even help you feel full. Unlike sugar, artificial sweeteners don’t cause the release of leptin, a hormone that causes us to feel full. Not only do artificial sweeteners prevent you from feeling full, but they also don’t stop your sugar cravings.
- Jettison heavily processed foods. The American diet is loaded with added sugars, simple carbs that turn into sugars upon consumption, and heavily processed grains.
- Be aware of your mineral and nutrient levels. Your body requires zinc for insulin and glucose to be used efficiently. Magnesium is essential for insulin and glucose regulation, as well as adequate levels of dopamine.
- Eat a nutrient-dense balanced diet. “Nutrient density” refers to getting a lot of healthy nutrients with as few calories as possible. Balance out your flavor profiles. Eating too much salt will prompt a craving for sweet foods, for example.
- Add supplements like those below to help your body balance your blood sugar and insulin levels.
The Best Supplements that Curb Sugar Cravings
Gymnema Sylvestre is an herbal supplement derived from a shrub found in Australia, Africa, and India. It’s got impressive research indicating its usefulness in eliminating sugar cravings. When taken before eating, it decreases the ability to taste and enjoy sugar. It also reduces the amount of sugar people consume.
Find yours here.
Trivalent chromium in the form of chromium picolinate is at the top of the list of the best supplements to reduce sugar cravings. Chromium is a micronutrient that balances out blood sugar in people with and without diabetes. It lowers bad cholesterol while raising “good cholesterol” for people who take beta-blocker type high blood pressure medicines
Glutamine is a common essential amino acid. It’s also one of the best supplements to reduce sugar cravings. Studies have shown that l-glutamine supplements help reduce sugar cravings due to the stabilizing effect glutamine has on serum blood sugar. Glutamine also reduces the production of ghrelin, a hormone that causes cravings for sugary, starchy foods.
GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a winner for the treatment of many conditions, including sugar cravings. GABA helps soothe over-active brain tissue that’s clamoring for attention. A lack of GABA causes a feeling of anxiety, over-excitement, and an uncomfortable restlessness. GABA also helps increase the amount of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, two vital “feel good” natural chemicals.
A single 500 or 750 mg tablet is usually sufficient for anxiety relief.
CoQ10 is a compound your body requires to produce energy. It aids in the production of adenosine triphosphate; the fuel cells burn. A lack of CoQ10 causes cells to fail to use carbohydrates efficiently, leading to fatigue, sugar cravings, and blood sugar crashes.
There’s no universally agreed-upon dosage, so follow the package directions. Note that you should consult a doctor before taking CoQ10 if you are taking blood thinners like coumadin.
Lipase helps the body use fat by breaking it down. When people have a lipase deficiency (most of us do), fats get stored too rapidly, which causes us to pack on extra pounds while paradoxically staying hungry. Taking lipase supplements before your largest meal of the day lets your body digest fats more easily and efficiently, preventing sugar cravings. Find lipase here. Dosage levels have not been established for reducing sugar cravings, so follow the directions on the packaging.
Inositol, sometimes called vitamin B8, has a critical role in regulating the sensitivity of the body’s cellular insulin receptors. It also works to help neurotransmitters like serotonin work at optimum efficiency. Research shows that inositol helps reduce insulin resistance, which allows the body to use blood sugars more rapidly and more effectively. This leads to a reduction in sugar craving. Researchers found that inositol was effective for blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity in women with gestational diabetes. A typical dosage is 2 grams per day.
Sugar cravings are sometimes indications of a deficiency in essential micronutrients and minerals, like magnesium. Magnesium is essential for regulating blood sugar and a magnesium deficiency leaves the body unable to properly control blood sugar levels. Sugar cravings are often caused by fluctuating levels of blood sugar and insulin. A persistent craving for chocolate is a big indicator you’re low on magnesium, as chocolate is a rich but sugary source of magnesium.
Men need from 400 milligrams and 420 milligrams per day, with women requiring 310 to 320 milligrams of magnesium.
Protein is digested slowly by the body, keeping metabolism of fats, sugar, and carbohydrates well-balanced and regulated. Protein also reduces the levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stokes hunger pangs while simultaneously boosts levels of hormones that suppress appetite, like PYY and CCK.
It’s essential to use protein powders or protein supplements that are not filled with sugars. Adding sugary flavors or syrups to protein powders or mixes reduces their effectiveness as a supplement to reduce sugar cravings.
Legal Disclaimer: Statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition