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Urge of eating sweets
It’s not unusual to crave carbs, sugar, and chocolate when you are stressed or dealing with depression. Cravings can be your body’s way of letting you know it’s not getting something it needs, such as a specific vitamin or mineral. Having certain cravings, such as for chocolate or other sweets, is also often linked to how you feel emotionally.
You don’t have to completely deprive yourself of the treats you enjoy. The key is understanding why you are craving them and making sure that your overall diet is balanced and nutritious.
What causes sugar cravings?
People crave sugar for many reasons — some of them physiological and some of them psychological. So, if you’re asking yourself why, here are some possible causes to consider.
A Magnesium Deficiency
First things first—before looking for answers, you need to identify the type of sugary food you are craving. If you’re craving chocolate, it could mean your body is deficient in magnesium, which is a really common deficiency these days. There’s a plus side to craving chocolate: Dark chocolate is actually full of antioxidants that can improve your health and decrease the risk of heart disease, according to research. Reach for the dark stuff (70% cacao content or higher), not the milk kind, to satisfy your sweet tooth without sabotaging your health.
Another Nutrient or Vitamin Deficiency
If you’re craving fruit, then congratulations! Goodman says this is one of the best cravings to have. Your body might be telling you it needs additional vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
A Fluctuation in Blood Sugar
If you’re craving sweets all of a sudden, most likely you are experiencing blood sugar fluctuation. When your blood sugar drops, your body may be trying to get you to give it more fuel to keep your blood sugar levels stable. To keep your blood sugar balanced, we recommend eating a healthy amount of protein and adding more high-fiber foods, like beans and legumes, to your diet, along with complex carbs. This will give you the fuel you need without the blood sugar spikes.
When your blood sugar drops, your body may be trying to get you to give it more fuel to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Your body responds to stress by secreting hormones that are also related to food cravings. In a 2019 studyTrusted Source, the stress hormone cortisol was linked to the desire for sweet foods, for example.
A 2016 research review showed that the hormone ghrelin, which controls appetite, was released when people were stressed out.
And if you’re exposed to stress over a long period, a 2015 studyTrusted Source showed that you’ll be vulnerable to increased cravings for palatable foods containing added sugars and fats.
The relationship between what you eat and how you sleep is complex. A 2013 studyTrusted Source showed that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to crave foods that are:
This may be because they’d like to boost their energy levels.
A 2017 research reviewTrusted Source showed that sugary foods can interfere with the quality of your sleep.
In the United States, there’s a really common belief that chocolate cravings and periods are linked.
According to a 2013 research reviewTrusted Source, some researchers think that people crave chocolate due to the release of endorphins, which are brain chemicals that make you feel good and regulate your mood.
A 2017 studyTrusted Source showed that while the idea of craving chocolate during your period is well known in the United States, it isn’t nearly as common in other countries.
The difference leads some researchers to think that this particular sugar craving may be based in culture, not biology.
Can you rewire your cravings?
The short answer is yes. Research shows that even when cravings are intense, resisting them can eventually lead to fewer cravings overall.
A 2016 surveyTrusted Source of 2,932 people who were actively engaged in a weight management program revealed that more than half of them (55 percent) experienced less intense, less frequent cravings over time.
An older 2005 studyTrusted Source found that restricting your eating too much actually led to more cravings, not less.
A 2020 research reviewTrusted Source indicated that if you reduce the calories you eat instead of eliminating certain foods completely, cravings tend to decline.
How to manage cravings
Cravings on their own are not necessarily harmful to your health, it’s how you respond to cravings that could become problematic. Here are some options for managing cravings when they come upon you:
Eating the odd square of chocolate or piece of cake on your birthday is probably not going to damage your health. And it can be good for your mental health to savor something luscious now and then.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney DiseasesTrusted Source, health experts say that the occasional sweet indulgence is fine — just not every day.
Glance at the label
Sometimes a reality check can curb your craving. If you’re craving something that has a packaging label, look closely at the nutritional content, so you can make an informed choice about what to eat.
Take a quick walk
A 2015 studyTrusted Source showed that a brief 15-minute walk could cut the cravings. As a bonus, the walk could pep you up more than a cookie or brownie anyway.
Opt for a nap instead
If you’re one of the millions of folks who are chronically sleep deprived in this age of overstimulation, a power nap may do more to revive your energy levels than something sugary.
Swap it out
If you want a hint of sweetness without the glycemic overload, you could choose healthier alternatives like:
- fresh fruit
- trail mix
- dark chocolate
And if you’re feeling hungry, a meal that features protein may be what you need instead.