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Why Do We Crave Sweets?

By Lily Medina ; Updated May 10, 2018

Sometimes, people crave sweets so strongly and so frequently that the cravings seem deeply ingrained in their bodies. These cravings may seem irrational, but they can stem from any of several physiological, emotional and mental causes. Understanding why your body craves sweets can help you respond to those cravings in a healthy, satisfying way.


Eating sugar gives your body a fast and effective – albeit very temporary – boost of energy. Because your body can convert sugar into energy so quickly, it often craves sweets when it really just needs fuel. This can happen when you haven’t eaten for a while, when you’re not eating enough in general or when you’re mostly eating foods that provide only quick bursts of energy. To curb sugar cravings that stem from low energy, spread your food intake evenly throughout the day instead of concentrating it all on mealtimes. Choose healthier foods with complex carbs, protein and fiber, which actually provide better, longer-lasting energy and satiation.


Women, especially those who experience PMS, often crave sweets in the days before menstruation begins. This craving stems from the normal hormone fluctuations that accompany the menstrual cycle. Hormonal deficiencies or imbalances in both men and women can also trigger sugar cravings. Because hormones regulate how your body processes and uses energy, hormone problems can trigger especially strong cravings for the quick burst of easy energy provided by sweets. To curb period-related cravings, eat small, healthy meals throughout the day, get plenty of rest and drink sufficient water. If you suspect you have a hormone deficiency, talk to your doctor.


Unfortunately, your genetics can influence your cravings. You might have a sweet tooth simply because you’re hard-wired that way. A study published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” found that up to half of a person’s tendency to crave sweets can stem from genetic factors. Nevertheless, these factors don’t have to control you. To minimize these sugar cravings, eat small, healthy meals throughout the day and remove desserts from your house, or stock your pantry with only healthy sweets to eliminate temptation.


Some people desire sugary foods when they experience certain emotions. You might subconsciously connect eating desserts with feelings such as sadness, frustration, boredom, loneliness or even happiness. When a person has an emotional connection with sweets, she might crave sweets when she longs for comfort, wants to celebrate or simply needs to pass some time. Understanding your emotional connection with food can help you curb or ignore emotion-based cravings. When you long for sweets, examine your emotions rather than just indulging. Try to wait awhile before eating; meanwhile, endeavor to distract yourself with another activity.


It’s obvious, but that doesn’t make it less true: Sugar tastes delicious, and people enjoy eating it. As a basic fact of human nature, people desire pleasurable things. As long as sugar remains tasty, people will crave it. Indulging this craving occasionally won’t harm you, and it can even help you stick to a healthy eating plan more effectively because you won’t feel like you’re depriving yourself. Try to keep any dessert under 200 calories, and only have a few desserts per week. To choose healthier and lower-calorie options when you crave sweets, try all-natural frozen fruit bars, low-fat yogurt or pudding, fat-free meringues, fresh fruit or dark chocolate.

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