Our Nutritionist Explains How To Curb Your Persistent Sugar Cravings

Many people have a conflicted relationship with sugar. Sugar excites your taste buds and you get a quick hit of pleasure. But you also know that too many moments of indulgence aren't great for your health. The American Heart Association recommends that men get no more than 36 grams of added sugar a day. Women should limit themselves to 25 grams. To put that into context, a single Oreo cookie has 6.6 grams of sugar. When you have a sugar craving and open up those Oreos, you never can eat just one.

"Excess sugar consumption is linked to many diseases through the action of insulin resistance and inflammation," said Jamie Feit, MS, RD, CDN owner of Jamie Feit Nutrition, LLC in an exclusive interview. "Sugar causes both of those and is therefore linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, acne, aging, moods and hunger."

Even though your sugar cravings can keep you on an endless cycle of feast and famine, Feit says the best way to curb your sugar cravings is to give up sugar cold turkey. But first, it's helpful to understand what causes your cravings.

Getting stuck in a cravings cycle

Your sugar craving could stem from your need for energy, says the Cleveland Clinic. Your body learns that the taste of something sweet also gives plenty of fuel when you need it. When you're hungry, you reach for this fast fuel rather than wait for something more healthy. "Mentally, people could feel like it provides an energy boost and therefore crave sugar," Feit said. "This however is not a long-term fix and just starts a never-ending cycle of sugar consumption."

Chronic stress also triggers your sugar cravings. While a short-term stressful event will pause your appetite, your body will also release cortisol, which will boost your appetite (per Harvard Medical School). Your body also signals the hunger hormone ghrelin to get you to eat. Feit said the sugar from your food will also raise your blood sugar. "Then there is a blood sugar crash that causes hunger, weakness, and more cravings which are both a physical and mental cause, as the cycle starts again."

Feit added that sugar also causes a release of those feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. If your body has low serotonin levels, you might turn to sugar to boost it. "These hormones are the same hormones triggered when cocaine enters the bloodstream," she said. "It has been shown to be very addictive, even more so than cocaine."

How to quit sugar cold turkey

If you're stuck in a cycle of sugar cravings, it might seem impossible to quit sugar cold turkey, especially if it's as addictive as cocaine. "It may be hard for a few days but the body is resilient and adapts quickly," Feit said.

To help you give up sugar, Feit suggests that eating more protein and fiber will fill you up so you won't get those late-day hunger pangs that might have you reaching for something sweet. It also helps to start your day with some protein to avoid mid-morning sugar cravings and crashes. Rather than sitting at home trying to avoid scavenging for something sweet in your cabinets, Feit says to get out and exercise. You're also more likely to crave something sweet or salty when you're tired, so be sure to get a good night's sleep each night.

Food companies put in a ton of research to find the perfect combination of sweet, salt, and fat to be ever-so satisfying but also addictive. That's part of what keeps you coming back to buy more (per Cleveland Clinic). Rather than buy processed foods or anything with artificial sugars, Feit says to choose whole foods to avoid the sugar cycle.

The Cleveland Clinic says dehydration can trick you into thinking you're hungry, so Feit suggests drinking more water or green tea to ease cravings for sugar. Healthline adds that a hot shower might give you that sauna feeling that can tame sugar cravings.