Thoughts on Sugar Cravings

admin March 29, 2010

**This post has been linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free!**

I’ve never been a huge sugar fan.

Really!  When everyone else was raring for dessert after a big family meal, I was looking for more salad, soup, meat with gravy….  I prefer to fill up on real foods.

Yet, now that I’m eating no sugar, I’m craving it.  But if I eat enough to feel truly satisfied, my craving goes away.  It led me to some thoughts on sugar cravings.

New research published in the British Journal of Medicine indicates that people can taste six different things: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, protein (yes, really) and fat.  The researchers found that people have receptors on their tongues that can taste fat, and it may be a key to us feeling satiated — getting enough fat.  I disagree with their conclusion — that people who are most sensitive to it eat a lot less of it and therefore don’t get fat — but the research is extremely interesting.  I think it’s more likely that those who are more sensitive to it eat the right amount for their bodies, while those who aren’t sensitive to it have become that way because they’ve been eating wrong for years (wrong kind of fats, too much sugar, etc.) and their bodies basically ignore it.  It’s likely that if people are eating the right kinds of fats, and their body detects it, that this ability to “taste” the fat is sending signals to the brain that helps to regulate hormones, including leptin, which controls appetite.  So fat is really a very important part of our diet, and this research shows how it functions.

My thought is that if we are not getting enough fat, that our body doesn’t taste it and sends a message that we need more.  We’ve been programmed to eat sugar instead of fat now (how do you think those “fat free” products taste so good?), so if we don’t get the fat we need, we binge on sugar instead.  All that extra sugar puts a strain on our bodies, causing higher cholesterol, weight gain, diabetes, etc.  But it all has to do with the fat we are — or are not — consuming.

I find that if I eat enough in general, to the point where I’m truly satisfied, that I no longer crave sugar.  If I’m left a bit hungry after meals, the sugar craving can be very strong.  I don’t think it’s really a craving for sugar at all.  I think it’s a craving for more energy, and if I don’t or won’t eat enough fat, my body wants the sugar to provide some quick energy.  But this leads to energy spikes and crashes.  It’s why most dieticians have recommended eating plenty of protein when you’re hungry instead of sugar for so long.  But up until very recently, researchers didn’t know that we could taste fat, too, not just protein.  I’m betting if people had enough fat and protein, their sugar cravings would begin to fade.

That’s not the entire picture, of course.  People have trained themselves to enjoy sweet by eating so much sugar, and sugar is addictive.  So simply eating enough protein and fat isn’t enough initially.  You have to re-train your body not to desire so much sugar.  The best way to do this is to simply go “cold turkey” and decide you won’t eat anything sweetened or containing extra sugar.  Low-sugar fruits, a small amount of raw honey, and other naturally sweet foods can be enough.  Corn and carrots taste extremely sweet if you’re not used to refined-sugar sweetened foods.  And they’re supposed to (carrots taste like candy to me!).  If you can get rid of the extra sugar for a month, then your body will get used to not having the sugar and will not crave it so much.  Ramp up the protein and fat so that you are truly satisfied and you won’t even need the sugar.

30 days later you’ll feel incredible!  Your body will become used to having the right amounts of protein and fat and not needing the sugar so much (you’ll have to limit other carbs, too, although whole grains are better than white flour, of course).  Then your body will run the way it’s supposed to.

I believe this is why we have sugar cravings so badly in our society: we eat way too much sugar and not enough fat!  Truly, it’s as simple as that.

So I challenge you: change your eating habits over the next 30 days and see how much better you feel.

Is anyone interested in a formal challenge?  A 30-day “no sugar” challenge?  Let me know in the comments section and we’ll see about it this summer….

What do you think about sugar cravings?  Do you have them?  How do you control them?

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  1. Very cool stuff. I have always had a "sweet tooth" and I still kind of do, although I like to called it a "refined sweet tooth". I don’t like overly sweet things now and I really like to experience the taste of a good dessert. However, most desserts are way too sweet to really enjoy. In most other countries, except Panama where my sister lives, desserts are not nearly as sweet as they are in the U.S. My tastes have changed so much in the last couple months, but I’m sure I need to be eating more fats as well. I’ll have to pay attention to that more. I have had many evenings where I haven’t felt truly satiated after dinner.


  2. I never used to think that carrots tasted sweet for a long time. I used to hate raw carrots! I finally stopped buying/using "baby carrots" and bought some real (full size) carrots for the first time this week. I was shredding them for salads (husband doesn’t like eating them so I have to make they really small) and tasted a little bit of a carrot and you’re right – it was incredibly sweet!


  3. Have you seen
    Cara at Health, Home & Happiness is doing a month of refined sweetener free challenge. I joined in too! It’s for the month of April, any chance you want to join in? I know you have a lot on your plate already for April though!


  4. Amen! Sugar is a major problem in our modern diet today. Way too many folks depend upon caffene and sugar to get through thier day. Its sad.


  5. Love this post! I’ve actually been refined sugar free since before November of last year. The difference is pretty fantastic. I definitely agree that natural foods now have an amazing sweet flavor (I frequently eat plain roasted sweet potato as dessert!). My struggle now is to reduce the amount of fructose I consume, even though its usually in ‘natural’ sources. Balancing all the nutrients our bodies need can be challenging sometimes. One step at a time I guess! 🙂

    ~Aubree Cherie


  6. for the past few years, my sugar cravings have been increasing. And immediately after I have something sweet, I crave something salty and vice versa. Do you have any idea why that is?


    • I am not sure. Salt, though, contains needed nutrients and electrolytes, so salt is not a bad thing to eat. You do need to choose an unrefined salt though. I like Real Salt. You might try that, and then include some probiotics and extra healthy fat, which seems to help me cut the sugar cravings.


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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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