As I sit here writing, I’m tempted to get up from my desk and look for something sweet. Am I hungry? No. It just feels… needed.
For many of us, sugar is an addiction. We crave the flavor, the scent, and the ritual. Whether its the sugar in your coffee or tea, or the after-dinner chocolate, there is something inherently satisfying about sweets. But when the desire to have sugar becomes a habit (and not an occasional indulgence) we better look at why we’re reaching for the candy jar.
It turns out that it isn’t just about willpower. From your chemistry to your sleep, your day-to-day life might be creating a sugar addiction. Here are 4 surprising culprits behind your sugar addiction and 4 things you can do to help alleviate the problem.
You’re Eating Sugar to Boost Your Mood.
No surprise here, but eating carbohydrates indirectly causes an increase in the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for your moods. The problem is that when sugar is the source of your serotonin release, it ends up being a quick rise and a quick fall.
Alternative: Have your medical professional run your labs to make sure your body chemistry is okay. Everything from low vitamin D levels to an imbalance in your gut health can lead to depression. Turn to other serotonin-boosting foods and supplements including bananas, walnuts and green tea.
You’re Eating Sugar to Stay Awake.
When we’re tired we make all sorts of choices we wouldn’t make otherwise. We skip the gym. We have an extra cup of coffee. And that coffee cake looks even better than normal. Sleep deprivation actually causes a shift in our hunger hormones, making us not only hungrier but also less able to recognize when we’re full.
Alternative: Sleep! Read these tips if you’re finding yourself awake with insomnia. And if you’re tired and need to get through the day, step outside and take a walk. A ten-minute walk will revive your spirit and can also help you turn away from the sugar.
You’re Eating Sugar Because You’re Low in Iron.
Iron-deficiency, or anemia, often hits women in their child-bearing years, leaving them more exhausted than usual. And when we’re tired (see above), we turn to sugar.
Alternative: If you’re more tired than you feel you should be, have your doctor run your labs. And make sure you’re consuming enough iron-rich foods, including spinach, egg yolks, and if you eat meat, red meat. If you’re a vegetarian, cooking in a cast iron pan can do wonders for helping increase your absorbable iron intake. I like to cook everything in the cast iron pan, from my scrambled eggs to my veggie stir-fry.
You’re Eating Sugar Because Your Diet is Imbalanced.
With the number of diet theories out there, it’s no wonder that we often end up low in one macronutrient or another. Low-carb diet? You might be too low in carbs. Your body needs carbohydrates to function, as does your brain. Low-protein? If you’re a vegetarian you might find yourself with excessive sugar cravings because your body is burning through fuel much too quickly. Again, it’s a balance. You’ll want to make sure you’re getting enough protein and fat at each meal.
Alternative: If you’ve cut out carbs and are finding yourself feeling low (or the sugar cravings are coming on strong), try some low glycemic-index options, including whole grains, pumpkin, oats, or sweet potatoes. Low-protein? Make a concerted effort to add fats or proteins to each meal. Good options including whole milk Greek yogurt at breakfast, an egg at lunch, avocado in your smoothie, and a handful of nuts when the sugar cravings strike.
With her love of health and writing, Melissa has written for such publications as Shape, Natural Solutions, Yoga Journal, Self and Pilates Style, and has created recipes and food-oriented stories for such publications as Delicious Living and Cooking Light.