Sugar Addiction & Cravings

Many people regularly experience sugar cravings and find themselves addicted to sugar. Cravings are driven by our brain and not by body’s need for nourishment. In today’s health scenario where obesity and other lifestyle diseases are on the rise having sugar cravings makes it all the more difficult to stick to a healthy diet.

Is sugar addictive?

Before we call sugar addictive, let us first understand addiction. The American Psychiatric Association defines addiction, in its web page for patients and family, as “a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence.”

So do you think people are compulsive sugar eaters?

How’s and Why’s of Sugar Addiction?

Sugar consumption can lead to a sudden rush of energy, a sense of satisfaction, a feeling of gratification. People enjoy the dopamine release sugar brings. People who are often low on energy, are stressed, anxious, feeling low or are depressed often fall for eating foods laden with sugar. Once someone mentally connects sugar with help providing energy, they may become dependent on it.

Also sugar is largely an integral part of our customary / celebratory / religious foods.

Signs of Sugar Addiction

The clearest signs of sugar addiction involve consumption of large amounts of food or drinks laden with sugar. The individual may eat all the time, eat to combat boredom, eat even when not hungry.

How to Counter & Come out of this Addiction

To solve a problem it is important to first realise that there is a problem. Once admitted next step is doing remedial measures.

Follow these lifestyle changes to prevent craving from setting in:

  1. Never skip a meal
  2. Reduce your sugar intake in steps (one meal at a time / one food at a time) because if you remove sugar in one go withdrawal symptoms are sure to set in.
  3. Keep healthy, wholesome, high fiber snacks at eye level. Remove all ultra-processed, sugar laden snacks from your house.
  4. Drink good amount of water as dehydration can also cause cravings.
  5. Avoid artificial sweeteners they will do more harm than good. 
  6. Sleep well. Getting proper, is important for overall health and may help prevent cravings.
  7. Avoid excess stress. 
  8. Don’t starve yourself. Preferably have small healthful snacks in between meals to prevent becoming too hungry in between meals.

What to do when craving strikes?

  1. If you get a craving at / around meal time, best is to have a meal comprising of whole cereals (whole wheat flour, brown rice, oats or millets), whole pulses and salads. A meal rich in fiber prevents sugar spike and crash. It subsequently will decrease cravings too.
  2. Exercise will release “feel good” chemicals in your brain, which can help turn the craving off.
  3. Talk to a friend or engage in some activity to divert your mind. 

If you manage to resist, do not reward yourself with another sugary snack. The cravings will get weaker over time and eventually disappear.

Trivia: Data from the India sugar trade industry shows that India is the second largest (after Brazil) producer and largest consumer of sugar in the world. 

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