Sugar addiction is a real thing. For many people, once they start eating something high in sugar, they can’t stop at a single serving. One cookie, one piece of candy, or one slice of cake can trigger insatiable cravings for more sugar and other refined, high-carb foods. It’s a vicious cycle that often leads to obesity, depression, brain fog, high blood pressure, binge eating, and many other health problems.
If you think about other addictions (e.g., alcohol, gambling), the solution is abstinence. And that same approach works when it comes to sugar. If you struggle to control your sugar intake, it’s time to remove added sugar from your diet once and for all.
Even if you are not addicted to sugar, you can still benefit from eliminating refined sugar — or sticking to natural sweeteners — from your diet. Numerous studies have shown a strong association between sugar intake from sodas, cakes, candy, etc., with type 2 diabetes.1
We Were Not Designed to Eat Refined Sugar
Sugar, especially refined sugar, is not part of our evolutionary diet — it’s actually a relatively new invention, and it acts like a refined drug in many ways. It is not a natural food.
Why is it so harmful to our health? Refined sugar is nothing but empty calories — essentially, it has no nutritional value. And the sweet stuff really throws off our sense of balance. Most concerning is that sugar creates a significant spike in glucose levels because it is absorbed so quickly. So, it spikes blood glucose levels, and as a result, it raises insulin, the hormone needed to transport blood glucose into cells for energy. And when you spike insulin, you start a cascade of problems:
- Fat formation
- Excess cortisol, epinephrine, glucagon, and other sympathetic hormones that damage the immune and cardiovascular systems, and fuel chronic inflammation throughout the body.
- Refined sugar increases Insulin Growth Factor (IGF) levels over time, which can contribute to cancer and to other health problems.
- Insulin resistance: The main issue is that with too many insulin spikes, or too much of anything, you start not reacting to it, and your cells and tissues become “insulin resistant.” That’s also why people who eat too many sweets may start to lose their sensitivity to taste a little bit. Resistance to insulin is really the root of metabolic Syndrome, aka pre-diabetes, which is beyond an epidemic right now in this country. Insulin resistance is the main mechanism for weight gain, especially in the middle section of the body. It also leads to hypertension, which we are now seeing in children and teenagers — something unheard of in the past.
- Refined sugars cause damage to the teeth and feed harmful bacteria in the gut (sugar feeds bad-for-you bacteria), leading to chronic gastrointestinal problems.
- Sugar also feeds yeast and other fungi. So, you can get stubborn fungal and yeast infections in the body, which can cause a lot of long-term problems, such as chronic fatigue, food sensitivities, low mood, sinus infections, digestive issues, mood imbalances, and joint pain.2
Why We Crave Sugar
Sugar cravings are a chemical response in the hypothalamus. When you eat a lot of sugar, you get a sense of dryness and of needing more. One of the tricks to combat sugar cravings is just to hydrate yourself — many times, when you drink enough water, sugar cravings will die down. Also, when you get a spike of insulin, cortisol, and adrenaline, all of which have an addictive nature, then everything drops very quickly after the spikes. This “sugar crash” is like when the effects of recreational drugs wear off — then the addict craves more.
From a psychological perspective, high-sugar foods provide a comforting, connective feeling, says Dr. Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc. “Sugar is a very sticky substance, and a craving for that stickiness, that binding action of the sugar, reflects how most people are lacking “earth energy” — a grounded connection to nature, our families, and our communities. We may not even be aware of it, but today our connection to the earth is very weak. So, we are craving the connections to the earth, to nature, to our core family, to our tribal family, our community. Sugar may come to replace it,” he says.
5 Nutrients That Help Reduce Sugar Cravings
body knows in its wisdom that when you get nourishment, you get minerals, and the quickest “nourishment” can come from sugars, because they metabolize the fastest. So, when you have a deficiency in minerals — especially chromium and zinc — you may experience a lot of sugar cravings. Supplementing with zinc and chromium picolinate often helps reduce sugar cravings.3
Healthy foods high in zinc include oysters and shellfish, seeds, nuts (including peanuts), dairy, and eggs; beans, green beans, oats, grapes, whole grains, broccoli, and garlic are some good sources of chromium.
The amino acid L-glutamine can help control sugar cravings when taken as a supplement as well. Also, inositol (a B vitamin) has been shown in some studies to help those with metabolic syndrome, particularly when combined with the antioxidant alpha lipoic acid.4 Even on its own, inositol is known anecdotally to take the edge off sugar cravings.
Poor Digestion Impacts Sugar Urges
You can get sugar cravings when the body has too much of a digestive burden — i.e., when you need to digest a lot, but you don’t have enough energy to do so. “This digestive weakness is often not limited to the digestive system, but also “mental digestion.” For example, if somebody must study a lot, cram for an exam, or learn a lot of math, calculus, etc., they often get cravings for sugar. As an aside, acupuncture treatments can help the sugar cravings go down, and the memory and ability to study improves,” says Dr. Eliaz.
Are There Any “Good” Sugars?
Refined, processed sugars are all bad. Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup are especially dangerous and are much worse than refined sugar. Corn syrup is such a toxic chemical that it makes refined sugar a preference — let that sink in.
Cane sugar or more natural, unrefined forms of sugar contain a small abount of fiber and nutrients (magnesium, iron, and thiamine). But fructose from natural sources — mostly fruit — can still cause problems. Having said that, when you get sugar from fruit, you are reaping the benefits of healthy vitamins and minerals, including zinc, chromium, that help with sugar metabolism. Most fruits are also high in fiber, which helps slow down a glucose/insulin spike.
Of all natural sweeteners, honey is one the most nutrient-rich. It contains beneficial enzymes and nutrients with antiseptic properties that help moisturize chronic dryness, fight infections, and supply additional nutrients.5 Be aware that for some, even honey can trigger and perpetuate sugar cravings.
How to Stop the Craving Cycle
The ideal amount of refined sugar? None. Even if you consume a small amount of refined sugar per day, it can start the craving cycle. Sweeteners of any kind are the main reason for excess weight, something many people struggling to lose weight may not be aware of.
Refined sugar is not a natural substance — it’s more like a refined drug that creates an addition. If you completely remove refined sugar from your diet for even just four days, you will notice that your sugar cravings go way down.
To reduce sugar cravings, it is important to eat enough fiber, complex carbohydrates, and especially protein.6 Adequate protein intake helps tame and reduce cravings. Healthy lifestyle measures — particularly deep sleep, regular exercise, and stress control — can each help minimize sugar cravings.
If You Still Want to Eat Sugar...
If you want to eat sugar, mix it with protein and fiber to slow down the absorption and prevent/minimize a glucose/insulin spike. “High levels of fibers, especially pectins and alginates, will slow down the absorption of sugars. If you take a lot of minerals, especially with a lot of protein, and sugar is mixed in the protein, you can have a balance between nourishment that gets absorbed slowly, and nourishment that gets absorbed quickly, and it helps to even out the process,” says Dr. Eliaz.
Eating foods high in probiotics (beneficial bacteria), including fermented foods such as sauerkraut, may help promote better sugar absorption. Fermented foods and probiotics help prevent sugars from getting absorbed as sugars, because they help pre-digest the sugars into more beneficial nutrients. So, if you eat too much sugar, try having some fermented foods to counteract sugars’ negative effects. According to Chinese Medicine, the sour taste controls the sweet cravings.
Removing refined sugar from your diet is difficult, especially in the beginning since your body will crave it for a few days. But once you turn the corner, you will notice many benefits of adopting a refined sugar–free diet — including more energy, clearer skin, brighter mood, weight loss, balanced blood sugar numbers, and enhanced mental clarity. Saying goodbye to sugar is one of the very best things you can do for your health and wellness.
Tame Sugar Cravings with ecoMetabolic
ecoMetabolic contains a broad range of nutrients, medicinal mushrooms, and herbs — including zinc and chromium — for optimal metabolic function. It helps reduce sugar cravings, boost energy, and promote healthy glucose and cholesterol levels.*
- Wang, M., Le Fang, M., Hu, Ru-Ying, et al. Association between sugar-sweetened beverages and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Journal of Diabetes Investigation. 2015 May; 6(3): 360-366
- Sugar Blues by William Duffy (Balance Publishing)
- Anton, S., Morrison, C., Cefalu, W., et al. Effects of Chromium Picolinate on Food Intake and Satiety. Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics. 2008 Oct; 10(5): 405-412
- Capassa, I., Esposito, E., Maurea, N., et al. Combination of inositol and alpha lipoid acid in metabolic syndrome-affected women: a randomized placebo-controlled trail. Trials. 2013 Aug 28;(14): 273
- S. Department of Agriculture FoodData Central: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103956/nutrients
- Leidy, H., Tang, M., Armstrong, C., et al. The effects of consuming frequent, higher protein meals on appetite and satiety during weight loss in overweight/obese men. 2011 Apr; 19(4): 818-24