You might be tempted to blame the holiday season for suddenly thinking about and craving sweets more often, but there may be some other causes for your sweet tooth in play. Here are six unexpected reasons you’re craving candy, cookies, and cake at all hours of the day. Read on to find out more and learn how to regain control over your diet as well. Also check out how to avoid holiday weight gain.
Processed food, junk food, and fast food are packed with sodium and highly addictive. These foods trigger the release of dopamine, a brain chemical that motivates us to engage in rewarding behaviors, like to keep eating more salt and sugar, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Having fewer receptors of dopamine can trigger overeating. Basically, you need to eat more in order to experience that feeling of pleasure that comes with dopamine. These foods make you feel bloated.
If you’re craving a sweet treat in the morning or afternoon, ask yourself when the last time you chugged a glass of water was. Oftentimes, when you’re dehydrated, you think you’re hungry and might look to food for an energy boost. When the body’s dehydrated, the signals that let you know whether you’re hungry or thirsty can get mixed up in your brain. That makes you more likely to reach for that doughnut or brownie in the break room for a quick hit of energy. If you recently worked out, you’re likely dehydrated but your body may be telling you that it wants sugar or carbs. That’s because you need to replace glycogen stores that were lost during your workout. Drink a tall glass of water—not a sugary beverage or coffee that could dehydrate your further. If you did an intense workout, you might need a beverage with electrolytes, but try water first to see if that does the trick.
Have you started a new extreme diet recently? Sugar is an addictive substance and when you deprive yourself of important nutrients you need, your body seeks out a quick energy hit that it knows it’ll get from the sweet stuff. That’s why when you’re not eating enough calories, you’re more likely to succumb to cravings and binge on something sweet or junk food—not a bag of raw carrots. According to one study, when rats were food-deprived daily for 12 hours, then were given 12-hour access to a sugar solution and chow, they learned to drink the sugar solution copiously, especially when it first became available each day. After a month on this intermittent-feeding schedule, the rats showed behavior similar to that of drug abusers. Simply put, when you’re on an unbalanced diet or not eating enough, your brain will push you to seek out “energy” as soon as it can to survive—likely in the form of sugary foods or drinks. Eating a balanced diet can help control sugar cravings and prevent you from overeating later.
That drive you have to seek out chocolate isn’t simply due to waning willpower. A magnesium deficiency has been associated with an intense desire to eat chocolate, because chocolate contains magnesium, according to research. Talk to your doctor about whether you’re magnesium deficient, and whether a daily supplement or eating other foods—like nuts that are rich in magnesium—would be an easy fix to address your magnesium needs.
While the low-fat diet craze was more popular in the 80’s and 90’s, if you recently decided to trim fat from your diet and picked up a ton of low-fat, fat-free, and non-fat foods from the grocery store, your sugar cravings could seem elevated. Many processed foods that tout “low-fat” or “non-fat” on the packaging have added sugar (and sodium) to help make the food taste better. One study followed a group of participants that were either on a low-fat diet or low-carb diet for two years and found that the low-fat dieters tended to report higher levels of hunger. The low-carb dieters’ preferences for high-carb foods and high-sugar foods decreased more over time than the low-fat dieters’ cravings did. Unless your doctor told you to go on a low-fat diet, keep healthy fats, like avocados, nuts, nut butters, and heart-healthy oils like coconut or olive oil in your diet, as part of your balanced meal plan to help you feel satiated and control sugar cravings.
You may have experienced sugar craving, particularly chocolate, over the years when you had premenstrual symptoms or during your period. Now, if your sugar cravings seem to be fluctuating throughout the month, it could be due to hormone changes in your body. If you’re experiencing perimenopause or menopause, an estrogen and progesterone deficiency could be driving those sugar cravings. Some women also experience changes in insulin levels and experience blood sugar swings with their hormones changes. Talk to your doctor about these symptoms, as sugar cravings may be a sign that you’re experiencing perimenopause or something else is going on with your health.
Read the full article on Doctor Oz.
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