Five things you can do to help curb sugar cravings

There are plenty of proven methods that can help curb your sugary treat cravings
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images / Dazeley)

Are you always reaching for sweets, fizzy drinks and pastries? It's likely because your diet is overloaded with sugar.

While a touch of sweetness is perfectly acceptable, consuming too much sugar can affect different aspects of your health, including your blood sugar levels, oral health and even your heart. If you're struggling to reduce your sugar intake, there are methods available to help control those strong sugar cravings.

If you've always attributed your cravings to having a sweet tooth, you might be intrigued to learn that there's actually some science behind our 'sweet tooth' urges. Sugar is classified as a carbohydrate, and research has demonstrated that eating carbs can trigger the brain to release serotonin, often dubbed 'the happiness hormone'.

Our brains also release endorphins when we taste sugar, which explains why we frequently link eating something sweet with feeling good. However, excessive sugar consumption can lead to a range of health problems from weight gain to tooth decay - that's why it's essential to limit our sugar intake, reports the Mirror.

In the UK, the recommended daily sugar intake varies based on your age. According to the official NHS website, these are:

  • Adults should have no more than 30g of free sugars a day, (roughly equivalent to 7 sugar cubes).

  • Children aged 7 to 10 should have no more than 24g of free sugars a day (6 sugar cubes).

  • Children aged 4 to 6 should have no more than 19g of free sugars a day (5 sugar cubes).

  • There's no guideline limit for children under the age of 4. It's recommended they avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and food with sugar added to it.

How can I stop craving sugar?

While it might seem straightforward to eliminate unhealthy foods laden with added sugars, there are numerous items that naturally contain high sugar levels. Always make sure to check the ingredients and quantities on the back of packets when in doubt.

If you're someone who can't resist a sweet treat, there are several strategies you could employ to reduce your daily sugar intake. These could range from making simple substitutions to balancing your cravings for sweets with healthier habits.

The idea of completely eliminating sugar can be intimidating. Allowing yourself a small portion of what you enjoy, such as a single biscuit or a few squares of premium chocolate, is a sensible compromise.

To strike a balance, consider pairing an unhealthy snack with something nutritious like a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit. However, keep in mind that some fruits are high in natural sugars, so choose less sweet options like grapefruit or berries.

Research suggests that dehydration can lead to sugar cravings. If you find yourself constantly thinking about sweet snacks, try drinking a glass of cold water.

Since sugary foods are often consumed as snacks, one effective way to cut down your intake is to avoid snacking altogther. To achieve this, ensure you're eating fibre and protein-rich meals every five hours as they'll keep you feeling full for longer.

Distracting yourself can be a powerful tool in curbing cravings. A quick stroll or jog outdoors not only takes you away from temptation but also triggers the release of endorphins in your brain, which could help manage your craving more effectively.

A study conducted in the UK discovered that individuals who extended their sleep duration each night reduced their sugar intake by up to 10 grams the following day. Implementing good sleep hygiene practices such as avoiding caffeine after 2pm, establishing a wind down routine and maintaining a regular sleep-wake cycle may increase your sleep duration and consequently improve your food choices.

Considering a chromium supplement might also be beneficial. Although it may not directly suppress sugar cravings, there is some evidence suggesting that regular intake of a chromium picolinate supplement can help maintain normal blood glucose levels.