There are usually a variety of reasons why sugar cravings happen, which aren’t necessarily emotional but lead to quite an emotional & physical response.
Sugar Cravings are usually a sign that there is an imbalance, or the body is lacking one of the following:
Protein, especially at breakfast. Protein keeps you satiated and blood sugar balanced. Think Greek yogurt with seeds & berries or egg or bean based breakfasts as opposed to just toast and cereals.
Nutrient deficiencies, particularly in certain minerals such as zinc, chromium, iron, calcium, and magnesium, can contribute to sugar cravings. Include dark green vegetables, nuts, seeds, dairy, bony fish & avocado to obtain some of these nutrients.
Not eating enough! The body needs energy and sugar is a source. Aim for 3 meals per day incorporating protein, fibre, healthy fats and a complex carbohydrate (e.g. quinoa/wholegrain rice/buckwheat/lentils/bean) to ensure you are meeting both your macro and micro nutrient intake & adequately fueling your body
Lack of sleep increases sugar cravings. This is partly because it causes the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin to increase, which causes you to eat more sweets and sugary treats. Lack of sleep also decreases levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin.
An imbalanced gut microbiota; a lack of beneficial bacteria and overgrowth of less beneficial bacteria, alongside inflammation can cause a greater craving for sweet foods. The absence of certain strains especially if eradicated by antibiotic use has been shown to lead to binge eating of sugary foods.
High levels of the stress hormone, cortisol can disrupt blood sugar, increase cravings and disrupt oestrogen and progesterone balance. Stress and high levels of sugar impact insulin (hormone that manages blood sugar) which also affects oestrogen and testosterone
Eating sugary foods can be comforting and causes the brain to produce a high amount of dopamine, hence why sugar is strongly craved. In many people there is a great need to have this dopamine hit, especially if feeling low.
It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of eating sugar & craving it, the more you eat, the more you want. You can then end up on a blood sugar rollercoaster of spikes & troughs 🎢 feeling low in mood, tired & then craving a quick energy fix i.e sugar. This really disrupts hormones & negatively affects the gut microbiome as well as ultimately over time making insulin receptors less sensitive i.e insulin resistance
This does not mean that sugar has to be completely avoided but by following some of these tips and being mindful of reasons why sugar is craved, it's consumption can be minimised. This will result in more balanced hormones, better mood, energy and overall health, and subsequently less sugar cravings!
You can make a couple of changes at a time; going to bed earlier and including protein in your breakfast is a great start. Things like cinnamon in drinks & food support blood glucose balance & having a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar diluted in water (not neat, as can erode tooth enamel 😬) before meals is also supportive.