Find yourself eating sugary snacks, sweet drinks and baked goods almost every day of the week? It’s likely that you’re getting too much sugar in your diet.
Having a little bit of sweetness is perfectly normal, however too much sugar can start to effect numerous things around your body, including your blood sugar levels, your teeth and even your heart.
Struggling to reduce your sugar intake? There are ways you can beat those powerful sugar cravings. First, though, let’s take a look at why exactly we crave sugar.
Why do we get sugar cravings?
If you’ve always thought your cravings were down to having a sweet tooth, you might be surprised to learn that there is actually some science behind why we hanker after sugar.1
Firstly, sugar is classified as a carbohydrate, and research shows that eating carbs can trigger the brain to release serotonin – also known as ‘the happiness hormone’. Our brains additionally release endorphins when we taste sugar which is why we often associate eating something sweet with feeling good.
Nevertheless, having too much sugar can have numerous negative impacts on our health – from contributing to weight gain to causing tooth decay – which is why it’s best to keep our sugar intake to a minimum. In the UK, the recommended daily intake of sugar is:
- 30g for adults and teens
- 24g for kids aged 7 to 10
- 19g for kids aged 4 to 6
- There’s no guideline limit for children under the age of 4 – just avoid added sugar and sugary drinks2
Remember that natural sugars can also be bad for us if we eat them in large amounts. This includes fruit and fruit juice. As fruit releases extra sugar when it is juiced, it’s best to only have one 150ml glass per day.3
How can I avoid eating sugar?
While it can be easy to cut out unhealthy products which contain lots of added sugars, there are dozens of items which are also naturally high in sugar. When in doubt, always read the backs of packets to check the ingredients and amounts.4
If you’ve got a bit of an addiction to sugary treats, there are a few tricks you might want to adopt to lower your daily intake:
Eat something sweet with something healthy
If you easily give in to your cravings, try balancing out an unhealthy treat with something nutritious like a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit. Remember, though, that some fruit contains high amounts of natural sugar, so you’ll want to stick to less sweet options like grapefruit or berries.5
Allow yourself a sugary treat – but only a small one
Going completely cold turkey when it comes to sugar can be a miserable experience. Having a little bit of what you love is a good compromise, whether that’s one biscuit or a couple of squares of good quality chocolate. Just make sure you’re sticking to the UK sugar recommendations and opting for lower calorie options where possible.
Have a glass of water
Some research shows that dehydration can increase the likelihood of sugar cravings. If your mind is fixated on sweet snacks and your mouth is watering, have a cold glass of water.
Eat regular meals packed with protein and fibre
As sugary foods tend to be eaten as snacks, one of the best ways to limit your intake is to simply avoid snacking! To do this, make sure you’re eating healthy, balanced meals every 5 hours. Choose dishes which are high in fibre and protein as they will make you feel fuller for longer.
Go for a walk or run
One of the best ways to halt a craving in its tracks is to take your mind off it! Heading outdoors for a brisk walk or jog will not only take you out of temptation’s way, but also release endorphins in the brain which could help you manage your craving more effectively.6
Consider taking a chromium supplement
While this won’t necessary help combat sugar cravings in themselves, there is some evidence to suggest that regularly taking a supplement of chromium picolinate contributes to maintenance of normal blood glucose levels We get chromium naturally through our diet, however some people may be deficient.7
Healthy alternatives to sugar
Keen to cut out unhealthy sugars altogether? There are many healthier products out there which give you the same delicious taste. Consider8:
- Switching sugary fizzy drinks for flavoured water or no-added-sugar drinks.
- Reducing the amount of sugar you add to hot drinks or cereal, or try a natural sweetener like Stevia.
- Buying low sugar or sugar-free versions of things like breakfast cereals, fruit spreads or tins of fruit.
- Sweetening dishes with fresh or dried fruit instead of sugar or honey.
Before considering taking a supplement, it’s a good idea to have a chat with a healthcare professional or nutritionist first to make sure it’s it the right product for your needs. Want more advice on general health and your diet? Visit The Health Hub.
Last updated: 25 May 2020