Sugar cravings are a formidable opponent to anyone trying to stay on a nutritious path. Sugar cravings can attack in the middle of the day or night, and it takes the will power of a comic book hero to say no to such temptation. But what if we can identify and address the underlying reason why we feel such a need for sugar? New York internist and gastroenterologist, Dr. Niket Sonpal who is also a faculty member at Touro College of Medicine says, “If more people could learn to pinpoint the reasons why they experience sugar cravings they would have better tools to avoid breaking their nutritional goals.”
Here are Dr. Sonpal’s 7 Ways to Conquer Sugar Cravings
Drink water; you might be dehydrated.
Many people mistake thirst for sugar cravings. “We know that we want something fresh and cold and we usually identify that with sugary drinks,” says Dr. Sonpal. “When our bodies have a deficiency in fluids, it can’t efficiently breakdown glycogen, and this causes the urge to consume something sugary. In reality, what you need to do first is drink water and observe how you feel,” he explains.
Try to Decrease Your Sugar Intake Gradually
Scans have shown that sugar fuels every cell in the brain. “Our bodies view sugar as a reward. But too much of a good thing is not good at all in this case. By partaking in overconsumption of sugar you are reinforcing your body’s need for that reward, essentially becoming addicted to it,” explains Dr. Sonpal. But like many addictions, it is not a reasonable or sustainable strategy to quit cold turkey. If you feel as though you are out of control or moody without your first soft drink of the day or until you have a piece of chocolate, you need to consider slowly draining your system from that need for sugar.
Rethink social habits that drive you towards sugar
Many of us have social rituals during our day that help us destress amidst countless tasks and meetings. “If you have a standing ritual with a friend or coworker of eating a piece of cake after lunch every day or running to the coffee shop on the corner to get the most sugary caffeinated iced drink you can find, rethink those social behaviors,” says Dr. Sonpal. Try to put something else in place that is healthy but rewarding.
Evaluate your protein intake
Many famous diet plans like Paleo, Vegetarian, and Keto seek to reduce sugars in your food. Sometimes a good way to kick your sugar cravings to the curb is having some good ole’ fashion protein. “Protein reduces the speed with which your body processes sugars and in turn helps you need lower amounts to experience that reward. Eggs, black beans, broccoli, and chicken are really healthy ways to get that protein in to quench that yearn for sugar,” suggests Dr. Sonpal.
If push comes to shove, pick fruit
There will be times when your craving for sugar will be exacerbated by the stress of the day or however many days you’ve gone without consuming it. You may feel like you can have a cheat day. According to Dr. Sonpal, “Your best response to a worsening need for sugar is to eat a piece of fruit. If you get to a point where you feel frustrated, instead of eating processed sugar, eat fruit. Fruits are sweet and have natural sugar that can address your sweet tooth without throwing out your entire effort,” says the NYC gastroenterologist. With the fruit, you will get added vitamins and fiber.
Fiber is your friend
Fiber helps clean out your system, and it is processed more slowly by the body. Fiber helps you feel fuller for longer effectively reducing your craving for mid-meal snacks. “Many people will be very deliberate with their decision to reduce sugar in their meals but will ultimately cave in when their body needs a snack because a lot of the snacks we have in our pantry have sugar in them. Fiber and lots of water would help you stay full for longer periods,” Says Dr. Sonpal.
Observe your consumption of starch
Starches like white rice, white bread, pasta are complex carbs that the body process as simple carbs. They end up affecting the sugar levels in your body and feeding into your need for sugar as fuel for brain activity and energy. If you have cut out processed sugars but continue to eat an abundance of starches, then your next step is to progressively reduce your consumption of those foods as well to clean your system of the need for sugars.
Dr. Niket Sonpal is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine and Clinical instructor at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, Brooklyn who specializes in Gastroenterology. He is a graduate of the Medical University of Silesia – Hope Medical Institute in Poland. After completing his residency in Internal Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, he was selected to be the 2013‐2014 Chief Resident at Lenox Hill Hospital–Northshore LIJ Health System. Dr. Sonpal has completed his Fellowship in Gastroenterology & Hepatology at Lenox Hill Hospital and continues his work in the field of medical student and resident test preparation. He now serves as the associate program director for the Internal Medicine Residency Program at Brookdale University medical center.
Sonpal is the co‐author for the best-selling Master the Boards: USMLE Step 2 CK, Master the Boards Step 3, And Master the Boards: Internal Medicine. He is also the Chief Operating Officer for Medquest Test Prep, Director of Medical Education for Picmonic Test Prep, and a recognized expert on medical test prep.