What Should You Eat When You're Craving Sugar

By Bridget Reed
Medically Reviewed by:

Heidi Wright, BSN, RN, PCCN, and Certified Master Herbalist

What Should You Eat When You're Craving Sugar

November 03, 2023

We've all been there — suddenly, that sweet song starts playing in our head, and we find ourselves daydreaming of cookies, ice cream, junk food, and all things sugary thanks to food cravings. 

But here's the scoop: these sugar cravings aren't just whims of our taste buds… there's science behind them. 

From the brain's quest for dopamine hits to the body's blood sugar fluctuations, our craving for sweet foods is due to biology meeting emotion. So how can we fight sugar cravings and avoid overeating, and are there smarter, wholesome choices we can make to satisfy a sweet tooth? 

You have questions, and we have answers — read on to get the scoop on all things sugar cravings.

What Are Sugar Cravings?

Sugar cravings are more than just a love for sweet flavors; they are deeply rooted in our body's chemistry and brain functions. Let's take a moment to understand the “why” behind these cravings.

Brain's Reward System

Every time we eat something sweet, our brain releases dopamine—a neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure and reward. It's a way our brain says, "That was good. Let's do it again!"

Blood Sugar Regulation

Fluctuations in blood sugar can be a major trigger. After a meal rich in simple carbs, our blood sugar can spike and then crash, prompting us to seek out more sugar to stabilize it.

Emotional Comfort

Sometimes, the yearning for something sweet isn't about physical hunger. Emotional states, from stress to sadness, can make us gravitate towards sugary comfort foods.

Serotonin Production

Sugar can boost serotonin, a mood-regulating neurotransmitter. When serotonin levels are low, our body might crave sugar to help elevate our mood.

Knowing why we crave sugar is the first step to making informed choices. With this understanding, we can be better equipped to address these cravings in healthier ways.

What Are the Risks of Excessive Sugar Intake?

Frequently surrendering to those sugary urges can come with a set of risks. Here are some concerns associated with high sugar intake:

  • Weight Gain: Consuming too many sugary foods and beverages can lead to weight gain, a primary concern for many aiming for wellness and weight loss.
  • Heart Health Issues:The American Heart Association suggests that excessive sugar consumption might be linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: High sugar intake can lead to insulin resistance, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
  • Obesity:Beyond just weight gain, consistent high sugar intake can increase the risk of obesity, with its myriad of associated health challenges.
  • Blood Sugar Spikes:Frequent consumption can cause unpredictable spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, leading to mood swings, fatigue, and more.

While sugar in moderation can be part of a balanced diet, understanding these risks helps in making informed decisions and prioritizing our health.

How Can You Combat Sugar Cravings?

Maintaining stable blood sugar levels is crucial not only for energy and mood but also for curbing those intense sugar cravings. Here's how you can keep your blood sugar in check:

  • Eat Regularly:Skipping meals can cause a significant drop in blood sugar, leading to intense cravings. Regular, consistent food intake can help prevent this. Consuming small, balanced meals every three to four hours can help maintain stability.
  • Opt for Complex Carbohydrates:Unlike simple carbs, which cause rapid spikes in blood sugar, complex carbs, and whole foods, like whole grains and legumes, are digested slowly, providing a steady energy source, and providing a feeling of fullness “Complex carbohydrates are also a great source of energy, which can help when you are incorporating exercise for an active lifestyle,” adds Heidi Wright, Registered Nurse and Clinical Herbalist.
  • Incorporate Healthy Fats:Foods like avocados, nuts, and seeds not only satiate but also slow the absorption of sugar, ensuring a gradual blood sugar rise.
  • Protein Is Key: Including a good source of protein in every meal, be it Greek yogurt, legumes, or lean meats, can reduce the speed of glucose entering the bloodstream.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking ample water supports cellular functions and helps the kidneys flush out excess sugar through urine.
  • Limit Artificial Sweeteners:While they might seem like a good alternative, some artificial sweeteners can cause a hormonal response that raises blood sugar.

Taking proactive steps to stabilize your blood sugar is a holistic approach to managing cravings, enhancing overall well-being, and supporting long-term health.

What Are Some Healthy Options When You’re Craving Sugar?

For most of us, completely eliminating sweet flavors isn't realistic or even necessary. Fortunately, there are healthier ways to satisfy that sweet tooth without loading up on refined or added sugar:

  • Dark Chocolate:This treat, rich in antioxidants, offers the sweetness you crave with far less sugar content than milk chocolate. Plus, it's been linked to numerous health benefits.
  • Fruit Smoothies:Instead of reaching for sugary beverages, blend up a smoothie using whole fruits, Greek yogurt, and perhaps a sprinkle of chia seeds for added nutrients.
  • Sweet Potatoes:Naturally sweet and loaded with vital nutrients, they can be roasted, mashed, or even made into fries.
  • Natural Peanut Butter:Skip the kinds with added sugars and go for the pure, natural versions to spread on whole-grain toast or apple slices.
  • Berries: These are low in sugar compared to other fruits and are bursting with antioxidants. They're a perfect healthy snack or addition to cereals and oatmeal.
  • Legume-Based Desserts:Black bean brownies or chickpea cookie dough, anyone? They might sound unconventional, but they're delicious and packed with protein and fiber.
  • Sugar Alternatives:There are many ways to sweeten foods without the drawbacks of refined sugar. Options like monk fruit sweetener and agave nectar are gaining popularity. For those looking for a no-calorie option, a drop of our Organic Stevia Leaf Sweetener can provide a potent sweetness without impacting blood sugar levels.

Remember, the key is moderation. It's perfectly okay to indulge occasionally, but being mindful of what you choose to satisfy your sweet cravings can make a significant difference in your health journey.

What Foods Can Naturally Curb Sugar Cravings?

When you're craving that sweet treat, sometimes the best response is to offer your body a healthier alternative that satisfies the desire without causing a sugar overload. 

Some healthy foods that may naturally help curb those sugar cravings include:

  • Green Tea: Not only is green tea loaded with antioxidants and other health benefits, but it also has a natural sweetness that can help curb sugar cravings. Our Wellness Functional Tea blends the goodness of green tea with other herbs and botanicals, providing not just a subtle sweetness but also supporting overall well-being.
  • Avocados: These creamy fruits offer healthy fats that can satiate your hunger and reduce the urge to reach for sugary foods.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, and chia seeds, for example, are full of good fats and protein that can help stabilize blood sugar and reduce cravings.


At Herbaly, our core belief revolves around holistic wellness, recognizing that each dietary choice we make significantly influences our overall health and well-being. Sugar cravings, although prevalent, can be addressed effectively with the appropriate foods, thoughtful strategies, and a dedicated approach to mindfulness. 

By incorporating healthier alternatives and employing tested and effective strategies, we empower ourselves to navigate these cravings with knowledge and intention. 

Every choice, whether it's what we sip or what we consume, is a progressive step on the journey towards a balanced, health-conscious life. As we continue on this path, it's comforting to know that there are reliable options and resources available to guide and support us every step of the way.


Sugar cravings: combating a sweet tooth | Diabetes UK

3 Reasons You Crave Sweet or Salty Foods | Cleveland Clinic

Serotonin: What Is It, Function & Levels | Cleveland Clinic

How Too Much Added Sugar Affects Your Health Infographic | American Heart Association

4 Ways to Balance Your Blood Sugar - No Prescription Required! | Summa Health

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