What Do Sugar Cravings Mean?

We’ve all been there: rustling around in the fridge at midnight, looking for that probably eaten KitKat bar. Sugar cravings can be the most intense cravings, and can even be as strong as nicotine. An itch that can’t be scratched until you get your hands on some candy. 

The question that you may have aside from how to curb sugar cravings is, why do we have such intense sugar cravings in the first place? The answer may be something that you’re not expecting.

Are sugar cravings bad?

Ah, the age-old question. How many times have you seen an ad for that new magic pill, or been bombarded by thin insta-models promising that this tea will curb all of your cravings? Our guess is… a lot.

Your sugar cravings don’t necessarily mean that you have a sugar addiction and need to go on that new fad diet, sometimes it’s just your body telling you that you’re deficient in a specific nutrient.

For example, you may be exploring the back of your freezer for that pint of cookie dough ice cream but what you’re body really wants is healthy fats and protein. Refined carbs like white bread and pasta cause your blood sugar to spike and rapidly drop, which triggers that craving.

Instead of reaching for that pint of ice cream, try making some toast with hummus and a healthy drizzle of olive oil.

The science

Did you know that there are several different types of sugars? We’re not talking about brown vs white sugar or confectioners vs cane sugar. The science goes a little deeper than that. One thing to remember is that not all sugar is created equal. Here’s the breakdown:

Glucose: Put simply, glucose is a type of sugar that your body makes when you eat food. Your body then uses this for energy and it’s turned into blood sugar. Insulin helps move glucose through the bloodstream. Glucose is made from carbohydrate-rich foods like bread, fruit, and pasta.

Fructose: Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found in fruits, honey, and vegetables. Despite it being the sweetest natural sugar, it has a low impact on blood glucose levels. You might read fructose and immediately think of those ‘no high fructose corn syrup labels, but they are not the same thing. High fructose corn syrup is mixed with glucose.

Sucrose: Sucrose is the fancy name for just plain old white sugar. When you sweeten your coffee or bake cookies, this is most likely the type of sugar that you’re using. While it is also found naturally, like fructose, this sugar is best metabolized when eaten with high-fiber foods (think fruit, vegetables, and whole foods).

Lactose (it’s a sugar!): If you haven’t guessed, this is a natural sugar found in dairy products like yogurt and milk. We talked about lactose in this blog, but if you haven’t read that one yet here’s the condensed version. When people are lactose intolerant, it’s typically because they don’t produce enough lactase, an enzyme, to break down the lactose.

While diet culture and corporate America may have you believe that sugar is enemy #1, this isn’t always the case. Sugar is a naturally occurring compound that your body not only creates but also uses for fuel.

What is an enemy to your body is too much of one thing.

When are sugar cravings bad?

The occasional sugar craving is perfectly normal and natural. It means that your body is yelling at you to fuel up, and you really should eat a piece of fruit or a healthy yogurt. Sugar cravings are problematic when your diet consists of mostly refined carbohydrates and hardly any fruits and vegetables.

In this case, your body is also yelling at you to fuel up but instead of feeding it the fiber, proteins, and nutrients that it needs, you’re in a perpetual cycle of craving and satisfaction, then crash and burn out. Remember glucose? This is where it comes into play.

Too many refined carbohydrates turn into glucose in the body. The problem is that it converts too quickly and your body burns through it much faster. It’s like using the cheapest low-grade oil in your car. It’ll keep things running, but your engine is going to burn out faster and will need repairs much sooner than the car running on the good stuff.

Listen to your body

Sugar cravings are one of the toughest things to beat. Instead of trying to curb the craving or feeling immense guilt after putting down half a bag of gummy bears, try listening to your body; it might be trying to tell you something. 

Stay tuned for our next blog in this series, How to Beat Sugar Cravings. Want to learn more about how your body responds to sugar? Take a look at our Bloodprint Panel food sensitivity tests for an in-depth analysis.

Have Questions?