Item added to cart
Talk with Admissions, Call +1 (513) 776-0960
IIN Blog
The Sweet ...
Published: June 8, 2024

The Sweet Truth About Managing Sugar Cravings

Share this Article:

Sugar is a carbohydrate that our body uses for energy as well as brain and cellular function; it’s naturally found in fruits and some vegetables. Added sugars found in processed foods don’t influence blood sugar levels in the same way as naturally occurring sugars do, though. Dietitian Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, explains that “natural sugars tend to elicit a slower and less pronounced glucose response (compared to added sugars), thanks to their fiber and/or protein content that slows digestion and absorption.”

Processed-food labels list sugars in grams, but what does this mean in terms of amounts? Four grams of sugar is roughly one tablespoon, so even just one serving of your favorite delicacy can be two to three times your daily allowance. Simple carbohydrates like white bread, potato chips, and cupcakes contain few to no necessary nutrients, are digested quickly, spike your sugar levels, and leave you wanting more carbs – creating a vicious cycle.

There’s a multitude of names for sugars, and those include:

  • Brown sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt sugar
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Sugar molecules ending in -ose (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
  • Syrup

The holidays are fast approaching, and this usually means an abundance of sweet treats that include candy, baked goods, and alcoholic beverages. In this season of indulgence, managing your sugar intake is an important part of your overall wellness protocol. The American Heart Association recommends limiting daily added sugar intake to six teaspoons and nine teaspoons for men and women, respectively. Americans average 17 teaspoons of sugar per day, which has been shown to contribute to the rise of chronic diseases like insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic inflammation, and obesity.

With so many variations and so much misleading information on packaged foods, it’s easy to consume more added sugar than intended. If you’ve been directed to reduce your sugar consumption due to health issues or you want to be proactive to avoid illness, having a realistic, accessible plan is imperative for success.

Why can sugar be addictive?

Sugar releases dopamine and serotonin in the brain, a process that makes us feel good in the moment and then leaves us wanting more. Sugar is converted into glucose in the bloodstream, and the hormone insulin is released to stabilize your blood sugar levels. Once this happens, we crave more sugar, and the cycle continues. Prolonged, elevated sugar intake can lead to sugar addiction. Sugar addiction can be as hard to break as an addiction to cocaine; symptoms include headaches, intense cravings, irritability, lethargy, nausea, insomnia, and bloating.

Studies have shown that people can experience withdrawal as they reduce their sugar consumption. Knowing this information is significant when navigating the options to manage sugar intake and cravings.

Sugar and diabetes

You may be insulin resistant for more than a decade before it shows up in your blood work as prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance can also cause a host of other medical problems, including metabolic syndrome, PCOS, obesity, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and cardiovascular disease.

Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) have become popular with nondiabetics as an approach to track glucose spikes throughout the day. These wearable monitors deliver accurate data specific to your body and lifestyle.

Five Ways to Combat Sugar Cravings

There are numerous ways to eliminate or curb a sweet tooth, including total elimination or detox followed by reintroduction. Susan Peirce Thompson, PhD, specializes in the psychology of eating and has worked to address food addiction and sugar cravings. Her science-backed tips include:

  1. Opt for foods with natural sugars, like fruit. The fiber in fruit slows down the absorption and minimizes the glucose spike.
  2. Avoid artificial sweeteners. Some are significantly sweeter than sugar and can disrupt gut health.
  3. Commit to two weeks of sugar abstinence to ensure results.
  4. Load up on quality protein, healthy fats, and veggies. These better fuel and satiate you, leaving less room for cravings.
  5. Consider following a plant-focused diet. Research has shown that a simple, vegetable-first diet supports decreased cravings.

Each person is bio-individual, which means the way your body responds to sugar will be different from the person next to you, and your journey to eating less sugar will depend on many factors. Listen to your body and do what feels right for you. There is no right or wrong, just trial and error; we are constantly modifying our wellness routines as needed.

Eight Ways to Balance Blood Sugar Levels

Even if you indulge in sweet treats occasionally, there are plenty of ways to support your blood sugar levels. Once you start implementing the practices that work for you, enjoy your sweet delicacies in moderation.

Get moving.

Add movement to your weekly routine, as exercise decreases insulin sensitivity. This means that exercise has the power to make insulin work smarter, not harder, keeping insulin at appropriate levels to properly shuttle sugar from the blood into your cells for fuel.

Try apple cider vinegar (ACV).

Adding apple cider vinegar to your diet may be a quick and simple way to keep your blood sugar from rising too much during the day. Recent research cites its benefits in reducing fasting glucose and A1C levels, which are markers for insulin resistance and other blood sugar issues.

Eat a well-rounded diet.

Start your day with a nutrient-dense combination of carbs, fat, fiber, and protein to promote satiety and minimize snacking. Studies have shown that eating fat and protein first and carbohydrates last during a meal can slow down the absorption of glucose, helping you stay fuller for longer.

Keep hydrated.

Dehydration can impact how your body regulates glucose levels. Increasing your daily water intake – and incorporating herbal teas such as roasted dandelion, chamomile, cinnamon, and peppermint – can help support your hydration levels during the day.

Get enough sleep.

Studies have found that getting enough good-quality sleep diminishes sugar cravings, since sleep regulates the hunger and satiety hormones ghrelin and leptin. Sleep is also beneficial for whole-body wellness.

Manage your stress.

Stress management protocols may include movement, breathwork and meditation, which has been proven to inhibit cravings

Try supplements as needed.

Speak to your doctor or wellness practitioner about supplementation before starting any new regimen. When it comes to blood sugar regulation, getting the right amount of magnesium can aid blood sugar levels and insulin function.

Choose alcohol carefully, if at all.

If you love wine or an occasional cocktail, choose wisely. Options with a low sugar content, such as merlot, chardonnay, vodka, tequila, or gin, can help you meet your goals for balancing blood sugar.

Improving Blood Sugar Levels Through Reduced Sugar Intake

If you’ve been directed to lower your sugar intake because of elevated fasting glucose or A1C levels, it’s essential that you regulate your sugar intake. And because elevated blood sugar has been linked to so many diseases, managing sugar cravings should be a priority in everyone’s diet.


The Original Health Coaching Program

Learn more about IIN’s rigorous curriculum that integrates 90+ of the world’s leading experts in health and wellness, blending the scientific and the spiritual to create an immersive, holistic health education.

The Health Coach Training Program Guide

Get your free
Sample Class today

Get the Program Overview