Why Do I Crave Sugar After My Meals?
Nutrition • August 29, 2022 • 11min read
- The human body is used to eating sweet foods from earlier times, and the desire is still present in modern individuals
- The reasons for sugar cravings may be physiological and psychological
- The feeling of reward misleads us to eat more and more sweet foods
- Imbalanced eating of sweets may trigger numerous health conditions such as diabetes, cardiometabolic disorder, and even obesity
- Though the brain and body are complex in their functions and desires, we can follow certain steps to stop sugar cravings for our health
- There are 4 reasons why we crave sweets after meals
It seems like we have “separate stomachs” for sweets, isn’t it? And there is always a place for sweets even after a big meal. Frequently, it is hard to resist the temptation and answer “no” to the waiter offering us dessert after dinner at a restaurant.
It feels like a reward for our body that served us all day and provided energy. And as scientists believe, our brains accept the sweets and the contentment after a good dessert exactly as a reward.
However, we may sometimes not like the feeling of sugar cravings, and when there is no chance to have sweets after meals, we may feel down and hungry. At some point, sugar cravings may become an addiction, and missing sweet foods may steal the entire satisfaction of a delicious meal.
Yet, sometimes the cycle of eating a salty dish, then sweets seems like an unstoppable loop. Craving sweets after eating can be devastating when we are on a strict diet, practicing intermittent fasting with meticulously balanced food intake, or trying to keep fit. We may start looking for the reasons for sugar cravings and solutions on how to get rid of the feeling.
Let us explore what causes us to want a dessert after meals and the physiological and psychological aspects behind these events. In addition, we will share some easily adaptable hacks on how to stop sugar cravings after eating.
4 Reasons You May Crave For Sugar
Numerous functions in your brain and body may make you feel an acute desire to consume high-caloric or sugary foods. According to recent studies, when you eat sugar or sweet foods, the reward system (also called the mesolimbic dopamine system) gets activated.
4 of the main reasons why you may crave sugar after meals are detailed in this article and these reasons include
- Low energy levels
- Eating wrong foods
- Habit or addiction
Eating sweets after meals makes you feel good and restore your mood. So, what is the reason for this? Dopamine, known as the “feel good” hormone increases after cookies, cakes, and other sweets. When the treatment is accepted as positive by the brain, you get used to that reward of dopamine increase and crave more and more sugar afterward. This may also cause addiction to sugar or palatable foods (foods that are pleasant to your palate and, usually contain sugar, high fat, and strong flavorings).
Moving on, let us discuss each of these 4 reasons for sugar cravings separately. And find ways to combat this desire for better health and lifestyle.
1. Low Energy Levels May Cause Sugar Cravings
You may have noticed that after a long and tiring day sweet food is what you desire first. The reason for this is low energy levels. And to increase these levels, your body quite naturally craves glucose (aka sugar). Although sugar is a quick source of energy, it feeds your body with empty calories that later turn into fat leading to unnecessary weight gain.
Ghrelin is the “hunger hormone” that is generated in the stomach. Every time your stomach is empty it sends your brain signals through this hormone. A study suggests that low energy storage and ghrelin activation may be correlated. Thus, ghrelin is also considered to be an aspect of the reward mechanisms of food consumption. This means that the “wanting” of palatable or sweet foods can be induced due to the rise of this hormone.
Low energy levels can give rise to sugar cravings or foods the preparation of which does not require much effort. And according to the above-mentioned study, the new industrialization of foods with low energy supplies may make people crave more and more food eventually leading to unwanted weight gain.
Moreover, refined grains, meat, and foods with artificial sweeteners and refined sugar have no nutritional value. So, the consumption of these types of foods does not give you long time energy levels but leads to overeating.
How To Cut Sugar Cravings With Low Energy?
Low energy levels are comorbid with deprived sleep or lack of it, stressful conditions at work, and a sedentary lifestyle. Hence…
- You can exclude from your daily life these energy-drenching activities and may also lower sugar cravings. Exercise more and keep active to enhance your energy.
- Start your day with a cold shower. As Harvard Professor David Sinclair, a famous longevity expert suggests cold showers and morning walks may fill your energy storage for the rest of the day. In addition to that, Dr. Sinclair starts his day with NMN supplements on an empty stomach which gives him a good spike of energy.
- Every time you feel a lack of energy and every time your brain misleads you to grab a milk-chocolate bar or a piece of cake, grab a glass of water with orange, or a cup of coffee with no added sugar but with honey instead. These two beverages will give you a quick energy boost.
2. You Are Eating The Wrong
Eating sweet foods or meals high in sugar may be pleasant to your palate. However, eating that type of food will start the cycle of sugar cravings. Imbalanced use of artificial sweeteners in foods and drinks may cause addiction and excess calories.
As another side effect of this cycle of meal and sugar eating, scientists believe you might contract possible health conditions such as diabetes, cardiometabolic disorders, and obesity.
Foods that are high in carbohydrates and starch may also give a spike in blood sugar and cause more sugar cravings. So, eating a big bowl of pasta with or without sauce, refined grains, and fries you are guaranteed to desire to finish up your meal with something sweet.
The reason is the low protein levels. These types of food, though, high in carbohydrates have low or no protein value.
Hence, your body does not get enough energy from pasta or high-caloric foods with added sugar to digest the meal you have just eaten. And this is another reason linked to wrong eating habits. As digestion is a very complex process during which the food turns into energy, it requires nutritious food as a fuel.
Another reason you may want to finish up your meals with something sweet is your eating pace. If you are used to eating fast you may have noticed that after even a large bowl of any dish you might still feel hungry and crave sweets. This is a psychological trick your brain plays with you as after fast eating it does not manage to get signals from your stomach that there is enough food in it.
How To Curb Sugar Cravings With Proper Diet?
In any case, a balanced healthy diet cannot go wrong. And in this case, if you aim to curb sugar cravings you definitely need to design your balanced eating. Here is how you can do it.
- Nutritionists suggest not to refrain from sugar at all as then your body will need even more due to the imbalance of blood sugar levels. And because “forbidden fruit is sweeter”. So, you can eat a small portion of sweet food but try to make it as healthy as possible with fruits and less sugar.
- Try to include healthy carbs (quinoa, whole grains, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, lentils, and brown rice), and fruits with a low glycemic index (melon, apples, pear, cherries, strawberries, peaches, and apricots). These types of foods will maintain your blood sugar levels balanced and save you from sugar cravings.
- Instead of a big bowl of pasta with tomato or any other low protein source, enrich your plate with vegetables and even some grained nuts. If after eating your balanced plate of meals you feel hungry, do not hurry to grab a chocolate bar.
- Remember, it takes 20 minutes for your brain to catch the signals from your stomach that you are full and do not need sugar. Hence, try to consume your food slowly, and practice mindful eating to help your body receive every nutrient from your food at a slow pace. Plus, to be able to receive the signals you are not hungry.
- If you are used to eating breakfast, try to include something sweet. A small bowl of healthy, whole-grain granola may be enough to keep you away from the cupboard with sweet snacks.
- Refrain from salty foods. Chips, fries, pickles, or any fermented foods make you crave not only water but also sweets. So, add olives and unsalted cheese to your meals instead.
3. You Developed A Habit Or Addiction To Sugar
In most cases, from childhood, you are used to rounding up your dinners with a “sweet table”. And this tradition of rewarding oneself with palatable foods may trigger a new harmful habit. After all, every time you drink artificially sweetened beverages or eat fast foods with high carbs and low energy values you may get addicted to consuming them more.
Addiction is defined as a neurophysiological state of the intense and persistent urge of consuming substances that may harm your body. In the case of sugar addiction, people may be addicted to the feeling of well-being. According to the study, the regain of energy and feeling of contentment may cause sugar addiction in 5% of individuals related to DSM criteria (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
If your cupboards are filled with sweet snacks and treats to grab every time you feel hungry the chances are high that you may develop a damaging habit of eating imbalanced amounts of sugary foods.
However, scientists are adamant that sugar addiction and the habit of uncontrolled eating of sweets can be remedied.
How To Cure Sugar Addiction And Habit of Sweet-Snacking
Quitting lifelong habits may be hard. But there are still some steps you can take to change habits for your healthy lifespan.
- The indulgence of sweet eating can be hindered with healthy herbal teas. And if you do not like them flat, add some honey as a natural sweetener.
- Try to “cure” slowly. Do not be hard on yourself, permit yourself to eat what you want, but make them balanced. Lower the portion of sweet foods you eat gradually decreasing them to zero.
- Keep away the lure from the eyes. Empty the kitchen drawers filled with chocolate and cookies. By doing this you may have no urge to consume quick empty calories every time your brain misleads you.
5. Stress And Binge Sugar Eating
Stress and anxiety may cause pick levels of ghrelin inducing hunger and sugar cravings. Plus, when your brain is in a stressful state it consumes more energy and hence, requires more from food and mostly from sweets.
According to a study published in Scientific American, people who experienced childhood stress are more likely to develop a habit of eating more carbs and sweets. Another reason was the stressful condition among adults who preferred sweets over other foods to help the stressed body easily consume and digest.
The study scientists believe that the lifestyle and habits of people who eat sweets for comforting their tough feelings are not to blame in the case of stress. Though, they are several steps that may help to curb the excess want for sweet foods.
How To Stop Sugar Craving When Under Stress
As already stated, stress consumes more energy than usual and harms the body in and out. Also, it may cause binge eating of ice cream, cookies, or other unhealthy foods. To overcome stress and sugar cravings follow these steps.
- Sleep well. Yes, as simple as it is, sleep may help you balance your hormones, and ease your brain. Plus, you may gain more energy thanks to proper sleep and crave no more sweets throughout the day.
- If stress causes you to eat ice cream and watch movies, think of the following more pleasant activity. Fill in your bath with scented salt and a tablespoon of dried mustard, grab a mug of iced herbal tea with honey, and turn on some relaxing music. Look how pleasantly and easily you cope with stress and cravings.
- Make simple toasts with avocado, olives, or cheese to get a decent amount of healthy proteins. The process of making these quick snacks is relaxing and the foods themselves hinder the desire for sweet treats.
Sugar craving is a natural and ancient phenomenon. Yet, it can be a cause of picking a sugar addiction and a harmful habit. To save your healthy body and brain, try to consume palatable foods and sugary drinks in moderation. After all, your body will thank you for wise decisions and mindful eating.