Why Do I Crave Carbs and Sugar?

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In my last series about understanding sugar I painted a pretty clear picture for you that sugar is addictive and that your body looks at carbohydrates as sugar.

Sugar is so addictive that eating just a little sets you up to want more.

To illustrate this here’s a story of an experiment my friend Molly did with me.
Back in undergrad, Molly was probably one of the most health conscious people I knew at the time.
I’ll never forget the evening during our last year when she dragged me to a bingo charity event.
Instead of traditional bingo chips to cover the spaces on the card, there were Skittles.

While playing, a few other people at the table were nibbling on the Skittles as the game went along.
At this point Molly and I were not eating the Skittles when she tells me, “Sugar is so addictive I’ll bet that anyone at this table who starts eating them can't have just one.”

She went on to explain that once we let sugar into our body it creates a surge of sorts, that taps into our brain’s reward system, making us feel the urge to eat more of the sugar.

At the time of her explaining this I had eaten a Skittle, and by the time she finished I had gobbled down a handful of them!
It was so difficult not to continue picking them from the pile in front of me.
Needless to say, she won the bet.

How Sugar Is Addictive

What Molly was explaining back then was that eating that little bit of sugar triggered an intense release of the happy hormone, dopamine, into our bloodstream.

Dopamine tells our body it’s all good, so to speak, and drives us to continue doing the thing that causes the dopamine to release.

The sugar in the food that you eat is causing you to want more sugar.

If I were in a conversation with any health-conscious person who really cares about monitoring their sugar intake, the first thing I can imagine them saying to me is something along the lines of I don’t eat a lot of added or processed sugar.

Allow me to put things into perspective for you.

Do you eat whole wheat bread? Scratch that, do you eat bread in general?
Whole wheat, white, brown, whole grain, 12-grain, Ezekiel, sourdough, wherever your preference, just 2 slices of it is equal to 2 tablespoons of sugar.

How easy is it to have 2 slices of bread? You can do that without trying.

2 slices of toast with breakfast, 2 slices for that sandwich at lunch.
Heck if you are anything like my family used to be, you'd slap a slice of bread on just about anything.

Yes, I was that person who was raised pairing a slice of lite-bread with a cold piece of chicken and walking out the door eating it as a snack (or in some cases a quick breakfast).

By the end of the day how many tablespoons of sugar have you had just by eating bread? Let's not even draw pastas, cereals, and soft drinks (yep, even the diet ones) into the picture, which can easily weigh in more tablespoons of sugar per serving than a couple slices of bread.

How to Control Sugar Cravings

In order to address your sugar/carb cravings, the best thing you can do is crowd out the sugar with healthy high quality fat.

Eating good fats is far superior to anything else you can eat when working to control your blood glucose levels and when trying to tame your cravings.

Eating fat has a number of benefits that regularly get overlooked:

  • Facilitating the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins
  • Allowing your body to easily use stored fat (hello flat tummy!)
  • Leaving you feeling full long after a meal
  • Negating the need for calorie counting (I’d rather run a marathon than count calories)
  • Not inciting an insulin response from your pancreas (like that of carbs + protein)

To tackle any sort of craving requires you to work at it.
Knowing what foods do and don’t work against you, however, makes that a whole lot easier.

By finding ways to incorporate more healthy fats into your eating style while cutting back on your refined carb sources, will make a world of positive difference to your emotions and cravings.

Eating fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardine, herring), olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed and finished butter, avocados, and the saturated fat from non-CAFO meats should do the trick.


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Jasmine Cabrera

Chisel Training + Health, Charlottesville, VA