What Your Sugar Cravings Might Really Mean

by Elizabeth Millard
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What Your Sugar Cravings Might Really Mean

For many people, the battle with sugar can be particularly ferocious. It can arise during an afternoon slump at work, first thing in the morning, after every meal, in the middle of a workout — or, worst, in the middle of the night. In a sugar-laden world, it becomes too easy to reach for a quick fix.

Cravings tend to crop up when there’s a sense of depletion. However, if you can pinpoint what you lack, it’s easier to make healthier choices instead of going for something sugar-coated.

Here are a few possibilities for what may be driving those sweet cravings:


For many people, a sugar craving in the form of chocolate could signal a lack of magnesium, a common deficiency according to researcher Susan Yanovski from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Yanovski says that around 80% of people in the U.S. may be deficient in the mineral, which can be tied to irritability, insomnia and high blood pressure. If you feel stressed, chocolate may seem like the answer, but it could be your body yearning for magnesium instead.

While the cacao in chocolate is a rich source of magnesium, the sugar in chocolate could turn frequent consumption into a potential problem since it causes insulin spikes and other issues. Instead of chocolate, reach for non-sugar magnesium sources like nuts, seeds, beans and dark leafy greens.


“If we are to prescribe a diet to improve someone’s health, it’s important that we understand what microbes help control those beneficial effects,” says Jeffrey Gordon biologist and professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

Sugar cravings can sometimes be the result of an imbalance in your gut health, which means that all those good bacteria in your digestive system aren’t working as happily as they could be. Compounding the problem is that eating sugary junk food makes the problem worse.

In his research, Gordon found consumption of sugary food can cause gut bacteria to become dependent on it, and cause rejection when healthier foods are introduced. That’s right: Your gut can actively sabotage your attempts to eat better. But the good news is that it can be retrained, according to Gordon.

By bringing in foods that promote healthier bacteria — particularly options with high amounts of probiotics like low-sugar yogurt and other fermented foods — the good bacteria can replace the saboteurs.



Although sleep might be part of resting, consider adding more non-snoozing time into your day instead of seeing bedtime as your only opportunity to get some stress relief.

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less,” notes that lack of adequate rest can make your body feel depleted in many ways, including nutritionally. This can kick off a need for a “boost” that might come in the form of sugar. While that may provide a temporary surge, it’s very short-lived and can quickly become a habit.

He suggests integrating short rest periods into every day, especially at times when sugar cravings are strong. For instance, instead of that afternoon pick-me-up of sugary snacks, try going for a 15-minute walk outside. Walking is a conscious form of rest, Pang says, because it offers a break from everyday stressors.

Sometimes, sugar cravings can be particularly strong when you have a combination of these factors. For example, you might feel overwhelmed at work, which leads to less-than-ideal food choices that quickly turn into depletion and fatigue.

That kind of chain reaction sets up a condition for cravings. But fortunately, you can easily create healthier habits by taking a moment when the sugar monster appears to consider what you really want instead.


  • Healthy

    Don’t forget magnesium deficiences and yes, Fitness pal needs to include magnesium as well as Vitamins D, E, and K so that users can keep track.

    • Phoebe Gale

      They stated magnesium deficiency at the very start!

      • I discontinue earning a living at shopritte and currently I am getting $75-97$ p/hour. How? I am only working online! My task did not make me satisfied thus I thought to take the opportunity on something new…after four years it wasn’t easy to end my day job but now I couldn’t be more satisfied.>>> OUOURL.COM/4rh9

      • I stop trying working at shopritte and afterwards at the moment I am making $75-97$ every hour. How? I am just working over the internet! My task did not make me pleasant and so I made the decision to take an opportunity on something new…after 4 years it wasn’t easy to end my day work however right now I couldn’t be more joyful.>>> S.ID/1dR

      • Shirley Pakulski

        I believe she meant to.list magnesium in the nutrients page of Fitbit…..it’s the.only one not listed.

    • Nancy S Rymer

      Read the article before commenting. Magnesium deficiency was listed first in all caps bold print.

      • AlbertaLady

        Why not try being nice.

    • Junior Alexander

      Guys I think he means it is not in the app! And yes I checked….it is not there!

      • Bud Leist

        I don’t think so Junior. No reference to the app is made. For many people, a sugar craving in the form of chocolate could signal a lack of magnesium……..

        • Befu

          They mentioned fitness pal.

    • Joyce

      Also potassium, please!

      • Janet Archer

        Potassium us included.

        • Sean

          Get some bananas or coconuts if you need Potassium

  • davedave12

    For me, bad eating creates craving for bad eating – a little candy, a little ice cream makes me want more

  • Vanessa A


  • Polka Becker

    this sounds like me OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HELPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!

    • Laura Evans

      I can help you if you are looking for a good magnesium solution

  • Fizzy Pops

    Walking as a break from stress at work is a great solution. I’m trying ever so hard to cut sugars out of my diet but the after-dinner cravings are a huge obstacle. I have leukemia and need as well as want to shed weight, but my post-meal habits are a major drag. Help!

    • Michele Oshman

      Best wishes for good health and I hope you kick cancer’s butt!

      • Fizzy Pops

        thank you for your kindness

  • Angie

    I crave sweets after a meal. I found that brushing my teeth instead of eating sweets sometimes helps.

    • Christine Treacy

      Ditto! Popping a piece of gum in my mouth helps me as well.

  • jennyct

    I get sugar/carb cravings because it makes me satisfied without feeling full. I have GI issues and get really uncomfortable with a regular meal. I feel better off not eating a regular meal.

    • Irisrus

      I had the same feeling when I was younger and used the same method. Now I am older, and diabetic. If someone would have warned me I don’t know if I would have listed. But I hope you can

      • jennyct

        I have perfect numbers as I keep my calories very low, so I don’t drink soda or use sugar in drinks, but I like small bites of dark chocolate and I crave carbs. I am helping/working with a buddy to lower intake. Interestingly, my family members eat more than I do (hubby throws chocolate chip cookies in basket when I am not looking). He’s of normal weight, but eats terribly! I have a science background, so I am trying to keep on the healthy side by tracking. But I do crave it!
        thanks for your response. I believe it depends on our genetics. My family has kidney, spinal and cancer issues, while my husband’s has diabetes, but otherwise a long life span.

  • Jane R. Kloner

    Excellent advise…..I don’t crave sugary foods a lot but once I have 2 or three in a few days it tends to end up a binge if I am not careful…..addiction for sure.

  • I found eating a high amount of carbs helped immensley with the cravings, but only when I was consistent. Maybe because carbs turn into glucose and that’s what I was lacking?

    • LK

      This was true for me. Low carbing for many years led me to believe that I was a severe, uncontrollable sweet tooth. Now that I’ve added whole grains into my diet I can take or leave any dessert. It’s amazing.

  • Williane Carr

    I can’t seem to get enough of sweets. Especially at night. I’ve get off this roller coater..

    • momof3

      I did a sugar salt detox. The menu I used was so bland the first week, but not the second week. Not long after, I read that you get the most flavor from the first couple of bites. After that you need more and more to get the same flavor (from sugar/salt). It really makes sense since you do have those specific taste buds and it goes with my little experiment. 🙂 Day 3 was the hardest for me, but I hear 2 is for a lot of people. After that, anything I buy I make sure it does not have added sugar listed in the ingredients. It really helps.

  • Tina Honkus

    If you are suffering fro magnesium deficiencies will this show up in your blood work? I recently had blood work done that includes checking for deficiencies and everything was fine but I was thinking maybe the magnesium is not part of the basic blood work testing.

    • Colleen Phillips

      That is correct – magnesium level testing is not part of the Basic or Comprehensive Metabolic Panel. But serum calcium, potassium, and sodium are, and usually a magnesium deficiency will cause other electrolytes to be out of balance as well. Symptoms of deficiency include muscle spasms and cramps, fatigue, high blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, as well as anxiety and depression. Dietary sources: nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables.

  • Kassandra

    People also crave an addiction, like smoking, when stressed or tired. Good article, however it doesn’t touch on the effects of sugar on dopamine levels in the brain (similar to effects from addictive substances). The magnesium aspect is interesting. When I want chocolate, don’t think dark leafy greens will satisfy that desire unless they’re dipped in chocolate lol!

  • Ann Marie Keenan

    What’s ketones ?

  • Linda Pitts

    For me I have noticed eating foods with high fuctose corn syrup makes me crave more. I realized it once when I bought some fudgsicles that were low in caleries but once I ate one I couldn’t stop and ended up eating the whole box in one evening. I looked at the ingredients on the box and high fuctose corn syrup was a primary ingredient. Since then I check the labels and try to avoid food with high fuctose corn syrup. I find it even in bread.

  • Pat

    Also misses the largest reason for craving sugar: the body’s need for water is often confused with a craving for sweets! Have a large glass of water, wait 10 minutes, most of the time the craving is gone. If not, enjoy a piece of fruit or other non-packaged / natural sugar snack.

  • Rie D. Kornum

    Magnesium to fight sugar- and chocolate cravings – Got it 🙂

    Then what about butter- and cream cravings?
    No seriously! Sometimes i just can’t stop myself. I cut off a slice of butter and eat it, or drink a mouthful of cream. Yum!

    But why?