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Diet and Nutrition

Why do I crave sugar?

02/03/2000

Question:

I am a 53 year old female who craves sugar all the time... I literally cannot stop eating sugared products. Also, sometimes I suddenly get very shaky, faint, and can`t get my thoughts together, very confused. I have been thin most of my life, but within the past year have gained over 30 pounds. Any thoughts about what might be going on?

Answer:

Interesting question. It is possible that you may have hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is a rare condition where your blood sugar drops too low and you experience shakiness, irritability, poor concentration and possibly headaches. If your blood sugar is constantly low, you may "crave" sugar in order to bring it up to normal and feel better.

The types of foods you are eating are exactly the OPPOSITE of what you should be eating in order to get your blood sugar under control. Simple sugars from candy, soda and desserts make your blood sugar rise very quickly. Your body then secretes the hormone insulin to bring this blood sugar level down. The result...low blood sugar all over again!

Everything you eat changes to sugar (glucose) in your body to be used for energy. Some foods change more rapidly than others. Jelly beans become readily available glucose while a glass of milk will take much longer.

The diet that is suggested for people with hypoglycemia is very similar to a diet meant for people with diabetes (hyperglycemia). In order to get your blood sugar under better control, follow these guidelines:

1. Eat at least 3 meals/day. Meals should be 4-6 hours apart. Do not skip meals.

2. Avoid simple sugar whenever possible (regular soda, desserts, etc.). If you eat dessert, eat it immediately after a meal and not in between on an empty stomach.

3. Eat a food high in protein with all meals and snacks. Protein foods take longer to change to sugar to be used for energy in the body. High protein foods include lean beef, poultry, fish, low fat dairy foods, dried beans and peas and tofu.

4. Choose high fiber, whole grain foods whenever possible. These foods have a low glycemic index, which means they don`t make your blood sugar rise as quickly as simple sugar. Choose brown rice over white, whole wheat bread vs white, etc.

5. Have juice or fruit WITH meals and not between. Fruit & juice are 100% carbohydrate, which make your blood sugar rise more quickly.

6. Get regular exercise. This will help curb your sugar cravings and maintain better blood sugar levels. It may also help you lose the extra weight you`ve gained.

7. Limit/avoid alcohol and caffeine which can lower blood sugar levels (especially on an empty stomach).

If your symptoms do not improve after changing your diet for a week or so, check with your doctor to see what may be wrong with you. Best of luck!

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Response by:

Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Adjunct Faculty
University of Cincinnati