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How to Stop Cravings for Carbs, Fats and Sugars

Updated on July 31, 2012

Food cravings are thought by many to be a preference for certain kinds of foods at particular times. In reality, there is a more scientific explanation. Most dietitians and doctors agree that the cause is a combination of emotional, biochemical and hormonal factors. To a large degree these vulnerabilities are the result of nutritional deficiencies in the body brought on by a lifestyle of eating toxic, nutrient deficient, processed foods, junk foods and beverages.

Food cravings are persistent, nagging desires to eat, which will not go away until the craving is satisfied. This can be particularly upsetting for overweight individuals who are struggling to reach a healthy weight. Fortunately, there is a way to stop cravings for these damaged high fat and simple sugar/carbohydrate foods, which can be accomplished quite easily with the some simple dietary modifications.

Major Causes of Food Cravings

The most common cause of food cravings is low blood sugar, which is caused by low calorie diets or going too many hours between meals. When blood sugar is low, exhaustion occurs and the brain signals the body that it needs an energy boost which results in sugar or carb cravings. This is a good example of the body having its signals mixed up because it creates cravings for unhealthy sugars and carbs to try to satisfy a deficiency. Blood sugar imbalances occur with over-consumption of simple carbohydrates which produce food and beverage cravings, mood swings and water retention.

Another common problem is hormone imbalance of serotonin which can bring on feelings of sadness and depression. When this happens the body signals the brain that it needs to feel good again. Cravings for sugar and simple carbohydrates develop because they produce a burst of serotonin which makes us feel good for a short time, but then serotonin levels drop back down again. This starts the sugar and carb cravings all over again and creates a vicious cycle.

Low fat or fad diets are particularly dangerous because eventually you will become more and more insulin resistant. Insulin’s function is to maintain stable blood sugar by controlling the amount of glucose that is absorbed from the bloodstream. When the body starts to become insulin resistant, it stops responding to insulin and instead takes every calorie it can and turns it into fat. So even if you eat very little you will still gain weight.

Since the body is storing energy in the form of fat, it is not getting its daily energy requirements, so it continues to signal the brain that is needs more sugar and carbohydrates, which results in continual food cravings. Insulin resistance also leads to more serious problems such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The major emotional cause of food cravings is stress. Ongoing stress leads to exhaustion which eventually fatigues the adrenal glands. When this happens the body cries out for an energy boost which triggers sugar and carbohydrate cravings.

How to Eliminate Food Cravings

The first step in eliminating food cravings is to stabilize your blood sugar:

-Keep your calorie intake at a safe level so that your body has it daily energy requirements met. Calorie intake should be no less than 1200 per day of nutrient rich food.

-Skipping meals causes a massive drop in blood sugar which is an invitation for food cravings, binges and overeating. Allow no more than 3-4 hours between meals for women and 4-5 hours for men. Rather than eating three large meals per day choose to eat 5 smaller meals throughout the day. Not only will this stabilize blood sugar but it will boost your metabolism, allowing you to burn calories more efficiently.

-Avoid simple carbohydrates because they turn into glucose too quickly causing sugar spikes. The body then overreacts and causes blood sugar levels to become depressed below normal levels. Foods to avoid are those containing refined white flour(i.e. white bread, pasta) and processed and high sugar foods(i.e. soda, ketchup).

-Avoid packaged and canned foods because they are heavily processed and contain too much sugar and salt to enhance flavor.

-Regular exercise will help reduce cravings. Mood has an impact on cravings and exercise has an influence on mood. Exercise releases endorphins which significantly improve mood. If there is a certain time of day when you get craving attacks, plan to exercise just before they occur for 20 to 30 minutes.

What to eat when you crave certain foods:

Sweets - fresh fruit, especially grapes and raisins.

Chocolate - Raw seeds, nuts and fresh fruit.

Bread - Fish, beans and nuts.

Burned food - Fresh Fruit

Carbonated drinks and soda - broccoli, cheese, mustard and kale.

Oil snacks and fatty foods - broccoli, cheese, mustard and kale.

Salty foods - fish, unrefined sea salt, raw goat’s milk

Acidy foods - Fresh fruit, raw nuts and seeds.

General overeating - nuts, seeds, fish, chicken, turkey, seeds, fresh fruit and vegetables.

Eliminating food cravings isn't difficult. However, it does require some forethought and planning. Avoiding trigger foods high in simple fats and sugars is the first step in eliminating cravings. When cravings do come, the key isn't to try to exert your will power and resist eating, but is to satisfy the craving by replacing the food craved with the appropriate healthy alternative.


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    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      I know that when I eliminated refined sugars and foods with "mysterious" ingredients, my own cravings went away. I have such a sweet tooth and when I eat things I know aren't good for me, I end up with bad cravings. Fabulous hub with great information. I didn't know people actually craved burned food. That's a new one for me. :)

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 5 years ago from The City of Generals

      Very interesting hub. Liked the way you detailed what to eat when craving certain foods. One food solves it all, fruits! Thank you. So it pays to bring along dried fruits especially when traveling as I tend to eat lots of sweets when out of the house. Useful tips. Voted up and SHARING!

    • ytsenoh profile image

      Cathy 6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      Very interesting with useful thought provoking information. Thank you. I gave you thumbs up because it was well-articulated.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 6 years ago from Dubai

      Great and useful hub, am still trying to stop craving for chocolate. Well maybe because I love chocolates and eating lots of them is really bad. I am cutting down. Voted up.

    • MissMelissaK profile image

      MissMelissaK 6 years ago from Stuart, Florida

      Very useful article. I will definitely take your advice to heart since I'm battling an addiction to sugar. Thank you.

    • Greg Sereda profile image

      Greg Sereda 6 years ago from Sandomierz, Poland


    • profile image

      Donna 6 years ago

      I see you have a lot of "friends"

    • visionandfocus profile image

      visionandfocus 6 years ago from North York, Canada

      You're absolutely right. There are so many healthy alternatives to junk food that there really is no excuse to over-eat the bad stuff. If we fill up with the good stuff first, then having a little treat once in a while won't kill us. We just have to be sensible and informed about what we put into our bodies.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Another great hub, Steve! Anyone who gets these cravings should print the last sentence of your article and tape it to their fridge door as a plan to win that battle. JAYE

    • ratnaveera profile image

      ratnaveera 7 years ago from Cumbum

      Really Great Tips for those who want to come out of the bad habit of taking frequent sweets in daily life. Thanks for telling the major causes of food cravings. Very useful Hub indeed! Thumbs Up!

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 7 years ago from Arizona

      I think part of my problem is eating meals too far apart. I will print this hub and make a concentrated effort to adjust my menus and eating schedule. You also mentioned that hormones can affect cravings as well -- so I am assuming that hormonal shifts due to menopause can contribute to cravings. Thanks for the great info!

    • profile image

      JMichaelSimpson 7 years ago

      Good info, but I feel that it should be pointed out that there is a very good argument for intermittent fasting which runs counter to the idea of "grazing" on frequent small meals a day. I refer you to the EAT STOP EAT" concept put forth by Brad Pilon, Mark Sisson and other Paleo diet advocates. I'm not saying they are right, but they claim that intermittent fasting of 24 hrs actually will increase insulin sensitivity and promote healthy weight loss. The ideas they posit might seem controversial but they back up their claims with some pretty sound clinical data.

    • GiftedGrandma profile image

      GiftedGrandma 8 years ago from USA

      Great hub...very informative. Thanks

    • profile image

      cosette 8 years ago

      i love bread (not pasta so much), so instead of having a piece of toast for a snack (even if it is whole grain), i'll have some nuts instead. i found that drinking sparkling mineral water really made me stop drinking soda. you've condensed a lot of good info into one hub - thanks!

    • profile image

      low calorie diet plan 8 years ago

      thank you

    • Paula Andrea, MA profile image

      Paula Andrea, MA 8 years ago from www.mode of cosmic

      Wow! Thanks for the invaluable information, especially the substitutes. Knowing what to eat is half the battle.

    • Sharon3rd profile image

      Sharon3rd 9 years ago from Talladega, AL

      You know, I have the exact problem you outlined. I go until 4pm in the day without a solid meal, then I turn into the Cookie Monster from Hades. I once thought I was a fly in a former lifetime, because all I want is sugar. I will have to try and do better. But, it seems to me if I eat in the am, I want to eat all day long.. and that drives me nuts, and yes.. I am overweight...

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 9 years ago

      Great hubs. Super topics. Food cravings go even deeper than simply physiology. There are emotional and spiritual roots to these cravings. That's why some people crave chocolate and other people crave sausages. A homeopath takes all this into consideration when doing a health intake, as well as, noting dreams and fears to have a holistic picture of the client. Debby [homeopath]

    • diggersstory profile image

      diggersstory 9 years ago from #1 Tourist Trap O Town USA

      Everyone is right that this is a perfect time for receiving information like this. The holidays are the most difficult with more opportunity for indulging. It's also great to be able to serve family and friends healthy meals.

      Kudos and thumbs up.

    • Constant Walker profile image

      Constant Walker 9 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

      Intelligent, healthy advice, as always, Steve. I definitely crave chocolate - especially after eating, but I'm OK with it. ;-)

    • Kulsum Mehmood profile image

      Dr Kulsum Mehmood 9 years ago from Nagpur, India

      Very educative hub Steve. I do need to control my food cravings and I intend to apply your suggestions. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Latrelle Ross 9 years ago

      Another great Hub! Thanks for the list of craving replacements. You wrote this just in the nick of time ;~D

    • Mac Mission profile image

      Mac Mission 9 years ago from bangalore

    • Stacey Mac profile image

      Stacey Mac 9 years ago from Connecticut

      Awesome! Thanks for lots of great info!

    • allshookup profile image

      allshookup 9 years ago from The South, United States

      Great hub! Thanks!

    • Barbie-Perkins profile image

      Barbie-Perkins 9 years ago from Cincinnati, OH


      Great Hub! Planning and having the right food on hand ahead of time is key to winning the food craving battle.

      Thanks for sharing , ~ Barbie Perkins

    • Kate Downs profile image

      Kate Downs 9 years ago from New England

      Good article. I have been fighting the food craving war for over a decade and some of this info is new to me. Thanks for this great reference.

    • profile image

      Katherine_Huether 9 years ago

      This is such a great article. Most of the time, I think that I can beat a food craving out of sheer will - but I'd much rather apply what I learned in your article to get rid of them completely. :-)

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 9 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thank you for your great tips.

    • emilclemons6757 profile image

      emilclemons6757 9 years ago from FLORIDA

      Excellente! Did you know that water, is a natural suppressant for cravings? Make sure to include at least 8-8oz glasses per day!

    • GoodRead profile image

      GoodRead 9 years ago from usa

      good read, i will be paying more attention to my blood sugar.

    • Leisa St Ledger profile image

      Leisa St Ledger 9 years ago from Australia

      Very well written article Steve. I particularly liked your suggestion of foods when experiencing certain kinds of cravings. You have offered some great food suggestions!

    • Sascha H profile image

      Sascha H 9 years ago from The Netherlands

      Again a very informative hub! Another good way to stabilize blood sugar is to ad more protein to your diet.

    • Lgali profile image

      Lgali 9 years ago

      very good info

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 9 years ago

      More valuable health tips. Thanks Steve.

    • minnow profile image

      minnow 9 years ago from Seattle

      Great hub! Thumbs up.

    • Netters profile image

      Netters 9 years ago from Land of Enchantment - NM

      Very interesting. Thank you from this diabetic. I learned some new things.