What Deficiency Causes Sugar Cravings? 10 Reasons Why

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What Deficiency Causes Sugar Cravings_

Do you ever feel like your sugar cravings are out of control?

You may be experiencing some of these symptoms: a lack of energy, trouble sleeping, foggy brain and more.

If this sounds like you, then it’s possible that the reason for your craving is not because you have an actual addiction to sugar, but rather because there is something wrong with your diet.

It could be any number of things and that’s why people wonder what deficiency causes sugar cravings?!

Here we list 10 reasons why someone may experience sugar cravings.

What are sugar cravings a sign of?

1 – Blood Sugar Levels Fluctuating (aka, Not Eating Enough)

blood sugar level over time with protein and fat

When blood sugar levels fall below normal (80 milligrams/deciliter), hunger increases and we crave sugary foods.

Once we eat some sugary foods, then insulin gets released from the pancreas to bring blood sugars back up to normal levels.

And once blood levels return to normal, then hunger and cravings will subside.

This is why people may feel satisfied after eating a snack or drinking something sweet like juice. Because their blood sugars are back up to their natural level again.

The solution? Make sure to have regular meals throughout the day with healthy fats. This will make it so that insulin sensitivity stays high and there’s minimal fluctuation in blood sugar levels between fasting/fed states.

2 – Water Deficiency (aka, Dehydration)

symptoms of dehydration

A common cause of low blood sugar levels and food cravings in general is dehydration, which can be caused by different reasons:

a) Dehydration from drinking too much caffeinated drinks.

Caffeine causes the body to lose fluids through urination and sweat. So if you are consuming a lot of caffeine then there will be less water in your system.

This leads to dehydration because we need an adequate amount of fluid for our bodies to function properly.

b) Too much alcohol consumption also dehydrates us!

Alcoholic beverages have diuretic properties that force more fluid out of the kidneys into urine.

So even though it may seem like these beverages are hydrating us on their own, they actually do not hydrate as well! Because they flush away all the water when they go through the kidneys.

c) Not drinking water throughout the day.

It’s easy to forget to drink water throughout the day. Here’s my trick:

Whenever I eat something I take a glass of water. Of course I forget sometimes,  but if you have a rule of thumb to always drink when you eat this will really help!

So be sure to curb your sugar craving by hydrating!

3 – Magnesium Deficiency

hershey bars with magnesium
Dark chocolate is a rich source of magnesium 🙂

According to Harvard, magnesium deficiency relates to many health impacts, including bone loss, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and more. 

It’s easy to lack magnesium and start to crave sugar. But fortunately you can easily boost your magnesium levels if you eat more magnesium-rich foods.

Some of the best sources are:

  • nuts
  • seeds
  • beans
  • leafy greens
  • dark chocolate (just don’t go crazy with it).

4 – Stress (Relaxation Deficiency)

stress eating enlightenment blog category with woman eating food and looking stressed out

The link between stress and sugar cravings is well documented.

When you’re stressed your blood sugars get out of balance and send signals for more sweet treats.

Then you’ll crave sugar because eating sugar releases serotonin, a mood-boosting hormone.

The best way I’ve found to reduce my cravings? Yoga!

Without yoga training I never was able to relax.  But now I practice yoga every day and my sugar cravings are greatly reduced.

Of course we know now how important it is not just to manage our stress but also to relax in order to take control over this craving cycle. The process starts with being mindful about what we consume, by eating low glycemic foods.

Some low glycemic foods:

  • vegetables
  • nuts
  • beans, instead of refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta

5 – Zinc Deficiency

Lacking zinc is a common cause of sugar cravings because the body needs zinc to stabilize blood sugar levels.

Zinc deficiency can lead to a variety of health problems including skin rashes, depression and low libido. Zinc is also integral for the function of almost 300 enzymes in all cells, which helps with DNA replication as well as cell division.

There are certain food sources that contain high amounts of this important mineral:

  • oysters
  • lean beef
  • pumpkin seeds
  • almonds
  • sesame seeds
  • eggs (especially egg yolks)
  • whole grains such as oats and brown rice

As an added bonus, these foods are generally lower on the glycemic index so they will not send you craving for more sweets afterwards!

6 – Sleep Deficiency

cognitive behavioral therapy for sleep disorders

Sleep and sugar both start with the letter ‘S’. But there are many more commonalities besides a single letter.

When you don’t sleep well, it throws your entire hormonal balance out of whack. Your insulin sensitivity gets reduced and this leaves the body susceptible to extra fat storage.

Not just around the hips but in places like under the chin – lack of sleep can cause a double-chin that didn’t exist before!

The most obvious things lacking from people who get deprived of their beauty rest are energy and alertness.

But if you’re not getting enough sleep and your metabolism slows down for whatever reason (stress, illness), this can lead to frequent fluctuations in your glucose levels. This in turn can cause an increase in your cravings for sugary foods.

But there’s more: hunger hormones get thrown off kilter, too, so those cravings for sweet or salty snacks become even stronger than usual.

If you need more sleep here are some tips 🙂

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Sleep, like other bodily functions, gets governed by circadian rhythms. If you sleep well then your body will soon begin to associate specific times with feeling tired or sleepy.
  • Don’t spend the hours before bed scrolling through Facebook or doing anything else that might keep you up late. The blue light from screens can interfere with melatonin production! This sets off an internal alarm clock telling you it’s not time to go doze until morning!
  • Exercise earlier in the day rather than at night.  This is especially true if exercise makes you feel energized afterward, because this can cause insomnia as well.
  • If you know what triggers nighttime trips to the bathroom (for example, caffeine intake too close to bedtime), avoid those things during evening hours.

7 – Sugar Cravings Caused By Dieting

diet cycle with forbidden

Dieting is another very common cause of all types of food cravings including sugar.

When you’re restricting your food intake to lose weight, your body responds by ramping up its hunger hormones and hankers for everything.

Sugar is a quick fix to give your body an energy boost that might last as long as 30 minutes or so before the sugar crash kicks in.

  • Don’t go on restrictive diets that force you to restrict foods for weeks at a time because this will lead to sugar cravings later on!
  • Eat enough protein every day (especially if it’s animal based). This helps reduce cravings by balancing out glucose levels and increasing serotonin production in your body.

8 – Chromium Deficiency

Lack of chromium, which is an important mineral, can also cause sugar cravings.

Here are a few quick tips to get more chromium in your body:

  • Eat foods high in chromium such as whole grains, potatoes, wheat germ and broccoli when feeling like your sugar cravings are on the rise.
  • Take a chromium supplement to regulate sugar levels. While it’s not the same as eating good food, it can help lower your cravings and keep you from consuming more sweets in one day than needed.

This mineral will also improve insulin resistance. A lack of insulin resistance causes mood swings and sluggishness that lead people right into food temptation.

But hopefully with this, there won’t be any need for those coping mechanisms anymore! And you won’t need to wonder what deficiency causes sugar cravings!

9 – Brain Fatigue

picture of woman sleeping at her desk to show how to avoid things that make you sleepy before bed

Brain fatigue is like stress, but it’s different because sometimes your brain gets tired when you are not stressed.

For example, have you ever been super-concentrated and then worked 3 hours straight?

  • I am a big fan of chess and if I’m playing chess then I can concentrate for hours on end.
  • If you’re an artist who can paint for hours on end then you can relate too!
  • Sometimes people who play videogames can likewise concentrate for hours!

But after concentrating for hours your brain needs a break. During this break your brain may start to crave sugary food.

The first reason why this can happen is because during intense concentration your brain burns many calories. In chess tournaments a player can burn 6000 calories in just 6 hours because they are concentrating so hard.  This sounds insane but it’s true!

Obviously if you burn 6000 calories you’re going to be hungry and your blood sugar levels will fluctuate.

Another reason sugar cravings come after concentrating is because your brain needs to stop thinking! And p[eople will often get food cravings for carbs too, for the same reason if they are concentrating super hard.

When you eat sugary foods your brain temporarily stops thinking about whatever you’re concentrating on!

So be sure to give your brain a break, even if you aren’t stressed 🙂

10 – Low Fat Or Fat Free Foods

Fat free is a common marketing trick. Food companies will take out all the fat but then replace all that fat with sugar!

They replace the fat with sugar so their food products are still tasty. But they conveniently forget to tell you they did this! They only place a big health sticker on front saying ‘fat free’, without mentioning the sugar.

Yogurt is a really common example of this. Just go to your store next time and grab the first ‘fat free’ yogurt you see. Look at the ingredients! I guarantee you won’t see fat but you will see a ton of sugar!

If you’re eating tons of fat free or low fat foods then you could start craving sugar because you are actually secretly eating sugar all the time!

What Deficiency Causes Sugar Cravings Conclusion:

In conclusion, there are many different deficiencies that cause sugar craving.

I suggest you really work on each deficiency one week a time. Start by getting more sleep and eating more regularly.

Then hone in on your diet to address mineral and magnesium deficiencies the next week while you’re focusing on your diet.

Then switch gears and give your brain a break and take some time during the day to destress.

Do let me know in the comments below – what deficiency causes sugar cravings for you!

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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