Some dietary supplements for sugar cravings can help minimize and reduce the urge to overeat sugar. And yet other supplements may help reduce the desire for sugar because they make your cells more responsive to glucose.
Not surprisingly, there are many research-backed nutritional supplements that can help you win the battle against sugar.
They will help reduce your sweet tooth, in other words.
Keep in mind, one of the most important things you can do to reduce sugar cravings is to eat balanced meals. You should also eat enough food at mealtimes so that the urge to snack is minimized.
And, be gentle with yourself- a little indulgence in sugar once in a while is normal.
In this post, the best supplements for sugar cravings are reviewed, the reasons we crave sugar, and food strategies to keep the cravings at bay.
Table of Contents
Supplements for sugar cravings overview
Supplements are meant to be a tool to help you manage your cravings.
It is important to know that you do have tools that can help you cut back on sugar. There are herbs, nutritional compounds, vitamins, amino acids, and minerals that can help reduce cravings directly and indirectly.
Here is a brief overview of these supplements and how they work.
As with anything, check with your healthcare provider or doctor before adding any supplements or changing your health routines. And make sure to eat well to help combat your sweet tooth too.
Gymnema Sylvestre is an herb that decreases the desire to eat sugar because it reduces the pleasing taste of sweet foods according to research [R]. This makes Gymnema stand out as one of the best-proven supplements to reduce or stop sugar cravings.
This herb also helps reduce body weight and body mass index. It also improves insulin sensitivity, and blood sugar levels, and improves glucose tolerance [R].
Chromium is an essential mineral in the body that helps metabolize sugar. Research shows that chromium picolinate reduces sugar cravings in people with some kinds of depression [R].
It also reduces food intake and food cravings in overweight women [R].
Resveratrol, an antioxidant present in red wine, has many health benefits. One impressive benefit is that it improves glucose control and insulin sensitivity, with an overall improvement in the ability to stabilize blood sugar. When blood sugar levels are stabilized, you are less likely to crave sugar.
This healthy antioxidant even helps reduce body fat, body weight, and waist circumference according to research [R].
Zinc deficiency causes cravings for sugar because it leads to impaired glucose tolerance.
Supplemental zinc helps reduce fasting glucose levels and improves glucose tolerance. As a bonus, it reduces hemoglobin A1C according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Craving sugar, specifically chocolate, is a sign that you may be low in magnesium.
Magnesium is a mineral that helps improve blood sugar levels as well as glucose tolerance according to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition [R].
Related post: Magnesium for IBS Constipation
Glutamine is an amino acid that can help improve blood sugar control and helps stabilize blood glucose levels [R].
Another beneficial effect that glutamine may have for you is that it can reduce muscle fatigue. Additionally, glutamine helps to fuel your intestinal cells, allowing for more efficient nutrient absorption.
Many people report that they stop craving sugar when supplementing with L-glutamine daily, although research has yet been conducted to support this.
Related post: 7 Best Glutamine Powders
Many people stress-eat and tend to eat a bunch of sugary foods when anxious.
But did you know that B vitamins may help reduce stress levels? B vitamins are also responsible for helping the body make energy so that your body perceives it is getting more from food.
Stress B vitamins don’t necessarily change blood glucose levels but they do help turn glucose into energy. This may indirectly reduce sugar cravings.
Make sure to choose the best natural vitamins when adding extra B vitamins.
Fish oil may help improve insulin sensitivity and cut the risk of diabetes. Taking fish oil supplements is a good long-term strategy for health and glucose management, but isn’t a quick fix for sugar cravings.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is responsible for making serotonin. Mostly sold in the supplement form called 5 HTP, tryptophan reduces cravings for sugar and increases preference for protein over carbohydrate intake [R, R].
As a bonus, 5 HTP helps many people have a happier mood. It often works best when combined with the amino acid tyrosine.
By boosting the happy brain chemical called dopamine, L-tyrosine may reduce the desire for mood-induced sugar cravings. Additionally, tyrosine may give your mood a more happy and focused feeling.
Related post: L-Tyrosine Changed My Life and it May Change Yours Too
If you are low in just about any nutrient, the body can be low in energy and will seek out sugar to compensate. Iron is no exception. Additionally, iron deficiency anemia may impair glucose metabolism in the body. This type of deficiency is very common in women of childbearing age [R].
Fiber supplements may help curb sugar cravings because they make you feel full longer and also promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
A healthy gut means fewer cravings for junk foods, including sweets, according to Psychology Today.
Related post: Best Fiber Supplement for IBS-Diarrhea
Protein supplements and protein powders may reduce sugar cravings, especially if your diet is lacking in protein [R]. This should come as no surprise because protein foods help keep you fuller longer than carbohydrates like sugar.
Probiotic foods and fermented foods undoubtedly help you crave less sugar. This is because the healthy bacteria in your gut can dictate a lot about the foods you crave. Research shows that a healthy microbiome plays a key role in keeping you from eating unhealthy foods like sugar [R].
If that wasn’t enough, probiotic supplements are helpful for mood too. This, in turn, may help reduce your food cravings.
GABA is a supplement that may help curb sugar cravings because it reduces inflammation and protects the cells that produce insulin in the body known as beta-cells [R].
What causes sugar cravings?
It is normal to crave sugar. However, intense sugar cravings and frequent eating of sugary foods aren’t. These intense cravings are caused or created by imbalances in the body and imbalances in the diet.
Often, the main cause of sugar cravings is a chronically high blood sugar level. This can be caused by insulin resistance, which makes the cells in your body perceive that they are starving for sugar.
In order to reduce blood glucose levels and stop sugar cravings, you need an ample supply of nutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins, healthy fats, and protein in your diet. Certain herbs like Gymnema Sylvestre can help balance blood sugar too and reduce the desire for sweet food.
Other causes of excess sugar consumption are stress, poor sleep, genetic tendencies to prefer sugar, and the habit of eating a lot of sugar.
High intake of sugar creeps up on you
Sugar craving is like quicksand; you may not realize you have slowly increased the amount you eat until you are entrenched in it.
Slowly but surely it begins to take over more and more of the food real estate in your diet. You need some understanding of how this happens to learn to beat sugar cravings.
No one is under the illusion that sugar is somehow beneficial for us. “Hey, I should eat more sugar, it is good for me.” Those words have never been spoken and for good reason.
Yet, sugar often slowly encroaches on healthy eating. For some of you, it becomes like a giant claw taking hold. It grabs you and dominates your diet.
Sugar cravings through the seasons
Summer can be the worst for sugar cravings, where cold treats and refreshing beverages with sweet iciness are practically everywhere, promising our bodies energy and relief from the heat.
Then shortly after that, Halloween candy saturates your cells. Before you know it, the holidays are upon you, and half of your year is resigned to battling your willpower.
Spring is spent fighting the cravings, only to be plunged back into the heat of summer again.
Even if sugar isn’t an overly sweet treat at hand, it is added to just about every food item in the store from cereals to bread and snacks.
All humans LOVE sugar
It tastes great, it instantly gratifies, and we are hard-wired to want sugar.
Yet sugary food has its grip on so many people and it really isn’t doing much for us besides instant gratification.
What is clear is that sugar is extremely difficult to avoid in modern culture. But learning to understand your own internal driving forces may be the key to keeping sugar at bay in your life.
We also eat sugar because our brains still think famine is around the corner.
We were most definitely not designed to have energy drinks, soda, cookies, candies, and sugar-infused packaged foods at every turn.
Why do we crave sugar and making better choices
We crave sugar because, from an evolutionary standpoint, it helped prevent starvation in times of food scarcity.
Humans gladly eat up every last morsel of sweet food to get through droughts, winters, and shortages. In one human’s lifespan, there would be many of these hardships in the past.
Even when getting some sugar in the past, people mostly ate honey, as cane sugar was rare.
Honey, by the way, is a much better option than sugar. Additionally, it’s better to reach for some fresh fruit or dried fruit instead of sweetened beverages or foods. This will help balance your microbiome to result in fewer cravings in the long run.
The problem with excess sugar
Since the early 1900s, people have almost tripled their sugar consumption, and the levels of intake go unabated today. The average intake of sugar calories per day is 300 calories. That is the equivalent of almost 1/3 cup of sugar per day. Evolution tells us to eat up.
Even so-called health foods sneak in a lot of added sugars. And yet here we are, faced with fighting our hard-wired desire to survive when it doesn’t really apply in a world of plenty.
Some experts argue sugar is the biggest driving force of obesity, chronic diseases, and healthcare dollars [R].
Enter the 1980s: high-fructose corn syrup hits the scene and sugar becomes more saturated in our foods than ever.
Knowing that our evolutionary wiring is designed to make us want sugar may not change the action, but education is half of the behavior change.
Packaged, processed foods are sabotaging our diet
Evolution forces us to use sheer willpower when faced with sugar everywhere, and a “just say no” mentality at most turns.
We really aren’t meant to be faced with excess sugar at every turn.
Sure, we can occasionally indulge in small amounts of sugar when it really counts, but external forces of packaged foods everywhere are a problem.
That’s why supplements can be a helpful tool.
How your belly bacteria dictate sugar cravings
Do residents in our gut cause sugar cravings? Some bacteria that live in our gut known as our microbiome may drive our appetite for sweet foods and increase overeating tendencies [R].
Say what? They aren’t even part of our bodies, these little bacteria. And yet they send powerful signals and transmit messages to our brains about what we should and shouldn’t eat.
Who is in charge of whom one might wonder? Some unlucky folks have high amounts of bacteria that tell them to crave and eat a lot of sugar.
Additionally, fiber from a diverse diet of vegetables and plant sources plays a big role in the proliferation of healthy gut bacteria. These foods seem to reduce cravings by helping the “healthy” bacteria in our gut thrive and also provide feelings of fullness [R].
Sugar itself causes harmful bacteria to thrive regardless of your own gut ecology [R].
It is possible that if you are able to give up sugar (and processed foods) for at least 3 weeks, these bacteria start to get outnumbered by the more beneficial types that keep you lean.
Why 3 weeks? It often takes 3 weeks to develop new diet habits. Try the no-sugar challenge for 3 weeks; don’t crash diet, just eat whole foods, and in moments of sweet cravings, choose fruit or even honey to break the habit.
Honey won’t overtake your diet as it is so much less convenient than added sugars. It also has its own health rewards for the gut.
Reduce sugar cravings by fixing your diet
Sometimes sugar begets more sugar. This is because it depletes key nutrients that drive energy.
You run low on energy and then crave more sugar to compensate for the lack of energy that sugar initially caused by making you deficient [R].
Think of it like alcohol; it robs the body of nutrients like some of the B vitamins, and certain minerals as well.
Sugar causes disruption of the gut by increasing inflammation, making more insulin that causes further fatigue ultimately.
Because of this, you will need to heal yourself by switching out sugary foods for whole foods that are rich in protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals to stop the cycle.
Why you need supplements for sugar cravings
The sequence of nutritional depletion due to eating sugar is staggering. Here are the key points of how sugar robs you [R].
- Displaces nutritionally superior foods
- Decreases appetite for more nutritious food
- Depletes nutrients within the body
- Provides zero nutrition
- Causes insulin resistance.
- Insulin resistance decreases the use of glucose for energy so you crave more sugar due to a lack of energy
- Impairs the ability to burn fat
- Energy requirements are also increased due to elevated insulin levels.
- Sugar induces a state of ‘internal starvation’
- Decreases nutrient absorption due to intestinal irritation/damage
- Increases nutrient losses caused by reduced absorption, leading to diarrhea
- Damages the cellular components that help burn calories
- Produces unnatural drug-like cravings leading to a vicious cycle of continued consumption and further nutrient depletion
High-quality supplementation of vitamins, minerals, and botanicals may help offset some of the issues listed above caused by long-term sugar consumption.
This can include natural B vitamins, and minerals like chromium, magnesium, zinc, and others.
Try eliminating sugar for 3 weeks
But to really begin to change the damaging patterns that sugar causes, a diet that is committed to eliminating or drastically reducing simple sugars and processed carbohydrates is needed to change the trajectory of poor health.
Give this a try: eliminate all added sugars for 3 weeks. Commit to this time period, and you may be surprised how little you miss sugar after that.
Reduce stress to reduce sugar craving
Stress is driven by too much sugar, and stress itself amplifies sugar-eating.
The stress hormone cortisol in turn causes blood glucose to rise.
This rise in cortisol causes an increase in insulin, and drops testosterone, both of which can result in weight gain and fatigue, which circles back to craving more sugar.
Total sugar intake is related to cortisol and the amount of visceral fat, the most dangerous kind of fat in the body.
It is best to help beat stress by going against the craving and eating healthy fats, proteins, and nutrient-rich foods like greens and whole foods.
None of these foods come in a pre-made package.
Reset the stress; look at what you will and won’t tolerate as daily problems because stress doesn’t necessarily go away.
It might help to remember that another word for stress is fear. It is not healthy to constantly feel fear.
Balance circadian rhythms, chat with good friends, think positive thoughts, and visualize happy images to get through the worst of it.
Sugar is an addictive substance
You probably heard of sugar being described as a drug.
By driving up dopamine levels, sugar has similar, but more mild effects on the brain than both legal and illegal drugs.
Dopamine is very rewarding because it makes us feel good, and gives us a feeling of pleasure, so we turn to sugar again and again for the same effects.
The brain chemical dopamine also is known as the motivation neurotransmitter as it makes us feel focused and alert. Sugar also appears to affect opioid receptor binding.
As with any drug-like effect, however, dopamine has diminishing returns with sugar; it stops working, just as in drug addiction.
Poor diet, certain medications, and thyroid disorders contribute to plummeting dopamine levels and thereby make us want more sugar.
How to naturally increase dopamine without sugar
The building blocks of dopamine and serotonin are amino acids, called L-tyrosine and L-tryptophan, which might help curb sugar cravings.
You should provide the body with tyrosine-rich foods and tryptophan-rich foods.
These happen to be protein-rich foods like cheese, chicken, fish, eggs, meats, nuts, legumes, and some grains.
You can supplement these amino acids as well, which is helpful in reducing cravings.
Artificial sweeteners like aspartame or NutraSweet should be avoided as well because they seem to disrupt the ability of the brain to make dopamine and possibly other neurotransmitters [R].
Oh, the complex web our gut bacteria weaves.
Supplements for sugar cravings: summary
Awareness of our internal driving forces to eat sugar serves to empower change.
Sometimes one step at a time may help slowly gain back a balance in the diet and allow for managing cravings.
Supplements, whole foods, fermented vegetables, and probiotics may be the building blocks to achieving this balance.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 23 years as well as a book author of the new book Gut Fix and The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health, Heidi has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. She has researched supplements and natural medicine throughout her career. One of her biggest loves is helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.
Disclaimer: The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body and is shared for educational purposes only. While The Healthy RD’s posts are backed by research, you are unique. So you must seek care from your own dietitian or healthcare provider. This post is not meant to diagnose or treat any conditions. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.