It might be surprising that some experts have compared sugar to drugs, but studies have found that sugar can affect the reward centre of the brain in the same way as substances such as cocaine or tobacco, elevating levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin — known as ‘happy hormones’.

Luckily, Paula Werrett, registered nutritional therapist and head of undergraduate provision at ION, says that sugar addiction is fairly easy to spot.

“If you are constantly craving sweet foods, eat far more than you should and find it difficult to cut down, then you are likely to be experiencing some level of addiction,” she says.

“Often addiction to sugar is linked to low mood, emotional eating, habits or stress and anxiety.”

Tips for beating a sugar addiction

When someone is craving sweet foods, often it is because the chocolate or sweet treat is doing something that an entire meal should be doing. Werrett suggests eating three balanced meals and at regular meal times throughout the day - breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“Make sure you are including a source of good quality protein, healthy fats and lots of nutritious fibrous vegetables in each meal," she says.

"This can help to manage cravings by generating a steady source of fuel and by avoiding the energy peaks and troughs associated with high sugar foods.”

She also says that magnesium is important. “Leafy greens, nuts and seeds are important as magnesium is vital for energy production and is a common nutrient deficiency.”

When someone is craving sweet foods, often it's because the chocolate or sweet treat is doing something that an entire meal should be doing...

Further practices include chewing your food well and engaging with hunger and fullness mechanisms. For instance, consider whether you are mouth hungry (just fancying something) or stomach hungry (tummy rumbling).

“Dehydration can lead to tiredness, so make sure you drink enough water,” adds Werrett.

“There’s nothing like good quality, regular sleep either. It might be tempting to sit up all night and chat, binge-watch TV or study, but missing out on sleep during the night will impact energy levels the next day, leading to cravings for stimulants such as sugar.”

Lastly sweeteners – including honey, syrups and dried fruit - should not be treated as a get out of jail free card.

However, it is unrealistic to be able to just stop eating sweet snacks straight away. You could try baking a batch of healthier biscuits – full of nuts and dates and a little maple syrup. Although they may not be entirely sugar free, they will be higher in fibre and protein than a shop-bought alterative and can be on-hand if you really crave something sweet.

“Ultimately, curbing a sugar addiction requires a long-term approach,” says Werrett. It’s not going to work if you are in the middle of a 4pm sugar crash, but by putting implementing these foods and strategies, you may find sugar cravings recede over time.”

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