Q&A: Why do I crave something sweet after a meal?

Q: I feel like something sweet to eat as soon as I have finished eating. What might be causing this? 

A: Let's admit it. We love our desserts and sweet things. Most of us almost out of reflex start hunting for something sweet after every meal. So what could be the reason behind these sugar cravings, this urge to end a meal with sweets? Lets find out…

After your meals, the main function of the body, which takes up the majority of energy, is digestion. And because digestion takes so much energy, the body craves an energy spike which it gets in the form of sugar. Sugar forms a source of quick energy.

In most cases however, the craving is mostly due to psychological reasons rather than physiological. The desire occurs out of a habit of ending your meal with a sweet. Regular consumption of foods high in sugar and fat leads to a certain neurochemical wiring in the brain that automatically triggers the craving for these types of foods. If you have always associated "meal-ending" with something sweet, it is difficult to find closure if you haven't met the need.

Post meal sugar cravings can also be due to increased production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, which is associated with mood-elevation. Consuming sugar (or other simple carbohydrates) is said to enhance the absorption of the amino acid tryptophan found in some foods. The tryptophan then enables an increased production of serotonin. Sugary desserts causes serotonin levels to rise, which make us feel happier, calmer and satisfied.

Uneven blood sugar levels after meals may also trigger these cravings. If your meal is not well balanced, and consists mainly of carbohydrates (especially simple carbs), it results in an immediate spike in the blood sugar levels, only to drop suddenly after the meal. Your body can't acclimatise to this dip in glucose levels and to get back to this soaring high, your body craves sugar. 

The cravings can also arise as a complementary need to your very salty meal you just ate. Something sweet afterwards is the body's way of trying to create balance. 

Dropping all sources of sugar from your diet, and suppressing the sweet cravings completely, may only intensify the cravings, leading you to binge on sugary items later in the day.

How to Cut Down Sugar Cravings

  1. Don't cut down on sugar completely; craving sugar after a meal is natural. There is no need to go harsh on yourself. You can still enjoy your fill of desserts, but in moderation. Have nutritious dessert to end your meal and substitute refined and chemical-based sugar with healthy substitutes like natural sugars found in fruits, dried fruits, or honey. Add natural sweetness to meals with side dishes in the form of salads.

  2. Balance out your meals: Add more complex carbohydrates and low GI foods to your meals to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, legumes and most types of fruits are some of the best sources of low GI foods. Also refrain from foods that are very high in salt content. If you aren't feeling full even after your meals, add more fiber to your diet, which will give you the satiating feeling for longer, preventing you from binging into sugary foods after meals. Having a lot of protein also helps. A balanced diet can help cut down sugar cravings

  3. Few handy techniques such as brushing your teeth immediately after eating or chewing a piece of mint can help you cut down the instant desire to consume something sugary after a meal.
Check out some of my healthier sweet treats here: https://www.vinka.co.nz/recipes/categories/snacks