Who doesn’t crave a sweet treat now and then? Candies, chocolates, cakes, even those sugary sodas can tempt us because they deliver a quick fix for that undeniable sugar fix. In fact, on average an adult in the United States consumes about 60 pounds of sugar each year!

For those living with diabetes, handling sugar cravings takes on a whole new level of importance, especially because for diabetics these sweet cravings can be particularly intense.

In this post, we’ll examine sugar cravings as they relate to diabetes and ways that you just might be able to battle back a little more effectively. First, let’s look at why people with diabetes can experience such strong attractions to sugary foods.


Why do people with diabetes crave sugar?

As you probably know, in people with diabetes the body does not produce insulin or react properly to any insulin that is produced. Insulin is the hormone that is necessary for the body’s cells to absorb glucose (sugar) and turn it into the energy the body needs to function properly.

Because the body cannot effectively transform sugar into energy, blood sugar rises, but the body is still not getting the energy it needs. The brain, entirely unaware that the blood is teeming with sugar, or even that a person has diabetes, signals the need for more sugar as a quick source of energy.

This is one way diabetes triggers those sugar cravings - even though more sugar is actually the last thing the body needs.

Another reason people with diabetes might feel their sweet tooth calling is hypoglycemia. This is most common among those who inject insulin or take other drugs to manage blood sugar. Sometimes, if too much medication is taken, blood sugar might fall below normal levels (70 mg/dL) triggering a craving for sugar. When this happens there are usually telltale symptoms, such as shakiness, lethargy, dizziness, and confusion. The good news is that in most cases hypoglycemia can be treated with glucose tabs or by eating a small, hard candy.


Sugar and the dopamine effect

This one isn’t just for those with diabetes, it’s for everyone. When we eat a sugary treat, the brain releases dopamine into our bodies. Dopamine is associated with addictive behavior and is also released when a person drinks alcohol or smokes cigarettes (please quit if you smoke!).

This is why people can feel a “high” or burst of happiness after eating sugar.

As you eat sugary treats more often, the body adjusts the amount of dopamine released, lowering it as the craving is satisfied. Here’s the catch, eventually to feel that same “high” feeling, a person has to consume more sugar - thus leading to intense cravings.

The more sugar consumed, the more difficult weaning off it becomes. This is often problematic for those with Type 2 diabetes who often also suffer from obesity due to a high-fat, high-sugar diet. Now, they must suddenly adjust their sugar intake and that is not always an easy thing to accomplish.


How much sugar is okay?

The truth about sugar is that it’s not an essential part of any healthy diet. Still, it’s virtually impossible to avoid it altogether. So how much sugar is okay? The American Heart Association states that the average adult male should consume no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar each day, and the average adult female should consume no more than 6 teaspoons a day. A 12-ounce can of cola typically contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar – do the math. Plus, don’t forget, if you have diabetes, sugar intake takes on a whole new meaning, as it will elevate your blood sugar level and must be factored into your daily management plan.

7 ways to beat sugar cravings

Sugar cravings are a physical response from the body; however, cravings can also be intensified by other factors. Here are seven ways you might be able to beat the sweets. 

  1. Remember, bored is not hungry

It’s not always a sweet tooth that sparks a craving. When we get bored or feel tired or even experience anxiety it can trigger a hunger response, even if we’re really not hungry. Try to catch yourself if you’re reaching for a sweet snack because you're feeling lethargic or stressed. Instead, grab a book or go for a walk or click on a meditation app. 

  1. Eliminate the sugary possibility altogether

It’s a lot harder to reach for that unhealthy snack, when there isn’t one within striking distance. When you go shopping, avoid purchasing sugary items. Instead, go for crispy veggie snacks, healthy trail mix, fresh berries, and other diabetes-friendly choices. This way, when you’re home feeling a craving, you only have good choices. Also, never go shopping while you’re hungry! It’s a sure-fire way to give into buying those less healthy options.

  1. Eat consistently throughout the day

We don’t mean eat a lot throughout the day. We mean enjoy regular healthy meals and the occasional snack in-between. This will not only help you avoid hypoglycemic, which can trigger sugar cravings, it will also keep you properly satiated, which also reduces the likelihood of needing that sweet snack. Feeling hungry for too long can lead to sudden cravings and that’s when it becomes easy to reach for a sweet snack. 

  1. Go for a walk or exercise

Did you know that exercise releases endorphins? These “feel good” chemicals in the brain can be just as fulfilling as the dopamine of eating a sugary treat. So hit the treadmill, go for a bike ride, or just take a walk around the block. It’s a lot better for you than a sugary snack and can help you improve blood sugar control.

  1. Drink more water

Not only is staying hydrated important for anyone living with diabetes, drinking water can also help you feel full and curb some of those cravings. Steer clear of sodas, sugary sports drinks, and sweet juices, as they are huge sources of added sugar. If you want to add a little flavor to your H2O, try a squeeze of lemon or lime, or go for unsweetened tea. 

  1. Avoid eating while watching TV

This is a good idea in general - whether it’s to avoid a sugar treat or overeating in general. When we’re wrapped up in our favorite show or sporting event, it’s a lot easier to lose track of what we’re putting into our bodies.

  1. Keep your blood sugar under control

One of the best ways to minimize cravings is to make sure your blood sugar is well managed with regular blood sugar testing (whether by glucose meter and compatible test strips or a continuous glucose monitoring device) and by following your doctor-prescribed treatment and medication plan. By keeping your blood sugar in check you’ll avoid blood sugar dips and spikes, which can both trigger those sweet cravings.


We hope you found this post informative and insightful. At Diabetic Warehouse, we’re committed to helping those with diabetes manage blood sugar with a complete selection of testing and treatment supplies at prices up to 65% less than those found at most pharmacies and suppliers.

Diabetic Warehouse is a trusted supplier of diabetes care products and accessories. For more information and to explore a complete range of products, including glucose meters and test strips, insulin syringes, pen needles, continuous glucose monitoring systems, and more, visit