Do you find yourself reaching for cookies, candy, and other sweet snacks and drinks more than your family and friends? If so, you may have a genetic variant within your DNA that causes you to crave sugar more than the average person.
While ignoring these cravings can be difficult, indulging them too often will only lead to you eating too much sugar. It may feel great in the moment, but an elevated level of sugar consumption is not healthy. Increased sugar consumption has been linked to a large variety of chronic health conditions including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancers.
To help wean themselves off sugar, many people adopt a low sugar diet, which helps them feel less vulnerable to their cravings. Today, we’ll talk about how our genes affect how we experience and process sugar, and what you can do to limit the damage if you have a genetically predisposed sweet tooth.
Are Sweet Cravings Caused by Genetics?
Scientists and genomic researchers have isolated a certain genetic variant known as SLCa2, which may make an individual less sensitive to sugar. As a result, the individual typically consumes more of it, because their brain won’t tell them that they’ve had enough.
Of course, there’s more than one gene that has a hand in regulating this aspect of our taste preferences. In one study published in Cell Metabolism in 2017, researchers found that individuals with one of the two variants on the FGF21 gene were 20% more likely to enjoy and prefer sugary foods.
Between these two variants and any others that may not have been discovered yet, we can see that genetics play a large role in our sugar cravings.
Tips and Tricks for Quitting Sugar
Anyone with a sweet tooth will tell you that sugar cravings are hard to beat. Many people find that adopting a low sugar diet helps minimize their cravings as it improves their health.
A key component of adopting a low sugar diet is abstaining from sugar. This applies primarily to added sugar.
Understanding Added Sugar vs Natural Sugar
All sugars are not created equal. Our health is most negatively affected by products with added or refined sugars. A good example of these is baked goods, candy, soda, and other sugary drinks.
However, there are still lots of sugar in products that may not taste overly sweet. These products, such as white bread, are usually high in simple carbohydrates.
For individuals on a low sugar diet, opting for naturally sweet foods like fruit in moderation is the best option. Here are some more simple tips to keep in mind when trying to cut down on sugar.
1. Replace all the simple carbs in your diet with whole-grain alternatives. This includes everything from bread to pasta, tortillas, rice, and more.
2. Sugar isn’t always named in ingredient lists. Sometimes it’s called something different. Beware of ingredients that end in ‘-ose’, since this is often a chemical name for a type of sugar. Some common examples include:
3. Focus on whole foods, instead of sweet snacks. If you’re craving sugar, reach for a piece of fruit instead of a handful of candies or a sugary drink.
4. If you’re trying to cut down on sugar in the winter and fresh fruit isn’t available, try canned or frozen fruit. If you opt for canned, try to find fruit that’s stored in water, not syrup.
5. Have a list of satisfying healthy and sweet snacks available for when a craving strikes. Here are some of our favorites:
- A piece of fruit
- Low-fat yogurt and berries
- Oatmeal with mashed banana
- Babybel cheese
- A spoonful of almond butter
- Cottage cheese and berries
- Dark chocolate coated almonds
- Apples and peanut butter
A genetic sugar sensitivity shouldn’t hold you back from eating healthy. Instead of giving in to your cravings, use the tips we mentioned above to switch out the sugary staples of your diet for much healthier and naturally sweet alternatives.
To learn more about making healthier choices based on your unique genes, explore our latest offering – the Eating Insights Report.