Q: Can consuming fat help me overcome sugar cravings?
A: It’s a nice idea, but no, eating a high-fat food isn’t going to help you forget about that chocolate you’re lusting over. Fat is very satiating, so you might end up feeling full after eating your fatty food of choice, but it isn’t going to do you any favors.
Since you’re likely trying to curb your sugar cravings in order to control calories, opting for fat instead—which has more than two times more calories per gram—probably isn’t the best strategy. However, as researchers estimate that 97 percent of women and 68 percent of men have food cravings (and the other 3 percent of women and 32 percent of men are probably lying), this isn’t just something we just simply ignore.
Cravings are often for foods that we see as “forbidden.” We too often try to power through food cravings, ignoring them, shunning them, and seeing them as signs of weakness. But controlling food cravings isn’t about tricking your body into not wanting those foods. The most effective approach is to optimize the parts of your physiology that are responsible for the cravings in the first place. These three tactics will help you do just that.
1. Allow room in your diet for your cravings. You exercise frequently throughout the week, but do you refuse to sit on the couch and watch your favorite TV shows? Probably not—and you probably don’t feel guilty about doing so, either. So why act that way with your favorite sweets? If you eat ample fruits, vegetables, whole grains as needed, and protein at every meal, you can allow yourself to have some chocolate or another sweet (keeping serving size in check) to satisfy your craving.
2. Amp up the protein. Most food cravings are reward-driven, meaning that their genesis is not from your body’s physiological need for more energy or calories, but instead driven by signals from the reward centers in your brain. University of Missouri research shows that eating protein can dampen the response of the reward centers in your brain when you see high-fat and high-sugar foods that you’d normally crave.
3. Reduce stress. Consuming comfort foods is a very common way to cope with stress. Taking steps to control stress can reap big benefits when it comes to controlling cravings. First, make getting eight hours of sleep a top priority to help normalize levels of leptin, a hormone released from your fat cells that influences appetite and cravings. Also, mindfulness mediation is a very simple but effective way to reduce stress and food cravings. A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that chocolate cravings in college students was reduced after only five days of practicing mindfulness. Another 2014 study found that practicing mindfulness helped people reduce their intake of unhealthy foods presented to them when they were hungry.