How to deal with bad eating habits: Understanding sugar addiction

Ending dinner with a piece of chocolate is a nice treat, but you may need to rethink your eating habits if you often finish off a whole chocolate by yourself.

Sugar cravings can affect your overall health and may cause different complications like obesity and diabetes. Experts are still only beginning to understand the nature of sugar addiction, but studies have revealed that sugar raises dopamine levels.

In a 2005 article published in the Journal of Neuroscience, scientists reported that binging daily on sugar “repeatedly releases dopamine in the accumbens shell [a section of the brain affected by dopamine].” The findings also showed that intermittent binging on sucrose or table sugar had effects similar to addictive drugs and it repeatedly increases dopamine in the brain.

In another earlier study, researchers discovered that the repeated and excessive intake of sugar created a state “in which an opioid antagonist caused behavioral and neurochemical signs of opioid withdrawal.”

The indices of anxiety and DA/ACh (dopamine/acetylcholine) imbalance were “qualitatively similar to withdrawal from morphine or nicotine,” suggesting that the rat subjects had become sugar-dependent.

A clue to the remarkable release from sugar addiction could be explained by a 2020 study where scientists observed what happened to rats when fed a chronic high-fat diet (HFC).

The diet contained 42 percent of calories as fat, mostly lard. Researchers found that the rats with chronic HFD intake were less motivated to obtain sweet palatable foods. This reduced motivation did not seem to be linked to pleasure upon tasting sweet food because the researchers did not observe any alteration in reactivity to sweet taste.


Data suggested that chronic HFD causes a significant motivational impairment for sweet palatable foods and that these changes may be linked to “a decreased dopaminergic and cannabinoid neurotransmission in the nucleus accumbens.”

But what does it mean that the rats showed “significant motivational impairment for sweet palatable foods?”

If you make changes to your eating habits, such as trying to ease your sugar addiction, you can eventually learn how to control your bad food choices.

Instead of finishing a whole package of store-bought cookies, eat other foods that can regulate dopamine levels.

The amino acid tyrosine, which can be found in foods like beef, chicken and cheese, is the precursor to dopamine. Try a healthy diet that contains foods rich in vitamin D, B vitamins, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which contribute to healthy dopamine levels.

Bone broth contains glycine, another dopamine precursor, so make some chicken broth on a cold night.

You can also change your diet by focusing on lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut that will help provide healthy gut flora, which then produces feel-good chemicals and a fat called arachidonic acid (AA), which is unique to animal fats.

AA is the raw material out of which your body makes feel-good endocannabinoids. (Related: 6 Reasons why you’re always craving sugar, plus expert tips that can help curb sugar cravings.)

To beat a sugar addiction, you can try to follow a balanced diet that gives you steady levels of dopamine throughout the day, but make sure it’s not too low that you feel listless and depressed and not too high that it makes you agitated and anxious.

This is important because sugar triggers a whipsaw effect by sending dopamine levels high followed by a significant drop, like a bad dopamine roller-coaster where the highs are short-lived and the lows require another sugar fix.

Tips for dealing with sugar addiction

Charles Eisenstein, author of the book “The Yoga of Eating,” said many people are often worried about following a healthy diet because they don’t think they have the willpower to do so.

While willpower can help you maintain a healthy and satisfying diet, it does not really stop sugar addiction.

Eisenstein said people often use willpower to improve themselves, like making changes to their diet or bad habits. However, any effort at self-willpower is destined to fail.

If you tell yourself, “I will make myself do it,” you are fighting yourself. This makes you divided, as if on some level you do not want to do it. Eventually, when your willpower is at its weakest, “your true desires will express themselves as actions,” warned Eisenstein.

Instead, he advised that it’s better to focus on aligning “joyful, nurturing eating with the authentic needs of body and soul.”

A healthy diet isn’t meant to make you feel like you’re being punished.

Focus on nurturing eating, where you allow yourself to enjoy foods that you love but in moderation and nutritious meals until your body and brain become sufficiently nourished that you no longer crave sugar.

Instead of pitting your mind against your body by following the soulless, low-fat dietary guidelines, use your mind to teach yourself eating practices that nourish the body.

If you’re hungry, eat a meal that is delicious, healthy and filling. If you get a craving when you’re hungry, eating a healthy meal with protein-rich foods will help curb hunger.

If your cravings are bad, try distracting yourself by going for a brisk walk. This offers two benefits: One, you distance yourself from the sugary treats you are craving.

Two, the exercise will help release endorphins or “feel good” chemicals in your brain, which can also help “turn off” the cravings. If you can’t go outside, do push-ups, burpees or body-weight squats until you’re breaking a sweat.

With time, your food addictions, to sugar, chocolate, coffee or alcohol, will end because your body is getting the nutrients it needs from healthier foods and beverages.

Visit for more information about the adverse effects of consuming too much sugar.

Watch the video below to learn about monkfruit, a natural sugar substitute.

This video is from the Health Ranger Store channel on

More related stories:

Michelle Obama’s juice brand fails health standards set by her husband’s administration.

Stress can make you crave unhealthy foods, study finds.

Sugar addiction is REAL: What you need to know about this scary addictive response.

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