Is Your Sugar Craving a Vitamin Deficiency?
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Is Your Sugar Craving a Vitamin Deficiency?

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Is Your Sugar Craving a Vitamin Deficiency?

Posted a month ago

SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD

SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD

You’ve probably seen photos circulating on social media that show a long list of various junk foods, along with what your body may be deficient in when you experience a craving for that food.

But is there any merit to this idea?

Below, we’ll review the concept of cravings being caused by vitamin deficiencies. We’ll also share some information about the most common deficiencies on Keto diets, and how to get through those pesky carb cravings.

Can Vitamin Deficiencies Cause Sugar Cravings?

Nutrient deficiencies can cause cravings in some cases.

The most extreme (and common) example is pica, which is a condition characterized by craving or eating substances that aren’t actually food — like ice, corn starch, dirt, or baking soda. Pica is commonly associated with low iron levels [*].

However, other than pica and low iron levels, there’s actually very little evidence of a link between nutrient deficiencies and cravings for specific foods.

Instead, food cravings are most often related to restriction[*]. Studies have shown that restricting any of the following foods increases the incidence of food cravings for that food on a short-term basis:

  • Salty foods [*]
  • Chocolate or chocolate-flavored foods [*,*]
  • High-carb foods [*]
  • High-protein foods [*]
  • Rice [*]
  • Vanilla-flavored foods [*]

Fortunately, longer-term studies on lifestyle changes to promote weight loss show that many long-term diet changes can actually help reduce food cravings. In separate studies, low-carb diets were shown to reduce cravings for carb-rich foods over four weeks, and Keto diets were shown to reduce sugar cravings over four months [*,*].

What Vitamin Deficiencies Are Possible on Keto?

A few studies have investigated nutrient intake on Keto diets. While none of these have noted the development of full-blown nutrient deficiencies from Keto, they do detail several nutrients that people tend to consume lower amounts of once starting Keto. These include [*,*]:

  • Thiamin
  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Iodine
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium

Some of these nutrients — such as thiamin and folate — are added to flour and grain-based foods, which may explain why consumption dips when starting Keto.

However, proper planning and the addition of some dietary supplements (such as an electrolyte supplement, which provides magnesium and potassium) can help prevent low intake of certain nutrients from developing into a full nutrient deficiency.

Tips to Deal with Sugar Cravings on Keto

While sugar cravings on Keto may not be harbingers of a looming nutrient deficiency, it’s still important to address them so that you can be successful following a Ketogenic diet. Here are a few of our best tips for dealing with sugar cravings on Keto.

Up Your Fat Intake

Unfortunately, there are no magical foods that fight sugar cravings. However, ensuring that you are full and satisfied — especially when first starting Keto — may help you resist giving in to your cravings.

While it may be an adjustment to eat more fat, this can really add the “satisfaction factor” to your meals on Keto. Make sure that each meal and snack you eat contains some protein and fat, and — unless you’re on Carnivore — some fiber too. These will all help ensure that your meal is as filling as possible.

Don’t Use Keto Sweets Excessively

There are tons of Keto-friendly sweets on the market. You can probably find a Keto-friendly version of your favorite candy or treat that tastes pretty good.

However, we caution you to not depend on these foods excessively to sate your sugar cravings.

These foods are often highly-processed. And just like other highly-processed foods, they may contribute to chronic disease and also make it more difficult for you to lose weight (if that’s one of your goals) [*].

Additionally, continually indulging your cravings for sweet foods may actually make it harder to shake those cravings for good. If you can, it’s best to allow yourself to “detox” from sweet tastes for several weeks to reduce your sugar cravings.

That said, we do love Keto-friendly treats, and we think they can definitely fit into a Keto lifestyle!

Practice Intermittent Fasting

Most sugar cravings occur in the evening or late at night [*].

Adopting an intermittent fasting pattern where you stop eating at a certain time in the evening (usually directly after dinner) may help you to be able to mentally resist those late night cravings.

There are some other benefits to intermittent fasting too, especially if you’re trying to lose weight or improve your blood glucose levels.

Some common intermittent fasting patterns include: 

  • 12/12: fast for 12 hours, eat within the other 12 hours each day
  • 16/8: fast for 16 hours, eat within the other 8 hours each day
  • 20/4: fast for 20 hours, eat within a 4 hour window
  • One Meal a Day (OMAD): eat one substantial meal per day

Strictly Avoid Sugar

If you’re dealing with strong sugar cravings, you may think it’s OK to splurge on these foods once a week or every two weeks.

However, research suggests that this may actually make your cravings worse.

Short-term restriction (less than two weeks) of a particular food is associated with stronger cravings for that food. So going through a constant cycle of intermittently indulging your food cravings may just be adding “fuel” to your food craving fire.

However, strictly following a low-carb or Keto diet may start to reduce food cravings in as little as four weeks.

Therefore, “white knuckling it” through your food cravings — at least for the first several weeks — could help you get them under control much more than indulging once or twice per month.

Track Your Intake

The very first step to addressing any problem is acknowledging it and understanding the extent of it. That’s why tracking your food intake is a great idea if you’re really struggling with sugar cravings.

Seeing how sugar-rich foods affect your macros and overall calorie intake can provide some motivation to help you resist those cravings.

Best of all? Carb Manager has all of the tracking tools, community features, informative articles, and sugar-free recipes you need to thrive on Keto!