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The Battle with Sugar on a Keto Lifestyle

Published on: May 20, 2019

The Battle with Sugar on a Keto Lifestyle

Do you ever wonder why food that tastes so good can also be harmful to your body? I’m talking about sugar. If someone let you choose between celery and a chocolate bar, your automatic choice would almost definitely be the chocolate bar. It’s as if sugar owns us. Learning how to break sugar addiction can allow you to achieve mental clarity, feel great, and be healthier overall.

Today’s guide will teach you all about sugar addiction and overcoming it. Keep reading to learn more.

What Is Sugar Addiction?

Sugar addiction is defined as the psychological dependence on sugar. When “sugar addicts” try to deprive themselves of sugar-laden foods, their cravings increase, which in turn ultimately leads to a sugar binge.

Researchers have noted that sugar dependency functions similarly to drug dependency. The fact that sugar stimulates the release of brain opioids and dopamine (chemicals that are associated with pleasure and rewards), might explain why sugar is such an addictive substance [1].

What Causes Sugar Addiction?

Unfortunately, a lot of foods that we eat are loaded with sugar - even convenience foods and items that are marketed as “natural.” Sugar is all around us, which makes it easy for us to eat sugar without realizing it. Before we know it, we’ve already developed a sugar addiction.

Sugar addiction can also get out of control if you give in to comfort foods whenever you’re stressed. Although short-term stress tends to decrease appetite, chronic stress often results in increased sugar cravings.

Prolonged physical or emotional stress causes your adrenal glands to release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol can affect your appetite and cravings, often leading you to eat sugary foods to blunt the stress response [2].

The Battle with Sugar On a Keto Lifestyle_Graphic

Sugar Addiction Signs & Symptoms

How do you know that you’re hooked on sugar? Here are four possible signs and symptoms:

1. You need more to feel satisfied.

One serving of ice cream is no longer enough. The more frequently you eat sugar, the better your body tolerates it. As a result, you feel the urge to eat a more substantial amount than before to experience that pleasurable feeling and burst of energy.

2. You gained weight.

It’s the overconsumption of sugar that can make a person gain weight, not sugar itself. Keep in mind that 1 little sugar cube (or 2.3 grams) contains approximately 9 calories.

Fructose, a monosaccharide sugar found in fruit juices, some vegetables, and many processed foods and beverages (in the form of high-fructose corn syrup), doesn’t promote satiety and may cause a stronger desire for food [3].

3. Cutting out sugar makes you feel awful.

The longer you go without sugar, the more you crave it. Aside from strong cravings, other unpleasant withdrawal symptoms may include headaches, nausea, anxiety, low energy, muscle pains, and sleep problems.

4. You may have dental caries.

Although sugar addiction doesn’t cause dental caries or tooth decay on its own, it can increase your risk by negatively affecting your oral health. Oral bacteria feed on sugar and excrete acid, and acid dissolves tooth enamel [4].

Health Conditions Associated with Sugar Addiction

More evidence shows that sugar can harm your health by increasing your risk for certain diseases. Here are 4 of the most common:

1. Obesity

Millions of people worldwide struggle with obesity. Obesity can cause death and disability. Let’s recall that obesity happens when fat accumulates excessively to the point that your health is at risk. [5].

With excess sugar consumption, it’s easy to pack on the pounds and long-term fructose consumption may increase your risk for obesity by inhibiting leptin, a hormone responsible for satiety [6].

2. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

There’s recent evidence suggesting that a high-sugar diet may promote fat accumulation in the liver. However, more studies are needed to determine whether lowering your overall sugar intake or simply avoiding products containing high-fructose corn syrup can prevent liver complications [7].

3. Certain types of cancer

Does sugar cause cancer? No, not in such simplistic terms.

However, there is certainly a link between sugar and cancer. Some well-meaning people have claimed that cancer feeds on sugar, but the evidence does not support this claim at this time.

However, excessive sugar consumption does increase your risk of being obese, and being obese is a risk factor for the development of certain types of cancer. These cancers include colon, breast, esophageal, gallbladder, and renal cancers [8].

4. Type 2 diabetes

As we’ve already discussed, sugar addiction may lead to obesity, and obesity is a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes. The excess adipose tissue (fat) in obese individuals prompts insulin resistance [9]. When this occurs, glucose (sugar) from the food you eat will accumulate in your bloodstream rather than enter your cells, and as you can imagine, this may lead to a multitude of health problems.

How the Keto Diet Can Help Break Sugar Addiction

Anyone who has tried to tame sugar cravings knows the struggle. After giving in to the craving, regret sets in, and you promise to try again tomorrow, and the whole cycle repeats. This is where we appreciate the ketogenic diet.

Essentially, keto is all about priming your body to utilize its stored fat for fuel. The keto diet achieves this by severely limiting carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. By eating more fat, your liver produces ketones, which now become your main energy source.

Nutrient-dense high-fat foods can keep you satisfied throughout the day, allowing your blood glucose levels to remain stable. By keeping your glucose levels consistent, cravings can disappear.

5 Best Tips to Break Sugar Addiction

Overcoming sugar addiction is a process. Sugar or carbohydrate cravings often happen when you are just starting the keto diet since your body has been so used to running on carbohydrates. Don’t fret - these cravings will soon become a thing of the past. Follow these tips to break the cycle:

1. Don’t cheat.

Since cravings are common when you’re still getting into ketosis, giving up and indulging in whatever high-carb treat is on your mind at the moment is always a threat. If you’re serious about becoming fat-adapted, make a firm decision not to cheat. Most importantly, keep your pantry filled with keto foods and snacks, and throw out (or donate, if you’re feeling generous) anything high-carb.

2. Identify your emotional triggers.

In Jimmy Moore’s Livin La Vida Low-Carb podcast, Karen Thomson and Emily Maguire discuss the importance of exploring your underlying feelings behind your emotional attachment to sugar [10].

Here’s the TLDR version: remember that food does not satisfy your emotional hunger. Learn healthy ways to cope with stress that do not involve sugar such as meditation, exercise, and unplugging.


3. Choose foods you love that are also keto-friendly.

Following a keto diet is like being in a relationship. For it to thrive, there has to be a “give-and-take.” That said, choose foods you like that nourish your body. What can you eat on keto that you find appealing?

There are so many delicious options to try such as eggs, beef, tuna, various cheeses, chia seeds, and more. You can even make a delicious treat out of keto ingredients. Realize that conquering sugar addiction doesn’t have to be a huge struggle!

4. Eat high-fiber foods to stay fuller for much longer.

Chowing down on donuts might satisfy your cravings, but they’ll leave you hungrier than ever. Refined carbohydrates don’t just spike your blood glucose levels, they also lack the nutrient density of complex carbohydrates, such as certain vitamins and minerals. Instead, turn to fiber.

Fiber-rich foods will fill you up while benefiting your health. These foods take longer to digest, allowing you to feel full for hours. A few low-carbohydrate foods that are high in fiber include cauliflower, broccoli, avocados, chia seeds, and greens.

5. Use a natural ketogenic sweetener.

Not all hope is lost! You can enjoy a sweet meal or beverage with a sugar-free sweetener such as stevia. The sweet extract comes from the leaves of a plant by the same name that is native to South America. Because stevia lowers your calorie consumption while satisfying your sweet tooth, it may help prevent weight gain [11].

How to Detox from Sugar

Ready to do a sugar detox on keto? To “cleanse” your body of sugar, start with the following steps below:

1. Watch out for hidden sugars.

It’s easy to say that to reach ketosis, all you need to do is avoid sugary foods and eat nutritious high-fat foods. But in reality, sugar hides everywhere. If this is your first time on keto, you’ll be surprised to find hidden sugar in salad dressings, barbecue sauces, fruit juices, fruit snacks, coffee drinks, and even restaurant food. Know how to read food labels, and always ask about the food on the menu.

2. Go cold turkey.

Cut sugar from your diet drastically. Again, be on guard for hidden sugar. Doing this can help you reach the state of ketosis faster. Keep your daily intake of net carbs to 20-30 grams per day (or whatever you have selected as your carbohydrate macro, as this may vary depending on your goal weight and activity level). If you haven’t selected your macros already, use a keto calculator to do so.

3. Have keto snacks on hand.

You don’t want to be in a situation where you have no choice but to eat something sweet and keto-unfriendly. Whether you’re traveling or at the office, make sure to pack an emergency keto snack. A few favorites include fat bombs, salted almonds, hard-boiled eggs, and seaweed sheets.


Being able to overcome sugar addiction benefits your life in many ways. Not only can you lower your risk of developing certain diseases, you’ll also likely find that you have more energy and confidence to do the things you want to do. The keto diet can be a very effective tool to help you break up with sugar once and for all. We hope you learned from this guide!


  • Sugar stimulates the brain to release feel-good chemicals. This is why we crave more sugar.
  • The abundant supply of convenience foods and prolonged stress are common reasons why people start to eat excessive amounts of sugar and become addicted to it.
  • Signs and symptoms of sugar addiction may include increased tolerance for sweet foods, weight gain, sugar or carbohydrate withdrawal, and dental caries.
  • Keeping your pantry stocked with keto foods, identifying emotional triggers, and avoiding sources of hidden sugars are some of the many strategies to detox from and overcome the need to eat sugar.


  1. Avena NM, Rada P, Hoebel BG. Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. 2007 May 18 -
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. Why stress causes people to overeat. 2012 February -
  3. Luo S... View all references

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