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Why do I crave sugar when I’m upset?

Sometimes when we crave sugar, we’re just trying to feel better — and sweet foods do provide a temporary boost. “[Sweet] substances release opioids . . . into our bloodstream, and when those chemicals bind with the receptors in our brain, we experience an intense sensation of pleasure — maybe even get a little high,” explains Alexandra Jamieson, co-creator of the Oscar-nominated documentary Super Size Me and author of four books, including Women, Food, and Desire.

A habit of turning to sweets can become an unconscious strategy for mitigating difficult feelings, says ­functional-medicine dietitian ­Katherine Wohl, RDN, IFNCP. “You naturally want to tamp down that stress response with carbs and sugar and foods that mitigate those feelings in the moment — but it backfires [in the] long term, actually making the stress response worse.”

This was excerpted from “9 Common Questions Answered About Hunger Cravings” which was published in Experience Life.

Jessie Sholl

Jessie Sholl is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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  1. It’s the trendy thing to dump on sugar. But a cucumber provides precious little comfort!

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