Theories on why we crave sugar
- Research has found that sugar has addictive properties complete with a serotonin rise and crash as well as some cranky withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal happens when the person’s body becomes so dependent on sugar that once it is removed, the person’s body reacts in an abnormal manner, which accounts for the irritability, lightheadedness and other qualities exhibited when someone is in need of a sugar rush.
- A common theory says that we evolved to crave sweet tastes in order to seek out healthy fruits to diversify our diets. The problem comes with today with an abundance of cookies, candies, etc. As with all things, there’s a reason why we crave sweets. The sweetest things on earth, back in those days before Ben & Jerry’s, were fruits: wild berries, pears and citrus fruits. Fruits are also packed with nutrients: vitamins to fend off disease, minerals to assist with cell function, and fiber to regulate hunger, control blood pressure, and help ease digestion. Without our sweet tooth, we would have been happy to eat nothing but wooly mammoth and buffalo meat. The original Atkins program. But nature saw to it that we craved the foods that would make us healthy.
- Our goal is to feed your body’s real needs. The body’s physical instinct is to fulfill all its five tastes, sweet being one.
- Sugar cravings can signal that you aren’t feeding your body properly in other ways. Lack of sleep, stress, dehydration, caffeine crashes and plain hunger go hand in hand with sugar cravings. Research has even shown that a deficiency in omega-3s can dull a person’s perception of sweetness, encouraging one to crave more sugar to satisfy the natural taste.
- Desserts is stressed spelled backwards!
- Learn to enjoy your food more. Cravings often have psychological dimensions. Just two familiar words: comfort food. Step up your game a bit to make your meals even more flavorful and satisfying, and don’t eat on the run. Also, come up with some healthy indulgences like a great tasting herbal tea around midmorning or some strawberries with cheese to get you through an afternoon slump.
- Plenty of rest, hydration, solid nutrition and exercise are essential in combating serious and chronic cravings. Notate that sugar raises serotonin levels, and that boost can easily figure into cravings. Good news: exercise raises serotonin as well. If you can, plan your workouts around the time of day when cravings tend to hit. If the cravings descend in the middle of the afternoon (as is common for many people) and can’t get away from work, find an excuse to step away and run up a few flight of stairs.
Other names for sugar
• Invert sugar
• Corn syrup
• Corn sugar
• Natural sweetener
• Corn sweetener
• Maple sugar
• Beet sugar
• Cane syrup
Tips to tackle the sweet tooth
- Try working in some fruit (preferably a low glycemic option like berries) with each meal.
- Top your oatmeal or other cereals with blueberries or sliced strawberries instead of spoonfuls of sugar
- Try bananas and berries in your milkshake instead of sugar
- Can’t go without dessert? Experiment with sliced bananas, apples and blueberries in low fat yogurt and top it off with your favorite nuts like almonds or walnuts
- By increasing your intake of fresh fruits you are adding more vitamins, minerals and fiber to your diet
- Eat three meals a day, along with low glycemic, high protein snacks (like eggs, nuts, cheese, peanut butter on a whole grain cracker, etc). Cravings for sweets can be caused by too little protein in your diet.
- Add spices to your food. Spices like cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, clove and bay leaf as well as splashes of lemon, lime or pomegranate juices will add naturally sweet flavor to your foods. Additionally, things like cinnamon and nuts will help stabilize blood sugar which can help reduce cravings.
- Drink lots of water. Keep water at your desk or on hand during the day and in the evening.
- Include chromium rich foods in your choices. These include mushrooms, peanuts, dried beans and whole grains. Some studies show that chromium assists in helping cells to adequately absorb insulin, resulting in better metabolizing of sugar. This will result in the elimination of constant cravings for simple carbohydrates because the cells need for adequate sugar absorption has been met, and blood sugar levels can then begin to improve as well.
- Ginseng and green tea have been shown to be helpful in stabilizing blood sugar. Sip on these with your meals or snacks.
- Caffeine can create problems with blood sugar. It can create a desire to overeat later. If you have noticed that this is happening for you, try to eliminate or cut back on caffeine.
- Artificial sweeteners can trigger sugar cravings in some people. Be aware of your own body’s response to these sweeteners and to other foods.
- Make yourself move. Even moderate exercise can help to control your appetite.
- Never eat in the dark. People tend to eat more in dim lighting.
- Brush your teeth when the temptation for sweets creeps in.
Apples – Choose firm, unblemished apples.
Figs – Squeeze to test for firmness – not too soft, not hard.
Grapes – Check for grapes to be plump and vibrant-colored.
Pears – Find pears free of blemishes or bruises.
Pomegranate – Whole pomegranates should feel heavier than they look. Can be stored up to three months in the fridge.
Grapefruit – Choose a grapefruit that feels heavy for its size. Fruit should give slightly when squeezed. Look for unblemished peel.
Lemons – Choose lemons heavy for their size. Look for unblemished, smooth skin. Will keep for up to three weeks in the fridge.
Oranges & Tangerines – Find oranges heavy for their size. Rind color not necessarily an indication of flavor.