Why Do We Crave Sugar And Simple Tips To Control It
Do you crave a sweet or a chocolate after every meal? Or even at late night?
Do you feel that your meal is incomplete without the so-called Dessert??
Millions of years ago, apes survived on Sugary fruits. These animals liked the ripe fruit more than the unripe ones, since it has a higher sugar content making it taste better and provide more energy.
“Sugar is a deep, deep ancient craving” said Daniel Lieberman, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University.
So, let’s admit it!!! We love to eat our desserts, and for us, avoiding this last course of a meal is really onerous. However, nutritionists and Fitness trainers always advice to cut down on white sugar in your diet as it is only an EMPTY -CALORIE food with no nutrients. Sugar provides a temporary source of energy but all the excess sugar just gets accumulated in the fat cells causing weight gain and increase in the waistline.
So what are the factors causing a sugar craving?
What happens to your brain??
Several areas in our brain like the hippocampus makes us remember the taste of chocolate or candy. Also, our brain is responsible for forming new habits-Good or bad and these habits create a conditional response increasing your urge to snack. You get pleasure with every little bite of sweet you eat
Diet factors that increase sugar cravings
A low protein diet slows the release of sugar into the blood causing uneven blood sugar levels. The result? You crave more sugar. Similarly, also a high carbohydrate diet raises the blood sugar and insulin levels. You are neither full, nor satisfied and soon you crave for more food
Stress affects your cortisol levels. Depression and anxiety can mentally and physically affect sugar craving too!! Sugar consumption also increases Serotonin, which regulates your mood, appetite, memory and social behaviour. With increased sugar intake, you feel temporarily happier, and so your brain craves for this happy chemical again and again
Inappropriate Sleep habits
Research has shown that even one night of poor sleep can decrease the upper brain functioning of the cerebrum- which emanates rise in next day junk food cravings. Your body clock manages the hormones ghrelin and leptin which affects the food intake.
Iron, Calcium, zinc and magnesium deficiencies can signify themselves as sugar cravings too!! Deficiency of these minerals causes dehydration which makes you crave sugar when you are actually thirsty. When you indulge in processed, ready to eat and packed foods, your food has more sodium in it.The saltier the food, the bigger your craving!
Now days due to the increase in online shopping, packaged foods, sweets and desserts are easily available at your door step. Also arranging your dining table or refrigerator with jars filled with chocolates, candies, chips makes sugar and carbohydrates easily accessible to you
So, the next time you reach for a chocolate, candy or even loose sugar from the kitchen, stop for a minute and consider the psychological and biological reasons that are motivating your sweet tooth!!
HOW TO AVOID EATING JUNK AT THAT TIME?
Replace and Neutralize!
These quick tips will help you to curb those sweet cravings and consume healthier alternatives instead:
- Identify the wrong habit- Whenever you get a craving, do a quick walk at home or drink a glass of water. This will create an alternative moment when you get the craving.
- Increase your intake of Proteins or even good fats in your diet. Avoid high carbohydrate snacks or finger foods
- Keep a bowl of fresh fruits like grapes, fresh dates, cut watermelon, muskmelon or bananas easily accessible in your kitchen or fridge. Next time when you get the craving, munch on those fresh fruits instead.
- Inhibit artificial sweetener intake
- Try swapping your sugar filled soda for a flavoured sparkling water or a Fruit infused water. Flavour your water with Fresh strawberries, Lemon, sweet lime or cucumbers
- Get sufficient and sound sleep. Prefer having a cosy environment and a fixed time for waking up and going to bed
- Learn to Read and recognize food labels. Look for the ingredients that include Sucrose, maltose, dextrose, fructose, galactose, glucose, fructose corn solids, glucose solids etc and avoid them.
- Do not go food shopping when hungry. You end up picking all the junk and packed foods instead
- Boost your serotonin levels with Green tea, Walnuts, Eggs, cheese and Milk.
- Regular exercise also boosts serotonin levels.
- Increase intake of high calcium, iron, zinc in the form of natural foods like Almonds, walnuts, Dates, seeds and Green leafy veggies
Always remember, this sugar craving may be happening to you too. The more you skip the chips and fries, the less you will want the donuts or waffles. Having the odd sweet treat is fine occasionally. However, if you find yourself experiencing sugar cravings regularly or even feel out of control around sweets, then its worth cross checking your diet.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sneha Jain, Dietician
Sneha is a Post graduate with specialization in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a university topper and holds 5+ years of experience in Apollo hospitals, VLCC, slimsutra and first cry fit-kids . She has successfully counselled clients all over India for weight loss, weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, PCOD, hypothyroid, Pregnancy and lactation and growth charts for children. She has her own diet consultation e-clinic (diet_diariez)
She believes in customized diets and eating local and seasonal foods. Her counselling not only involves diet planning, but also lifestyle modification and stress relief strategies.