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What about sugar?

Most of us know the feeling of unstoppable craving to eat sugary foods: it is sometimes hard saying ‘no’ to that slice of cake. Why does that cake have such a power over you, whispering ‘eat me, eat me’? Why can’t you just say ‘No’? Is it an indication of a lack of self-control, or is it a powerful, hardwired brain response over which you have little control? Can we be biologically addicted to sugar?

The sugar in the cake, called a simple carbohydrate, is quickly turned into glucose in your bloodstream. Your blood sugar levels spike. Simple carbs are also found in fruits and vegetables. However, these carbs have fiber and protein that slow the glucose creating process. Syrup, soda, candy, and table sugar don’t. Sugar is an easy and fast fuel to your body, yet is lacking in nutrients. They provide what are called ‘empty calories’, because they give you a momentarily energy boost, but do not give you any of the vital nutrients that your body needs. Sugar also gives you a short-term dopamine hit, meaning that it feels pleasurable to eat sugary foods. As this only a short-term hit, it is one of the reasons why you want to have more of it. Another reason is that sugar raises your blood sugar levels, and when your body tries to get the blood sugar back to normal levels, the blood sugar levels drop, and that makes you crave for more sugar. It’s a roller coaster that many of us do daily. This roller coaster is a stress for your body, and stress is another factor that makes you want to eat more sugar!

In our brain, the dopamine receptor must be activated for us to feel pleasure. For some of us, this receptor needs much more stimulation to feel pleasure than for others. This is the reason why some of us are addicted to different substances, and some of us are not. Those who have sugar addiction seem to have fewer dopamine receptors, and they need extra stimulation to make them activated. So, there IS a biological element for the difficulty of saying ‘No’.

If you have problem with saying ‘No’ to sugar, try these 5 steps:

  1. Balance your blood sugar: Start your day every day with a nutritious breakfast. Include in your breakfast any form of protein: eggs, protein shakes, nut butters.
  2. Never skip a meal. Remember to include some protein in every meal. Protein, like fish, meat, eggs, nuts, beans and lentils stabilizes your blood sugar.
  3. Go ‘cold turkey’ on sugar and artificial sugars. Stop it altogether. The first week will be hard, but after that it will be much easier. Just remember the first 2 steps, and drink plenty of water. Avoid fruit juices – they are nearly all sugar.
  4. Figure out if you have hidden food allergies – we often crave the most the very foods we have a hidden allergy to.
  5. Get 7-8 hours of sleep. Research shows that lack of sleep increases cravings.

 

First Published in InCheshire Magazine and Prestbury Living Magazine, July issue (07/2015)