WHAT ARE THEY, WHY WE HAVE THEM, HOW TO OVERCOME THEM AND HOW IT AFFECTS OUR HEALTH
WHAT ARE SUGAR CRAVINGS?
Sugar activates the brain's reward system and stimulates the chemical dopamine that makes us feel good. It's very similar to drugs like cocaine, amphetamines and nicotine that hijack this brain system. When this system is activated it leads to intense feelings of reward that can result in cravings and addiction. Sugar isn't always obvious, bread and other carbohydrates contain sugar, it is hidden in many of our foods! You are not usually craving the food itself but the sugar it contains, which is making you crave it.
WHY DO WE HAVE THEM?
To answer this we need to go back to the beginning of your life and to our hunter gather ancestors.
Breast Milk contains a ratio of 1g fat to 2g of sugar. It is not a coincidence that this is also the ratio of fat to sugar in many foods that we crave ie milk chocolate, ice cream, chips, pizza, crisps, cake, butter popcorn and cheeseburgers! When we are born our brains are very sensitive to our experiences and lay down neural reward pathways that can last for life. Food that gives us our fist feelings of reward lay the foundation for our later food cravings. As babies we needed this craving for more milk to feed and grow.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were predisposed to get hooked on sugar to have a better chance of survival. From an evolutionary perspective this made sense. Sugar is not only energy but helps us to store fat, so when food was scarce hanging on to fat was an advantage not a health risk. For millions of years our cravings and digestive system were perfectly balanced because sugar was rare in came in the form of the odd natural honey find. These cravings served us for survival in the past.
The problem we face today is that sugar is so readily available in mostly unnatural, processed and very unhealthy products, it’s a bit like having a drug addiction and a cheap endless supply of that drug at your fingertips, wherever you are, whenever you want it.
WHAT DOES IT DO TO US?
The euphoric response of dopamine in our bodies from sugar was meant for a time we needed sugar for energy and fat storage. Our bodies are not adapted to the amount of sugar that we are pouring into them and it's making us sick. This no longer serves us and can cause intense food cravings and binges. Sugar provides us with high calorie intake and no nutritional value.
Too much sugar can suppress the immune system and cause chaos to your blood sugar levels, it causes obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, behavioural problems, sucks nutrients like potassium, magnesium and calcium from the body, along with being a precursor for a very long list of chronic illness, inflammation and not forgetting it is highly addictive.
Some people can also become intolerant to sugar, some of the symptoms can include fatigue, abdominal cramps, bloating, gas, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Our bodies do not need, or want the excessive amount of sugar we eat and they let us know by making us fatter and sicker!
HOW DO WE STOP THEM?
The only way to stop eating sugar is to stop eating sugar! I can say from experience that the longer you cut sugar out of your diet the more you don’t want or crave it. You can overcome additions, but they require will power and wanting to make changes to live a healthier, longer life!
You can start to crowd out sugary foods with natural sugars. If you crave something sweet remember why you are craving it and how much potential damage it is doing to your body, which you will pay for at a later date.
Replace unhealthy sugary foods with fresh fruit. Watermelon is very sweet but contains natural sugars and is also mostly water. Pears, apples, nectarines etc. start with natural replacements for any unhealthy processed sugary foods. Replace refined sugar with organic coconut sugar or honey. Carrots are quite sweet too and can satisfy a sugar craving.
Experiment with different substitutes and stick to it, it will be worth it!
Try to replace unhealthy carbohydrates with healthy natural alternatives like sweet potatoes, courgette spaghetti, cauliflower rice, nuts and healthy crackers.
Once you have replaced all the unhealthy refined sugars with natural sugars, you can try to reduce your sugar intake, one day at a time, one thing at a time. If you are consistent you will soon start to build new habits and your body will adapt with you and thank you for it. The cravings will soon go and you will no longer even want sweet sugary foods. You will feel the difference in your energy and health very quickly!
Putting something unhealthy in your body is not a treat, it is a punishment!