Chances are you or someone you know describes themselves as a sugar addict or a chocoholic. These descriptions are not too far off because sometimes the craving for something sweet can be overwhelming. It can distract you from any tasks until you satisfy the craving. Unfortunately, sugar is not good for you and satisfying that nagging craving will only tell your body that it can get what it wants. While it is best for your health to avoid sugar, it is easier said than done. Let’s take a closer look at why sugar is bad for you, why you still crave it, and how to deal with those cravings.
Why Sugar is Bad for Your Health
Not all sugar is bad. Your body needs some sugar to live. Your brain uses glucose to function and your body turns glucose into energy. However, we give our bodies more sugar than it can use. Between this excess glucose and other forms of sugar, our body becomes overwhelmed.
Some forms of sugar (like fructose) cannot be used by the body. Since it cannot be turned into anything useful, your body processes it and then stores it as fat. These sugars also disrupt our hunger hormones so that we do not feel full when we should. This leads to weight gain and belly fat. Having a large amount of belly fat is also a precursor to developing type 2 diabetes.
In addition to belly fat, having high blood sugar levels can cause type 2 diabetes. If your body cannot properly process the amount of sugar you give it, you can develop insulin resistance. Eventually, your body will either stop producing insulin or it will be resistant to it. This is when you have type 2 diabetes, a potentially deadly disease.
Sugar also slows you down, mentally and physically. You gain weight and feel sluggish when you eat too much sugar. You also have a harder time concentrating and learning. Sugar can cross the blood brain barrier and wreak havoc on your brain synapses. This makes memorizing even the simplest items more difficult. If you feel like you are constantly in a brain fog, sugar may be the culprit.
Why do I Crave Sugar?
So, we know sugar is definitely bad for us. But it is still so tempting to eat sugar, sometimes a lot of it, whenever we get the urge. This is because sugar has a unique effect on your brain. It triggers the reward center that releases dopamine. Dopamine is the feel good hormone. This is the same hormone that is released when you fall in love or when you experience pleasure. Your body gets a high from it and wants more. This leads to those terrible cravings where all you can think about it is a candy bar.
Sugar also affects your mood because of its effect on your blood sugar levels. When you first eat sugar, you get a spike in blood sugar that makes you feel good and energetic. Unfortunately, that spike cannot last and your blood sugar level will become low. This can make you feel irritable, shaky and craving another hit of sugar.
How to Moderate your Sugar Intake
There are several ways to deal with your sugar cravings. You can make some changes to how you think about food and even try some substitutes in your diet if you want to drop all simple sugars.
Save the treats for when you want them.
It is okay to indulge in a treat every once in a while. Just be conscious of the effect it may have on your body. Think before you eat that peanut butter cup or donut. Do I really want this right now? Or could I do without it? If you choose to indulge, make sure you are prepared for the chance that you might experience a craving later in the day.
Deal with stressors in another way.
Figure out what triggers your sugar cravings. You may find that you crave sugar when you are stressed or tired. Instead of turning to candy or cupcakes to help you deal, take a walk, read a book or play a game. Maybe you can text a friend or go talk to a co-worker. Remember that you do not need that sugary treat and you can get through a craving.
Try sugar alternatives.
If you want to drop sugar from your morning coffee or baked goods, then you can use honey or other natural sweeteners like stevia. While these will affect your blood sugar, they will not cause as bad a bodily response as fructose. You can always eat fruit when you crave something sweet. The sugar in fruit also comes with fiber, which will slow the blood sugar response in your body.
Sugar should be a treat you occasionally enjoy, not an everyday staple. You do not need to banish all sugar from your life, unless you want to. A slice of cake for a friend’s birthday or a special treat every once in a while is not a big deal. Just be aware that you may find yourself craving sugar later. Being mindful of your food choices, especially in regards to sugar, can help you make rational decisions about what you eat instead of caving to a sugar craving. Replacing a candy bar with a healthy activity like a walk or a book can help you deal with a craving. Always take a deep breath and think before you take the first bite. Is that treat worth it? When you decide that your health is more important than indulging all the time, then the decision to say no will be easier.