We joke about it, we rationalize weight gain because of it and it always gives us an excuse to have a second piece of cake for dessert: It’s a sugar addiction.
Most people wouldn’t consider a sugar addiction as serious as cigarettes or an alcohol addiction. After all, how dangerous can a chocolate chip cookie really be?
But for those individuals with an inclination for sweets, there is important news: According to numerous researchers and scientific studies, a sugar addiction can be just as strong as a drug or alcohol dependency.
If this information alone does not make you put down your Snickers bar, then keep reading.
The sugar craving
We’ve all experienced it — the quiet voice in our head that convinces us to hit the local 7-11 at midnight for a chocolate bar or another helping of pie after dinner. Let’s face it: Sugar makes us happy and most people who claim to be addicted to sweets will tell you this. Sounds funny, right? Actually, it’s truer than you think.
Recent studies prove that humans are programmed from an early age to crave sugar. And once the body has experienced sugar’s sweet rewards, it does not take much time for it to be officially addicted.
The sugar addiction begins at birth. Human breast milk is very sweet, so even infants begin to recognize the pleasurable feeling they get from sweet foods.
But what causes the craving?
After eating a sugary treat, the brain releases natural chemicals called opioids, which give the body a feeling of intense pleasure. The brain then recognizes this feeling and begins to crave more of it.
Researchers have identified that there are certain areas in the brain (specifically, the hippocampus, the insula and the caudate) that are activated we crave sugar.
There is also scientific evidence that shows that these same areas of the brain are activated when drug addicts crave drugs; which proves how “real” a sugar addiction can be.
The sugar rush
So, what exactly happens in your body when you consume sugar?
After sugar enters the bloodstream, blood sugar levels rise, causing the pancreas to release insulin (insulin is needed to convert sugar into energy).
When a large amount of sugar is consumed, more insulin is released. The insulin converts the sugar into an instant energy source — which explains the jolt or “high” you get from a donut or a piece of cake. After high levels of insulin are released, blood sugar levels begin to decrease rapidly, resulting in the “crash” you feel shortly after eating a sugary treat.
In addition to converting sugar into energy, insulin also stimulates the storage of fat. Therefore, the more sugar you eat, the more insulin you produce, and consequently, the more likely it is that you will gain weight.
Along with obesity and tooth decay, sugar has also been linked to more serious health conditions, including increased mood swings, a depressed immune system and diabetes.
Keep in mind that sugar cravings can signal that you aren’t nourishing your body properly. Lack of sleep, lack of nutrients, stress, dehydration, caffeine crashes and plain hunger go hand in hand with sugar cravings. Research has even shown that a deficiency in alpha-linolenic acid (those handy little omega-3s) can dull a person’s perception of sweetness, encouraging him/her to crave more sugar to satisfy the natural taste.
kick the craving
• Banish packaged products — including those made with white flour — and stick to food in its original form. Instead of canned fruit or juice, eat a piece of whole fruit.
• Drink plenty of water throughout the day; you may be mistaking dehydration for hunger.
• Eat protein at every meal; it is digested more slowly than simple carbohydrates and will leave you feeling fuller for a longer period of time. You will therefore be more likely to resist the urge to eat dessert every night after dinner.
• Give up your favorite sweet food for three weeks. It is likely that after three weeks, your taste buds will be less attracted to it and your craving for sweets will not be as strong. See Video Below on Taste buds
• Resist impulse snacking. If you crave a donut, take time to think about it or go for a walk instead. Chances are, that after this delay period, your craving will go away.
In addition to plenty of rest, hydration and solid nutrition, exercise is absolutely essential in combating serious and chronic cravings. As I mentioned above, sugar raises serotonin levels, and that boost can easily figure into cravings. But guess what? Exercise raises serotonin as well. If you can, plan your workouts around the time of day when cravings tend to hit.