A sugar craving is a very real addiction that affects almost every grown-up today because of how sugar is so readily available and present all around us. In supermarkets, we can see that every product containing carbohydrates has sugar in the form of glucose, fructose, maltose, lactose, or galactose. These sugars are present in most of our fruit drinks, milk, and even granola bars. Glucose is the simplest form of sugar and is very important for our metabolic system but too much sugar intake can cause addiction to the point where we crave sugary items all the time. Some items like carbonated drinks, confectionery products, and refined cereals have way more sugar than normal and hence are very harmful to our bodies.
Why does the Body Crave Sugar?
Whenever we eat sugar in any form, it instantly goes to our cerebral cortex which is the pleasure centre of our brain. This part of our brain is also related to the reward-giving feeling which is done by releasing dopamine. Now most of us know that dopamine is a neurotransmitter and it makes us feel good and happy. When we eat sugar, this part of our brain is stimulated way beyond normal and dopamine is released. This way the brain signals our body to keep consuming sugar so that this feeling prevails.
Sugar works in a similar way to drugs, as they send our dopamine release into overdrive which is the same thing sugar does but in a slightly subtle way. Over time, as we keep on consuming high sugar diets, the brain gets de-sensitized and needs more and more sugar to release dopamine, hence you consume higher sugar meals to attain that pleasure feeling. In this way, sugar can be very addictive.
Most Popular Cravings
Generally, men should aim for 36 grams of sugar and women 25 grams of sugar per day. Most of our common cravings contain way too many grams of sugar which is what makes them harmful.
• Commercial Flavoured milk like chocolate milk and other fruit milk is sweetened with sugar where about 8 ounces contain 11.2 grams of sugar.
• Ketchup is a widely consumed condiment that has a high sugar and salt content, balanced in a way that makes you crave it. 1 tablespoon of ketchup contains 3 grams of sugar.
• Cookies are craved by all of us and they are made with a lot of sugar to improve their texture and taste. They also contain refined flour which again has a lot of sugar and other sweeteners as well.
• French fries are essentially fried starch which means we are taking the nutritional value out of the food and making it even unhealthier.
• Donuts are a similar concept as frying them in oil makes them even higher in calories.
• Energy drinks which are very addictive in themselves also have high levels of sugar and caffeine. 1 can contains up to 24 grams of sugar.
• Chocolate is also very high in sugar and an extremely bad craving which you can get rid of by switching over to dark chocolate slowly.
• Carbonated drinks are a very common craving after every meal we consume and on top of having high levels of sugar, they also contain preservatives, soda, flavouring agents, and many other harmful agents. They slowly deteriorate your health and lead to many physical issues as you age.
What Little Swaps/ Changes Can You Make When You Crave Sugar?
The main reason why we crave sugar is that we don't add enough healthy and natural sugars to our diet which is why we tend to gravitate towards these dense sources of sugar. If you are having problems you can start by swapping the sugary items with healthy sugars to eradicate your cravings.
Sweet potatoes, carrots, radish, and many other root vegetables are normally high in natural sugars which do not harm your system or cause addiction but bring a slow and delayed rise in your blood sugar over time.
Instead of refined flour, use whole wheat flour and also eliminate white bread from your diet. Refined flour has only starch which again causes spikes in your blood glucose and digests quickly. Whole wheat flour has husk which causes the feeling of fullness and also digests slowly which prevents you from eating more.
If you are not eating enough protein or eating way too much protein, you will crave sugar in both cases. Try to consume an appropriate amount of protein so that you don’t crave more carbohydrates. Lean meat like chicken, fish and dairy like eggs should be added to your diet daily.
Things like honey, natural brown sugar, maple syrup, and stevia are good alternatives to sugar, and it is about time you substitute them in your diet and eliminate sugar.
What can happen if you do not kick these Sugar Cravings?
These high sugar foods are associated with the concept of sugar rush and sugar crash. When you consume such foods, you immediately have a sugar rush where there is a lot of dopamine flowing and you feel very good. This is immediately followed by a sugar crash which is when the high subsides and you crave sugar again.
If we get stuck in this cycle, we start to develop many diseases like:
• Diabetes is a constant high blood glucose level that occurs as either a decreased production of insulin or de-sensitization to the insulin being produced. When we consume too many high sugar foods, we develop either one of these conditions.
• Obesity is a natural consequence of sugar addiction as sugar has a lot of calories and when we keep consuming calories higher than our requirement, it starts to get stored as adipose tissue and we slowly develop obesity.
• Psychological Issues are also seen in people with sugar addiction. They can get depression because of the sugar crash and you can get anxiety as well because of the jitters induced due to the sugar rush.
Adding healthy eating habits slowly to your routine like having a piece of dark chocolate and warm water early in the morning can help combust these sugar cravings. Start with some exercise as well and do other mindful things which make you happy so you don’t have to resort to intense sugar consumption.