I have a sweet tooth. People around me know how happy a Nutella jar can make me. But this love for chocolate wasn’t always healthy. Often my sugar cravings were simply because I was addicted to sugar. And yes, sugar can be addictive.
Fortunately, this addiction is easy to overcome and today I will tell you how to do it without giving up desserts.
Why do we crave sweets?
First, let me tell you about the most common reasons for sugar cravings. If you know them you will be able to find out what exactly is affecting you, and whether you are addicted to sugar or your body just needs a fast carbohydrate.
At the biological level, I will look at three hormones that affect our appetite for sugar.
We often associate the „stress hormone“ with something bad. In fact, like any other hormones in our body, cortisol plays an important and significant role in our organism. It regulates blood pressure and the functions of the cardiovascular system. It also regulates the use of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. However, high cortisol levels might have a harmful effect on the body. That’s where it’s bad name comes from. Too much stress can increase appetite and can cause cravings for sweets. To normalize its levels we need to eat regularly, stop exhausting workouts and sports, get enough sleep and take more care of our inner peace with relaxation, meditation, laughter, and time with our loved ones.
Also called the „hormone of happiness“, it gives us the feeling that everything is fine and makes us smile and be satisfied with the world around us. Sugar increases serotonin levels, so when we are sad we crave sweets. But there are other ways we can boost the hormone of happiness – sports, massages, shopping, time with friends, good music, cinema, theater, etc.
Sugar stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, much like drugs do. Dopamine is the „addiction hormone“ that regulates addiction and creates a sense of immediate satisfaction. If we eat sugar often and in large quantities, the sensitivity of dopamine receptors in the brain decreases. Thus we need even more sugar to activate these receptors and re-experience the feeling of satisfaction.
If you’ve ever been on a sugar-free diet for more than a week, you’ve probably noticed how sweet an apple tastes. The taste of each fruit is richer, and your taste buds sharpen. In fact, this is the normal state. An apple should always be that sweet. Unfortunately, nowadays we eat more processed foods that are full of E’s, trans fats and refined vegetable oils, and too much sugar. All these substances are not only addictive and unhealthy but also dull our taste buds.
Sugar cravings also depend on many other factors. Some of the most common are:
If we do not eat enough quality food, it is very likely that our body will start searching for a quick source of energy and you will feel the urge to eat something sweet. Another reasons to stop dieting – here.
If we do not get a good night’s sleep, our body will try to compensate with a quick source of energy, so we are more likely to have sugar cravings.
They say that a deficiency of this mineral increases the appetite for sweet foods. Usually, you can buy it from the drugstores as a dietary supplement, but personally I have never tried it.
Stable blood sugar is important not to fall into moments of uncontrollable hunger for sweets. We keep our blood sugar stable by eating enough protein, fat, and carbohydrates regularly.
In those days of the month, women have a drop in estrogen and progesterone levels, which leads to a drop in serotonin.
It is no secret that packaged foods are full of preservatives, artificial flavors, monosodium glutamate, and sweeteners, etc. and have almost no health or nutritional benefit. On the other hand, they are super tasty and sweet and the more you eat, the more you feel like eating. We can surely say that they are addictive.
Are we addicted?
However, I have a little trick to help you find out if you are actually addicted or you just need a quick carb. For this purpose, you need to have basic cooking skills or someone around with such. The next time you crave sugar, instead of eating packaged biscuits, croissants, and chocolate bars, cook yourself a cake or dessert and eat it. And yes, even if it contains white sugar and flour, it’s still a thousand times better homemade than from the store.
For the next few days, try to eat only home-cooked food and see the difference. Observe yourself. If sweet cravings continue, maybe your body just needs carbohydrates. If that is the case then include more potatoes, rice, oatmeal, and foods high in carbs in your meal plan. However, if your appetite for sweets decreases, then congrats, you have just been addicted.
Life is wonderful
Please note that eating chocolate, ice-cream, cake or any kind of sweets from time to time is not a sin. So don’t stop sugar, don’t stigmatize it. Just like everything else in this life, there must be a balance. At the end of the day, the cherished goal of all of us is to be happy and live well, and this happens when we are healthy and in harmony with our bodies. Taking good care of ourselves, eating healthy and varied (at least most of the time), getting good sleep, and exercise are the little things that bring us closer to this harmony. And then we can fully enjoy life. Because life is wonderful.