Sugar Cravings and Us

Before I start this piece on sugar let’s all agree that we think that sugar makes everything better. Over the years however, sugar has gotten some really bad press but it is in fact one form of carbohydrates and is very necessary to provide us with energy. In fact, 60–70% of our calories should come from carbohydrates.colors-1242661_1280

 

The problem is where we’re getting the sugar from and the “company” our sugar keeps. If we are getting our sugar from fruits and complex carbs then we’re also getting other vitamins and nutrients which help to slow the uptake of sugar.

 

If we’re getting our sugar (sucrose) from a candy bar then there are no other nutrients to manage the sugar absorption which causes our blood sugar to spike and stresses our pancreas to release insulin.

 

Before we can understand how sugar works let’s take a minute to rank our sugars from best to worst for our bodies:

  1. Complex carbohydrates (chickpeas, lentils, oatmeal, pasta, soy, whole grains)

  2. Fructose (fruits)

  3. Sucrose (table sugar)

 

When we eat carbohydrates our bodies break them down into a simpler form known as glucose. The body stores glucose as glycogen but if we have enough stores then the body converts the excess glucose into fat. The more complex the carbohydrate the longer this process takes and the more energy we use which means there is less chance that our body will need to convert the glucose to fat.

 

What the sugars in sodas, sweets and junk food do to us

Most of us have a bit of a sweet tooth and that’s okay but many of us are consuming far more sugar than we should. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that the daily intake of sugar be no more than 25 grams for adults. That’s about 5 teaspoons or one Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar.  We know that excess sugar is linked to obesity but even persons with a normal BMI who eat excess sugar are twice as likely to die of heart disease.

  • Excess sugar depresses our immunity – simple sugar has been shown to cause a 50% drop in our white blood cells ability to combat bacteria.

  • Sugar promotes cravings – basically the more sugar you eat the more you want

  • Sugar promotes obesity – foods high in refined sugar encourages the body to store food in fat cells since all those extra calories have to go somewhere!

  • Sugar promotes diabetes

  • Sugar promotes heart disease – those excess calories that are stored as fat tend to increase the level of blood triglycerides which increase your cardiovascular risk

 

What we can do to curb our sugar cravings

  • Choose water over sugary or caffeinated drinks. If you want a sweeter taste try adding a few pieces of fruit or squeezing a fresh fruit into your glass

  • Don’t offer sweet rewards to your kids for eating their veggies at dinner. Instead, offer some fruit.

  • Cut back on your caffeine intake. Caffeine can trigger a drop in blood sugar which leaves you desperate for a sugar rush. Instead, eat a healthy breakfast made up of complex carbohydrates and protein that will provide a steady flow of energy to get you through your morning.

  • If your cravings are a mood habit that try to find a non-food substitute. Instead go for a walk, listen to music or exercise. Replace that sugar craving with a healthy alternative.

 

Now that we know a little more about sugars here’s my challenge to you – think of one junk sugar you consume regularly and remove it from your diet for at least a month. Replace it with a complex carbohydrate or a fruit. Observe how you feel.

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