We all love sweet things. We’re primed to crave them because it’s a fast and easy resource for sugar and therefore a quick energy shot. And at the same time, more and more people try to cut out sugar from their diet completely – because it’s supposed to be the devil. So, are we instinctively craving what’s killing us?
Of course, the whole issue is a little more complicated than that. It starts when we’re very little and get used to consuming sugary food and beverages. Sugar is an energy source – and that’s why our brains are practically wired to like it. Our brains essentially run on sugar (or glucose if you want). They’re so closely connected that in case of starvation or very intense fasting, our body makes a huge effort and restructures our whole metabolism – just to make sure, our brains would receive enough energy to function. So, I guess, by now the close relationship between sugar and our brains has become rather obvious. And since our brains are smart and feel somehow attached to life – they make sure you’re primed to supply them with what they need.
There is only one thing: We’re not living in the Stone Age anymore. And our sugary resources are nearly endless. So, combining this with our human and somehow instinctive brains, it becomes obvious that there are some serious issues that need to be dealt with. For example, the more sugar we consume, the more used to it we get. Our brains are smart, they adjust. So, by being over-stimulated with sugar, they simply lower their sensitivity to it. Of course, the amount of sugar doesn’t become less by that – but it doesn’t taste as sweet as it would to somebody consuming hardly any sugary things. Being completely pumped up with sugar, ultimately leads to diseases like Type-2-Diabetes (cells aren’t as Insulin-sensitive anymore and Insulin-producing cells in the pancreas die off) and many other very nasty ones.
But how do our bodies deal with glucose and what’s Insulin anyway? So, when sugar (in any form, pure or as carbs) enters our digestive system it is being digested and absorbed rather easily and conducted into our blood. Our bloodstream then distributes the glucose to every part of our bodies, wherever it’s needed. But in order for our cells to ingest the glucose, we need Insulin (a hormone) to kind of wake them up and prepare them first. So, when there’s a glucose spike in our blood, our pancreas secretes Insulin which then makes sure that the very glucose can be absorbed by our cells. Once this happened, it will either be stored away or metabolised (resulting in energy). That’s the basic principle.
I’m sure by now, most of you have probably already spotted the main problem about this (beside it causing unnecessary diseases): The sugar we don’t immediately need, will be stored. This happens when there is more of a certain intermediate (of our glucose metabolism) than needed to comply with the body’s energy request. So, instead of wasting it – our body transforms it into fat and then stores it away in our cells. Yup, fat. That’s why – surprisingly – people become obese from over-consuming sugar.
Whenever there’s a discussion about sweet things, there are a lot of emotions involved. Brain-issues, remember? So, while it’s fair to note that control over our sugar intake can be very challenging – it’s also important to understand its impact on our overall health. The problem isn’t solved by working out like crazy – changing your dietary habits will probably have a far bigger impact (keep up the moderate exercising though)! There are a few things I found, that work quite well for me (90% of the time, sometimes I just can’t help but get a little – let’s say caught up):
- Drink water instead of sugary beverages. It’s simple, yet so effective (because Coek & Co. are essentially liquid sugar).
- Watch out for processed foods and read the labels. They sometimes contain a crazy amount of sugar – even ‘salty’ meals!
- If you crave chocolate, have a square of dark chocolate (the darker the healthier). In my case, this eases the craving and makes me happy. Win-win.
- If you need a sweet pick-me-up, opt for fruit.
- Watch out for that granola bar – they can be sugar bombs! (Again, read the label)
- Be aware and mindful of what you consume and try to treat your body well. But don’t drive yourself crazy doing so – because if you do, you’ll never stick to it anyway. It’s not a diet – it’s a healthier lifestyle.
It might be hard at the beginning – not lying to you, a little bit like being on a physical withdrawal or detox – but that’s simply because you’re brain needs some time to reprogram. You’ll see that, after a while, you don’t even crave sugar that much anymore (in my experience) – your body has gotten used to your new lifestyle. And you might even find that, if at some point you’ll have even a small bite of a sweet you used to enjoy – it can make you cringe, because it tastes so sweet! Besides all the other nice effects, that’s probably the last but probably most obvious sign of how much you’re brain was manipulated.