Sugar can be addictive and they are an ingredient included in many beverages and foods. Sugar even affects the same "feel-good" brain hormones as street drugs. According to a review in the July 2013 issue of "Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care." Researchers state that the sugar/sweet reward to the brain may be even stronger than that of cocaine.
When you overload on sugary foods, it may alter the parts of the brain that control how much you eat. In lab studies, rats that binged on sugar had brain changes like those of getting off drugs. In humans, just seeing pictures of milkshakes triggered brain effects like those seen in drug addicts. It was strongest in women whose answers showed they were more hooked on eating.
Sugary beverages and foods consume soda and vending machines. Candies and chocolates are a common snack to have in the desk drawer at work. The morning cup of coffee and donut start the day instead of healthier options. Craving complex carbohydrates such as bagels, chips, and French fries the body breaks down into simple sugars. Eaten without better foods, starches can make blood sugar surge and crash like sugar. White rice, white flour, and potatoes do this. Highly refined starches like white bread, pretzels, crackers, and pasta are worst.
Sugar occurs naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables and dairy products. However, the AHA indicates that the sugar added to your food is responsible for the increase in obesity. The average 12-ounce soda has 130 calories and 8 teaspoons of sugar. According to Harvard Medical School.
Sugar plays a role in physical activity. Fructose syrup has been proven in studies to be beneficial during long, intense workouts; they can burn through almost all of their stored glycogen and fade. Sports drinks such as Gatorade have fructose syrup. A sports drink can be beneficial during physical activity, but detrimental as a casual beverage while stagnant.
A sports drink is not a substitute for water. The sugar and carbs in Gatorade can cause you to gain weight, something you are probably hoping to avoid. The University of California at Berkeley's Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health found that an individual drinking one sports drink per day would gain 13 pounds per year.
Large amounts of sweetened sports drinks, gels and bars are recommended only for the “serious athlete” who works out for more than two hours at a time.
If you have a sugar craving here are healthy substitutes and some foods have “sneaky” sugars. They do not appear to be high in sugar, but they are. Here are examples from Eat This, Not That.
Polaner All Fruit with Fiber, Strawberry (1 Tbsp)
35 calories, 0 g fat, and 6 g sugars
Smucker’s Strawberry Jam (1 Tbsp)
50 calories, 0 g fat, and 12 g sugars
Quaker Lower Sugar Instant Oatmeal Maple & Brown Sugar
120 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated), and 4 g sugars
Quaker Oatmeal Express Cinnamon Roll
200 calories, 2.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated), and 17 g sugars
The Center for Disease Control states that the current diet of the Western world is between 70 to 90 percent starch, sugar and fat, and the average sleep time is less than eight hours a night. The single biggest influence over the levels of insulin in your body comes from the amount of starchy and sweet foods consumed.
If you have a sweet tooth they’re options that do not have to compromise your health. For example, instead of loading your oatmeal with sugar, add fruits such as bananas, strawberries, and/or blueberries. Replace the donut with a whole grain bagel that includes raisins.
Snacks, such as yogurt with banana and granola. Celery and peanut butter are tasteful without being loaded with sugar. A protein shake with your favorite fresh or frozen fruits. Foods high in protein help hunger cravings and will keep you fuller longer. Pick proteins like lean chicken, low-fat yogurt, eggs, nuts, or beans.
Set short term goals to train your taste buds not to be so dependent on sugar. Try cutting out one sweet food from your diet each week. For example, pass on dessert after dinner. Slowly reduce the sugar in your coffee or cereal and replace them with healthier options. Over time, you will lose your need for that sugar taste.
Be mindful of the hidden sugars in sauces, salad dressings, bread, baked beans, and flavored coffees. Read labels before purchasing products. Experts recommend no more than six teaspoons daily for women, that's 100 calories. Men should get a max of nine teaspoons, that's 150 calories. They’re healthier options for all of your sugar cravings, including deserts. It just takes time to research recipes and alternatives and keep your sugar intake in moderation.
Health and Wellness Consultant and Certified Personal Trainer