For many years it was fat. The root of all troubles when it came to balancing the numbers on the scale lay in the fat laden foods that filled many of our pantries. The answer? Ditch the fat, of course! In an effort to eliminate fat from food products, manufacturers replaced it with sugar in order to replace the taste and texture that fat provides. This led to a slow and steady climb in chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes.
Many researchers over the last few decades have committed their work to showing that foods high in sugar like white flour, white potatoes and the refined starches of many processed foods trigger a special region of the brain, the nucleus accumbens, that is known as the reward center of the brain releasing dopamine, which promotes desire, and serotonin which regulates satiety and inhibition.
This leads to a biological addiction that is similar to the addictions to drugs or gambling. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, signs that you may be addicted sugar include intense and insatiable cravings, feeling sluggish and fatigued after overeating, experiencing negative emotions surrounding food and worrying about “cutting down” on certain foods. Studies also show that withdrawals from sugar can be similar to that of morphine, nicotine and alcohol.
Ditching sugar can be difficult because it is hidden in so many foods like ketchup, pasta sauce and peanut butter! Even “sugar-free” products contain artificial sugars that can change the way the body metabolizes sugar. In an effort to kick the habit, start with a sugar detox.
- Be sure to read food labels carefully and look for words like maltose, sucrose, barley malt, rice syrup and of course, high-fructose corn syrup.
- Include a healthy fat with your meals to slow digestion and keep you full longer.
- When a craving hits, reach for fresh fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth and always keep a healthy snack on hand to avoid that emergency trip for ice cream.
- Increase your physical activity. Exercise helps stabilize blood sugar spikes by increasing your cells sensitivity to insulin, which removes glucose from the blood.
- Identify emotional triggers and replace the behavior of eating with another activity.
- Use cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom to naturally sweeten your food and reduce sugar cravings
- Stay hydrated-dehydration is linked to food cravings.
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
If you are looking for a treat to satisfy your after dinner cravings, try this naturally sweetened Chocolate Pudding that is full of good-for-you ingredients you can feel good about serving your family!