Consuming sugar temporarily elevates the levels of certain neurotransmitters in our bodies.
Do you know what neurotransmitters are? They are "feel-good" chemicals. Two of the major "feel-good" chemicals released by eating sugar are:
1. Dopamine, which releases chemicals including endorphins that give us a feeling of pleasure
2. Serotonin, which produces a feeling of well being.
We also tend to eat sugary treats for a quick rush of energy to get us through the day. Of course we also enjoy the sweet taste of sugar. Eating sweet treats like a candy bar or a cookie unconsciously brings back simpler more enjoyable days of our childhood.
Grabbing a sugary treat is a common stress response for many adults. It's a behavior we have been practicing since we were children. When we had a rough day at school, mom would fix it with a plate of homemade cookies and a glass of milk. Now when we are stressed, we run to the vending machine or grab a cheesecake on the way home.
Is Sugar Really Dangerous Or Addictive?
Yes and No. Our body needs limited amounts of sugar as a quick source of energy, but not in the amounts our society as a whole has been consuming sugar. It is also a good idea to stay away from white table sugar as much as possible. This refined sugar has almost no nutritional value other than the "empty" calories it provides. Some people refer to white sugar as "white death".
Eating fresh fruits is a much better way to give in to our sweet tooth, get the sugars our bodies need while also absorbing an array of other nutrients, vitamins, minerals and micronutrients.
The high consumption of sugar in the western world is leading to an increase in health conditions from diabetes to obesity.
Is sugar addictive?
Yes - not only do we get addicted to the neurotransmitters that are released by the consumption of sugar, which is a reaction very similar to the "high" of a drug addict, consuming sugar also causes our blood sugar levels to rise quickly and then plummet back down just as fast, resulting in a craving for more sugar. This is a desperate (and futile) attempt of our body to keep the blood sugar in balance.
What Can I Do To Curb My Sugar Cravings?
The best way to curb sugar cravings is to aim for a stable blood sugar. You can do this by avoiding sugary treats and drinks like candy, soda and even fruit drinks. Instead try sweetening your foods and drinks with stevia. Please avoid any artificial sweeteners.
Craving sweets is also often an indication of a lack of certain nutrients such as chromium, carbon, phosphorus, sulphur and tryptophan. Let's take a look at what foods you should be eating to make sure you get enough of these nutrients.
Chromium - eat broccoli, grapes, cheese, dried beans and chicken
Carbon - eat fresh fruit
Phosphorus - eat chicken, beef, liver, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, legumes and grains
Sulphur - eat cranberries, horseradish, cruciferous vegetables, kale and cabbage
Tryptophan - eat cheese, liver, lamb, raisins, sweet potato and spinach.
If you find yourself drawn to sweets as a response to stress, your first step of action should be to try to eliminate the stress. If you have an argument with your spouse, talk things out. If you are stressed in your job, schedule a meeting with your boss to see if you can get more time, more resources or an assistant.
Sometimes eliminating the cause of stress isn't an option. In that case, try to exercise. Go for a brisk walk, join your local gym or work out with your favorite exercise video at home. Not only will the exercise help you blow off some stream, it also releases some of the same neurotransmitters that the consumption of sugar does - without the empty calories.