I watched the clock intently: 10:32 pm and slowly counting. The baby was sleeping soundly in the next room. My eyes followed my husband as he headed to bed. Now’s my chance.
Five minutes later, standing in front of the fridge, spoon and empty pint of chocolate peanut butter Haagen Dazs in hand, I was humiliated. Disgusted. I looked around me in shamed shock, wondering what had just happened.
Nati always has room for ice cream.
Preprogrammed to Crave Sugar
Em’s first taste of ice cream.
If you suffer from sugar cravings, you may be wondering if you were born this way or were conditioned to have a penchant for gummi bears. A fetus will drink more amniotic fluid if it has been injected with a sweetener. In fact, this is a common medical practice to treat excessive amniotic fluid. In addition, sugar can actually have a small analgesic effect when infants ingest it. So, even in the womb we are genetically and evolutionarily wired to crave sweets.
Sugar on the Brain
Sugar consumption stimulates the release of two chemicals. After chowing down on that 3:00pm Snickers bar your brain lights up like a Christmas tree. Dopamine floods the reward center of your brain, making you feel like an addict who just indulged in their drug of choice. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect on our mood, is also released. Sugar eventually disrupts nerve cell communication and attributes to brain fog.
Sugar: The Full Effect
Sugar affects almost every system of our bodies, and not in a good way. Sugar raises our risk of heart disease by increasing triglycerides and decreasing our “good” HDL cholesterol. Continual excess sugar consumption leads to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Sugar causes the release of hormones, which trigger an inflammatory response, thus people who eat more sugar increase their cancer risk. The sweet stuff may even be to blame for those premature wrinkles!
High-Fructose Corn Syrup, One Bad Mamma Jamma
This concentrated sweetener made from corn affects our body differently than glucose, the sugar our cells prefer. Fructose does not trigger our satiety cues or lower ghrelin, the hunger hormone, so we don’t feel fuller when we ingest it. Metabolizing too much fructose can overwhelm the liver, causing fatty liver disease. Fructose has no known health benefit to date.
Natural Sweeteners: Friend or Foe?
Local honey used for a vinegraitte. Photo courtesy Rachel Durrent.
Much like table sugar or corn syrup, honey, molasses, and maple syrup are all sources of simple sugar. Even though they offer additional benefits: minerals, antibacterial and hypoallergenic properties, or calcium and iron, as in the case of molasses, these sweeteners have high sugar contents and should be moderated.
A Sweet Victory
The struggle against sugar cravings is real. Every cell in our bodies was made to want sugar, to NEED it. However, there are ways to conquer the beast, to step away from the donut and toward a healthier existence. In the next article, we will focus on tactical maneuvers to combat sugar.