Sugar is a hot topic in health and wellness circles, and it’s for good reason. We are going to delve into the effects that added sugar has on your body. Some of these include an added inflammation load, midline weight gain and a propensity towards developing metabolic syndrome. Let’s get started by having a look at some of the science behind sugar cravings and why they happen.
Why do I get sugar cravings?
There are a number of reasons why our bodies crave sugar. One of them can simply be because we’ve created a bad habit of having something sweet after every meal. Sugar raises dopamine in our brains, which is our feel-good hormone. So, in a way, humans are wired to seek out the sweet taste of sugar. When living naturally on the land this isn’t so much of a problem, because that sweet taste is found naturally in fruits and root vegetables, and even some nuts and seeds. It’s when we regularly seek the sweetness from foods with added sugar, like lollies, chocolates, cakes, biscuits and desserts, that we create a problem for our health.
However, feel good hits and bad habits are not the cause for every person with sugar cravings. One of the biggest causes of sugar cravings I see in clinic is nutrient deficiencies! Mineral deficiencies in particular can cause your body to want sweet foods above all else. A lack of magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc and chromium can all cause cravings to occur.
Other dietary and lifestyle factors that cause cravings
Not enough protein on your plate is a big factor. Protein helps to keep you satiated, as does good quality fats in your diet. If you are not consuming enough, your blood sugar levels fluctuate a lot more, and can cause the desire for sugar in order to pick up the levels.
Too many simple white carbohydrates on your plate also do the same thing. All white foods, such as bread, rice, pasta and potatoes cause blood sugar swings, and if you don’t have many other foods on your plate this can cause insulin resistance in the long term, and worse. Your body really needs a good percentage of your plate to be filled with proteins, healthy fats and fibre.
A healthy plate will contain a protein source (a palm size of meat or fish, legumes, chickpeas, tempeh etc), a healthy fat source such as avocado, oily fish or nuts or seeds, and plenty of fibre from vegetables.
Lack of sleep also causes sugar cravings, as a quick way to create energy and pick the body up. Just one night of bad sleep can cause you to crave junk food and sweets, so if you are not getting a good nights sleep regularly this can have a big impact on your waistline and your health.
In line with this, stress is another big factor that contributes to sugar cravings. This is because high stress equals high cortisol (our stress hormone), and this affects blood glucose levels drastically. When under stress your body wants quick energy sources, and sugar provides that.
Let’s take a look now at how regular amounts of added sugars in your diet affect your health and wellness.
What effects does added sugar have on your health?
So now we know why sugar cravings happen, it’s time to take a look at what added sugars do to your body.
Inflammation is a naturally occurring process in the body that aids in healing and recovery. It is not a constant presence, only occurring when the body is injured in some way.
However, added sugar and some other foods can cause chronic low grade inflammation to occur. Having this constant low level of inflammation can play into many other health problems, including the following.
Studies have linked high consumption of added sugars in the diet to much greater risks of developing heart disease.
Added sugars and the inflammation they cause work to increase cholesterol levels, heighten blood pressure and increase insulin resistance. These are all risk factors for developing heart disease.
Added sugars and refined carbohydrates are huge contributing factors to obesity. As the body craves more of these foods to fill the nutritional void, it is very easy to over consume them and forgo the foods your body really needs to be healthy.
Obesity is also associated with low grade chronic inflammation, which is again associated with high added sugar intake.
What can you do to limit added sugars?
As we can see, too much added sugar in the diet over a long period of time is a recipe for poor health. Thankfully there are some things you can do to limit the effects of sugar and reduce inflammation in your body.
- Limit added sugar intake. Try replacing sugar treats with foods that contain lots of protein and healthy fats. Avocado and banana smoothie, bliss balls made from nuts and seeds, hommus and seed crackers etc.
- Create a good night time routine that helps you get adequate sleep – 7 to 8 hours each night.
- Practice stress reduction techniques such as walking in nature, meditation and breathing exercises.
- Get some help with your diet from a Naturopath or Nutritionist.
As a Metabolic Balance practitioner my job is to help you find the perfect nutritional plan for your unique body. Together we go through your current diet and lifestyle, health history, and blood test results to create a program designed specifically for you.
If you are ready to kick your sugar habit to the curb and find great health and wellness again, book an appointment with me here:
I look forward to supporting you to full health!