Why does sugar taste so damn good?
Debbie Gallimore is our resident nutritionist and is often asked “do we have a pre-disposition to hunt out fat and sugar as mammals?” Interesting question don’t you think!
Balancing blood sugars levels is not a new concept, but it is most certainly the areas in which most struggle, balancing blood sugars is fundamental to regaining control of energy, weight and hormones.
So why do we find it so god damn hard?
Our need and desire for sugar is primeval with a built in mechanism to hunt out fat and fast releasing sugars to support the hunter-gatherer days. Glucose is required to provide quick bursts of energy and is the bodies preferred source of fuel.
Our hunter gatherer ancestors required fast releasing sugars to have the ability to manage their fight or flight response, providing a quick injection of energy if in danger to be able to run quickly from a situation. To this day, we all have the same fight or flight mode but with our sedentary lifestyle and stress threats being deadlines and lifestyle balance, the need for fast releasing sugars is very different. We continue to hunt out fast releasing sugars in the form of high sugary carbohydrates but unfortunately; we are not using the rapid glucose response in the same way.
What can we do about these cravings?
Cravings of sugar and processed foods, in my experience are two fold. Nutrient deficiencies create imbalances in which the body will signal an individual to hunt out and search for balance. An example of this can be seen when we are fat deficient. What we are talking about here, is Essential Fatty Acids: The good fats needed to support the nervous system and brain.
The brain’s composition is made up of fats and the reason we class fats as ‘essential fatty acids’ is due to the fact that the body can not manufacture them and therefore the diet needs to be the number one source. Due to our pre requisite of low fat diets, we can see how we become deficient here.
The majority of clients I see, are fat deficient and rebalancing the diet to be lower in carbohydrate and higher in protein and fats, helps reduce cravings of sugar, as the body becomes nutrient rich. Simple rebalancing of diets to ensure blood sugars are controlled by having a diet rich in protein, essential fatty acids and utilising low glycemic load carbohydrates brings the balance needed to stop a high % of cravings.
The remainder of cravings experienced tends to be habitual and therefore addressing these allows the individual freedom of cravings. As a coach, coaching techniques identify the areas in which habit and emotional eating is stepping in the way. Working through these areas systematically helps you to break free of the constant struggle. Some habits are situational, some are emotional and others can be attributed as physiological. Cracking these really does make the difference to success or failure when it comes to breaking free of the sugar trap.
So which sugars are better than others?
When it comes to which sugars are ‘bad’ and which are ‘good’, you begin to get into trickier waters. I listen to weekly discussions with those who feel honey is a great alternative to sugar and therefore they see themselves in the healthier bracket. The truth is all sugar breaks down to glucose of some form and therefore when thinking about healthier options, what we are looking for is those sugar substitutes that have a lower glycemic load meaning they have a reduced impact in spiking blood sugars overall.
So what are the ‘healthier alternatives’ when it comes to sugar? Controlling blood sugar provides steady energy, hormonal control and better weight management. I would therefore suggest that xylitol, coconut palm sugar, agave syrup and carob fruit syrup are better alternatives to cane sugar, honey and other sugar substitutes when baking. They have a lower glycemic load and support steady blood sugars. Coconut palm sugar has the added bonus of being rich in iron, zinc and B vitamins.
I believe the focus on sugar is a great step in the right direction when it comes to health and weight management. For years, we have been advised that low fat, calorie controlled dietary models are the best for overall health benefits. What we have seen is a direct rise in obesity, chronic illness and general dis-ease due to this. Low fat diets are higher in sugar to replace flavour so the connection between sugar and illness is strongly linked.
Controlling sugar intake, balancing blood sugars through the right ratio of low glycemic load carbohydrates, proteins and essential fats allows the body to be balanced and more in tune with what we were designed to eat. Naturally occurring sugars in low glycemic fruit such as berries, apples and pears and sugar alternatives with a low glycemic load, are much better for our health overall than cane sugar.
My 3 simple steps to beating those Sugar Cravings:
- Eat regularly. Eating every 3-4 hours supports blood sugar balance. 3 meals a day with a nutrient rich snack in the morning and afternoon is key.
- Make sure that all your main meals consist of low glycemic load carbohydrates, proteins and fats. A good example for breakfast would be porridge made with almond milk with a tbsp. of nuts and seeds
- Lay off the sweet stuff. Snacks which are higher in protein and fats will keep you full for longer and will satisfy your bodies need for fat, reducing those sugar signals!.
If we were to sum up this discussion, the take away is this: You are not weak willed if you find yourself craving sugar. You have a pre-disposition to do so – what a revelation! The trick is to get your body back in balance and the majority of your cravings will disappear.The rest my friend, is understanding your habits so you can move forward and change them to be free of the constant battle and to live the life you want in a healthier and blood sugar balanced way.
Debbie will be hosting a number of nutrition courses at Food Sorcery over the coming months
You can find out more about Debbie by following her blog