There's a reason for that. When we eat sugar we actually flood our brains with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps to control the brain's pleasure and reward centres. Studies have shown that sugar stimulates the reward centre the same way that a drug like cocaine does.
Interesting huh? Think about when you have ice cream or candy do you feel happy? Are there warm fuzzy feelings similar to those you had when you were a youngling?
Here's the not so warm and fuzzy part: We are literally overdosing on sugar.
There is sugar in pretty much everything! The soda that you may drink, the cereal you have for breakfast, the spoonful of sugar you have in your tea or your coffee, the juice you give your children, the pre-packaged bread you bought for sandwiches, the sauces you use in your dinner, and that's just the beginning. Pretty much all food that comes prepared will have added sugar. Even if you're one to lean towards the diet and sugar-free grocery items, those have sugar in them too. Yes, aspartame did not come from a cane or a fruit, it's an artificial substitute and it has just as many dangerous side effects. Diet and sugar-free is not the healthy way to go, neither is fat-free or diet either, but that's a discussion for another day.
Back to the sugar, it's in everything. The food companies need to give you a reason to go back and buy their product. There's actually a lot of history behind the sugar industry but to keep it simple, let's say that sugar is a great way to keep you buying a product since it changes your brain function and it is all types of addictive.
But how are we to live a life without sugar?! Isn't that impossible?! I hear you asking, and no, it's not impossible at all. However, cutting all things sweet out of your life is not what I'm going to suggest.
First things first, it needs to be said that there is a difference between refined sugar, HFCS, dextrose, all the other "sugars" and the sugar that's in fruit and sweet vegetables. Refined sugar comes from taking sugar cane and sugar beet and processing it to such a degree where all that's left is sugar. Refined sugar does absolutely nothing for your health. It has actually been proven to cause weight gain, promote dental decay and contribute to type two diabetes. HFCS or High Fructose Corn Syrup is not a natural sugar, it is extracted from corn through a very secret process. The sugars are then extracted through a "chemical enzymatic process resulting in a chemically and biologically novel compound" which essentially means that it is again processed chemically so much so that it is something totally new and nothing like the corn it came from. HFCS has been linked to heart disease, obesity, liver failure and even cancer - this is when had in moderation.
There's a huge reason that I say fruit is different. The wonderful thing about fruit is that nature has not only provided us with something that pleases our tastebuds but also with other nutritious things like fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. You don't get that from your can of soda.
As bleak as things may look right now for the sugar lovers, this is something that can be turned around. Sugar doesn't have to be bad for you. I say this because there are ways of cooking and eating it that aren't so detrimental to your health. Here are 5 ways of changing how you eat sugar.
Cut out processed foods.
Since it's in everything we would pretty much buy at the grocery store, the best thing to do would be to start by cutting out the processed foods.
Cook your own food.
You'd be amazed at how much you can avoid just by cooking your own food. Yes our days are busy, but you pay for it now in time or pay for it later with your health.
Read the labels.
I can't say it often enough. Because many of the food companies out there are more interested in making money than contributing to our health and happiness, you have to read the labels. Try this for me: The next time you go shopping, read the labels of the foods you normally buy, look at the ingredients and see if you find any of the following; high fructose corn syrup or HFCS, dextrose, fructose, corn sweetener, corn sugar, glucose, lactose and maltose. All that I just mentioned are different variations of sugar.
Retrain your tastebuds.
Believe it or not your tastebuds are able to change. By changing your diet you change what your body prefers. You don't have to eat that candy, drink that soda or lose yourself in a pint of Ben and Jerry's. Be lessening your intake you can actually change what you think is tasty. Try not eating candy for two weeks. Replace that candy with blueberries. Go a further step and eliminate the sodas, replace with water (put some fruit in it!) and see how you feel about candy after. Chances are you'll get a sugar high and you may not enjoy it as much as you previously did.
Get your sleep, drink lots of water and eat your fruits and veg.
Sounds pretty basic but these 3 things can make a vast difference in how you feel and what you crave. Sleep deprivation can cause you to reach for things that give you a boost such as caffeine or sugar. Craving sugar can sometimes be a symptom of dehydration. Eating fruits and veg will help you to gradually change your eating habits for the better.
And to end things on a sweet note, here's a treat I make that even pleases my sweet-toothed husband.
1/2 cup of blueberries
1/2 cup of frozen mixed berries
1/4 cup of mango
1/4 cup of coconut milk (creamier consistency than nut milk)
1/4 cup of almond milk (add more depending on the consistency you desire)
(optional) 1 tsp-1 tbsp of maple syrup or honey to sweeten if needed.
Blend and enjoy.
It's a great option for dessert. It's quick and super easy. Add some cinnamon if you like, cinnamon is great for balancing blood sugars!
There is a lot of information about sugar, the sugar industry and how to go about staying healthy and enjoying the food you eat. Becoming informed and changing your habits does not happen in a day. And that's ok. Baby steps are a great way to change things for the better, for good. Part two on what you need to know about sugar coming soon.
Be well beautiful people!