Sweet Dreams – Why Do We Have Sugar Cravings


How Sweet It Is!

– Jackie Gleason

Sweet Tooth:

I’d like to say that I only enjoy foods that are healthy and nutritious. I’d like to say that, but I can’t. You see, I like desserts. I want cakes, cookies, candies and anything else I can get for a sugar fix.

 

Why Do We Have Sugar Cravings?

cascading hearts picture - sugar cravings

Although it may be a bit simplistic, I do have a theory as to why we sugar cravings. It’s because sweet things are good for us. Long ago, humans had to hunt for their food. Those that were able to get the ripest fruit gained advantage over their competitors. That’s because ripe fruit contains more nutrients and provides more energy. So, we have evolved to seek out the sweetest foods. And as a reward, our bodies release serotonin into our brains. Serotonin is a neuro-transmitter that helps moderate our moods, affects our sense of well-being, our sleep cycles, and our appetites.

Why Is Sugar Bad for Us?

Wait a minute! Didn’t I just say that we craved sweets because they are good for us? Yes, well they were back before we started refining pure sugar and starch. Nowadays, thanks to candies, soft drinks, cakes and pastries, we can get the sweetness our bodies desired without getting any of the beneficial nutrients that we got from fruit. But remember, sugar also provided us with energy, meaning it is high in calories.

So, the main reason sugar is bad for us it that it provides “empty” calories, and that combined with the fact that we are leading more sedentary lifestyles these days, is making us gain weight.

From 2001 to 2004, Americans consumed lots of sugar: an average of 22 teaspoons a day, the equivalent of 355 calories.

Added sugar leads to obesity and by extension diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses. And as everybody knows, sugar contributes to tooth decay.
Sugar can also affect our emotional state. Remember that serotonin is released when we eat sugar, and that it helps moderate our moods. Low levels of serotonin is linked to depression and although the sugar gives a temporary burst, the more you consume, the less effective it is at improving our mood.

So, What Can We Do About It?

It is very hard to remove sugar from your diet. In fact, removing all sweets from your diet is not healthy at all! The trick is to stop eating the refined pure sugars, and eat fruit instead.

So people would say that replacing refined sugar with natural products, like maple syrup or honey, is a better health choice. While these products may contain more nutrients than refined sugar, this really isn’t true if you consider the calories in 1 tbsp of sugar (approximately 45) versus 1 tbsp of honey (approximately 60). However, it is worth considering that some things seem sweeter than others. In that case, it may be that we can get the same taste and satisfy our sweet tooth with less.

Sweetness Scale:

I thought there might be a sweetness scale similar to the Scoville scale used to measure the spicy heat of peppers. It turns out that there really is any such thing. We can find tables that list relative sweetness of sugar compounds:

Relative Sweetness Scale – Sucrose = 100
Compound Rating
Sucrose 100
Fructose 140
High Fructose Corn Syrup 120-160
Glucose 70-80
Galactose 35
Maltose 30-50
Lactose 20

I’m really not sure where products like honey or maple syrup or agave nectar would fit on this table.

Happy Valentines Day!

Mark on Foodista

Posted in Ingredients, Nutrition
2 comments on “Sweet Dreams – Why Do We Have Sugar Cravings
  1. Stephanie says:

    I think you have a great message here – everyone is probably built to enjoy sweet flavors, just that we don’t need it in huge quantities. So eating fruits is definitely the way to go, especially since the highly processed sugary stuff have so much more impossible-to-pronounce chemicals and additives to them than just sugar!

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