Sugar can give you an instant high, and this is the reason people indulge in sugary treats when they feel low on energy, moods and simply to feel good. While small amounts of sugar do no harm, excessive intake can turn problematic over time and manifest in many health issues. Much like drugs, one may can get addicted to sugar and begin to crave it over and over again. The problem with sugar is that it absorbs in the bloodstream fast which causes increase in insulin levels. This extra glucose gets stored in liver and muscle tissues and also as fat. This can also lead to many chronic health issues like diabetes, hypertension, fatty liver, obesity among others. As per dietary guidelines for Americans, less than 50 gm, or 10 per cent of daily calories must be consumed by an adult who is eating 2,000 calories a day.
“Eating sugar and taking drugs both activate the reward centre of the brain which raises dopamine levels. This creates a pleasurable ‘high’ which makes you want to keep doing it. Every time you eat sugar, you reinforce neuropathways, which causes the brain to become hardwired to crave sugar and build up a tolerance. This is when the habit starts to turn into an addiction. To make matters worse, eating excess sugar can lead to serious health conditions like diabetes, obesity and cancer,” says Sonia Bakshi, Nutritionist and Founder DtF.
Bakshi shares 8 signs that show your body is addicted to sugar:
1. Salt cravings
They are a sign that you’re eating too much sugar. Sugar is classified as an ’empty nutrient’ which means that it provides calories but no nutritional value. Therefore, you become deficient in healthy proteins and fats, which can cause you to crave salty foods. Research shows that too much salt can affect your blood pressure and increase your risk of heart disease.
2. Constant fatigue
When blood sugar levels drop, you reach for something sugary. So, your blood sugar spikes and crashes quickly. This causes your body to expel more energy than it takes in, leaving you tired and cranky.
3. Hiding your sugar intake
You know you shouldn’t be eating so much sugar, but you can’t cut back, so you start to hide it and make excuses. If you are also doing the same, and secretly indulging in sugary treats, you have an addiction.
4. Poor skin health
When there’s too much sugar in the bloodstream, it attaches to proteins and forms new molecules called Advanced Glycation End Products, (AGEs). This process is called glycation. The more that glycation occurs, the faster your skin ages.
5. Eating when not hungry
You may be craving a dessert after a filling meal. Since digestion consumes more energy, it could even lead to more sugar cravings. Negative moods like anxiety, stress, depression, loneliness, and boredom can also trigger sugar cravings.
6. Behavioural issues
You are irritable and have stronger cravings the longer you are without sugar. If you find yourself and your behaviours becoming harder to manage, then, your body has become addicted to sugar.
7. Eating a lot of fruit or drinking a lot of juice
Sugars found naturally in fruits are much easier to digest and healthier for your body. However, if you have a high sugar intake and happen to be addicted to sugar, your inclination towards sweet fruits and juices could be contributing. These naturally sweet foods can increase your cravings, making sugar avoidance even harder. It may be better to opt for some fresh veggies if you find yourself craving sugars and excess sugary fruits.
8. Use sugar to soothe
If you’re craving something sweet after a break-up or a bad day, watch out. This is a sure shot psychological symptom of sugar addiction and you are using it as a means to cope with stress, boredom, depression or anxiety.
Tips to overcome sugar cravings
Sonia Bakshi also shares dietary tips that can help regular your sugar cravings.
1. Having more probiotic foods
They are full of good bacteria and can help stimulate your taste buds and distract you from sugar cravings. Research shows that it could also regulate blood sugar levels and reduce appetite. Examples are apple cider vinegar, kimchi, tempeh etc.
2. Drink more water
Your sugar craving could be a sign of dehydration. When you don’t drink enough water, it reduces the overall fluid in the body and can leave you feeling fatigued. As a result, you may start to crave sugar for an energy boost. Drinking more water can help you regulate sugar cravings.
3. Eat more proteins and healthy fats
Eggs, lean meat, chicken breast, fatty fish, nuts and avocados are the foods that you should consume regularly. They keep you full for longer and don’t spike your blood sugar levels.
4. Eat more fibre
Coconut, broccoli, almonds, and cauliflower have loads of fibre and must be added to your daily diet to curb sugar cravings. They provide energy and keep your blood sugars stable.