Oh, sugar…so sweet, so addictive, so unhealthy. These days, sugar is everywhere, even where you don’t expect it. And with the surge of processed foods in the last fifty years, we are now consuming more refined sugars than ever. This has contributed to an epidemic of obesity and diabetes in both children and adults.
So why do we crave sugar so much? (Hint: it's not your fault.)
Our bodies are hardwired to seek glucose (the basic form of sugar). Glucose is an important energy source for living organisms. Our body rewards us when we consume sugar as a part of our natural survival instincts. When we eat sugar, it increases dopamine (the happy hormone) levels in our brain, which only keeps us wanting more. Our early ancestors did not have a lot of access to foods with sugar, and food was scarce (nor did they have an FDA to publish guidelines). They had to rely on their instincts which told them to seek as much glucose as possible. Today, we have plenty of access to food, but our bodies still crave that sugar fix because our survival instincts have yet to evolve and adapt to our modern food supply.
There are other factors that affect sugar cravings, such as hormonal changes, stress, and sleep deprivation. For example, when we are sleep deprived, we automatically seek some form of energy, which often results in the intake of carbohydrates, which are broken down into sugar. And, when we’re stressed, we often seek some form of comfort, and in comes sugar with its dopamine boosting powers.
But there’s hope! There are many ways to reduce your sugar intake. Here are a couple popular options:
Find Healthier Alternatives
Let’s face it. It’s nearly impossible to avoid sugar altogether. However, we can make better-for-you choices that still taste great. For example, swap fruit for candy. Try leaving a bowl of apples on the kitchen counter and getting the candy out of the house to avoid temptation. Greek yogurt with berries is a delicious alternative to ice cream. Or, give one of our nutrition bars a try instead of a traditional candy bar. Did you know our Dark Chocolate Cashew Almond Bar has only 9g of sugar, compared to 40g of sugar in a 3 Musketeers?!
Getting more exercise and sleep will do wonders for your stress levels, and as a result it will be easier to make healthier choices. Exercise boosts endorphins in the brain for a natural mood boost so you won’t as likely feel the need to reach for a sweet treat.
Understanding why we do things is half the battle. The other half is making the little adjustments that can make a big difference in living a longer, healthier life!