Sugar - our weakness for sweetness
Sugar cravings can feel overwhelming and low blood sugar can make you feel terrible. Ditch the highs and lows and restore balance.
Tired, stressed, starving, in need of a hug... at times like these, the yearning for a biscuit, cake or chocolate can be so powerful, we convince ourselves that we need it; that by reaching for that sugar-laden comfort, we’re ‘listening to our body’.
Well, not quite. While succumbing to the sugar urge might make you feel more awake or content in the short term, the crash that inevitably follows is less fun. The sugar hangover can leave you feeling drowsy, bloated and irritable. Sugar is powerful and addictive, which is why the cravings can be so strong.
Why do we crave it? We’re introduced to sugar and all its comforting connotations as soon as we’re born. Breast milk, our first food, contains the milk sugar lactose. Glucose, the simple form of sugar, is what our brains and bodies rely on for fuel. But the way our bodies respond to sugar depends on how much we eat, the sources we get it from and how quickly we break it down.
What happens when we eat it? When we eat simple sugars, like those in sweets or cakes, or refined carbohydrates, like white bread or pasta, the glucose from these foods enters our bloodstream quickly. This causes a blood sugar spike and we rely on the hormone insulin to get the glucose from our blood into our cells. Eating a diet high in sugar makes our insulin work harder, which can lead to health problems, like insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes. Recent studies have also linked high sugar intake to the development of heart disease. Not so sweet.
Don't cave when you crave
Stick to un-refined carbohydrates. Brown rice, bread and pasta are higher in fibre than the white versions, taking longer to break down and giving a steadier release of energy.
Eat the whole fruit. Fruit contains sugar (fructose) but also fibre, which helps to slow down carbohydrate digestion. Fibre is removed when fruits are juiced, so better to eat fruit than drink it.
Go for good quality protein with every meal and snack. Nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs and avocado are good options. Protein takes longer to digest, keeping you fuller for longer and reducing sugar cravings.
Foods that will love you back
When you crave something sweet, try one of these snacks instead:
- A handful of raw, unsalted nuts or seeds
- An oatcake with cottage cheese, almond butter or hummus
- A handful of carrot sticks or sugar snap peas
Recipe: Apple, cinnamon, almond & walnut paste
Delicious eaten alone, as a topping on porridge or spread on a cracker. As well as adding warmth and sweetness, cinnamon also contains Chromium which helps regulate blood sugar. This is really easy to make - perfect for a quick snack or dessert.
2 apples, washed and grated
Handful of walnuts, roughly chopped
Handful of flaked almonds, roughly chopped
1/2tsp ground cinnamon (add more to taste)
1tsp apple cider vinegar
Mix ingredients by hand or blend for a smoother paste. Eat immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 days.