The average American consumes roughly 152 pounds of sugar a year, according to the US. Department of Health and Human Services. When you consider that fact, it’s not difficult to guess why we, as a nation, struggle with obesity and diabetes. Mildly overweight people usually store about 5% of the sugar they eat for energy. They metabolize about 60% and they store about 35% as fat for future energy needs. The problem is that we rarely need to tap into those fat stores so they just keep accumulating.
Our “Sweet Tooth” is killing us.
What we whimsically call a “sweet tooth” is really just a cute name for a sugar craving, or a passion for sweet foods. If you’re the girl most likely to hit the dessert bar twice, you probably identify as someone with a “sweet tooth.” And that might not be entirely your fault.
There is recent evidence that suggests a genetic root to the lust for sugar. Hardcore metabolic roots for those sugary cravings mean that sugar junkies who really want to combat their desires need to find healthy alternatives to satisfy their sweet teeth.
What are the genetic causes for a sweet tooth?
Studies in recent years show that people who crave sugar tend to have a “weak sweet taste.” That means that they need more sugar than a normal person to taste the same level of sweetness. Genetics appear to account for about 30% of the differences in peoples’ ability to taste sweetness according to a study of identical and non-identical twins at the Monell Chemical Senses Center.
The same research demonstrated that contrary to popular thought, eating a lot of sugar as a kid didn’t anesthetize participants to sweetness. It’s a genetic thing. Some people are just born with a sweet tooth.
So what happens when DNA supplies you with weak sweet receptors? Sweets are more appealing to you than to most people. You eat more sugar to sate your desire for sweetness. And that means you take in more empty calories that your body will helpfully store as fat in case you need that energy later. Thanks.
What is sugar addiction?
Sugar over stimulates the reward centers in your brain and according to some experts causes addiction. Other experts dispute whether sugar addiction exists, but what I know is when I eat sugar I want more and more and more. So regardless of what the experts say, I feel like it’s an uncontrollable monster within me.
Here’s what we all agree on … foods with a lot of sugar cause our brains to release massive amounts of dopamine, the same brain chemical that illicit drugs, like cocaine and meth, amp up to create euphoria. That’s what we mean by a “sugar high.”
When we eat a lot of high-sugar foods frequently, we train the brain to be less conscious of the increased dopamine levels. And once the brain is less receptive it takes more and more sugar to create the same feeling, just like building a tolerance to an addictive drug. Because sugar manipulates our brains’ reward centers, and functions a lot like nicotine or cocaine, folks with a predisposition toward addiction are more likely to get addicted to sugar and to lose control of their ability to regulate consumption.
Well that sucks.
But I have good news! You CAN satisfy your sweet tooth and put the kibosh on those crazy cravings by choosing healthier snacks and limiting the amount sugar you swallow. You know that you need to set down the candy bars, step away from the ice cream, and lay off the sodas and desserts but did you also know that dairy, fruit products, and white flour pack a huge sugar punch?
The top three sources for added sugar in the American diet are:
- soft drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks;
- baked desserts with a grain base like cookies and cake;
- and sugar packed fruit drinks like juices and smoothies.
But before you start to despair, let’s get back to all of the incredibly tasty options you have to satisfy that sweet tooth and curb your cravings.
- Baked apple.
- Banana Nice Cream also known as pureed frozen bananas.
- All-fruit popsicle.
- Homemade trail mix.
- Roasted sweet potatoes.
- Strawberries dipped in sweet cashew cream sauce.
- Grilled pineapple.
- Frozen grapes.
- Sliced pear with almond butter.
- Whole wheat frozen waffle topped with fruit.
- Green smoothie.
- Pancakes! Topped with fruit and a dollop of yogurt.
- Fruit crisp, also known as baked fruit with a sprinkle of nuts and granola.
- Snickerdoodle protein balls.
Now if your body has become accustomed to high-fructose, super-processed snack cakes, it will take you a while to get used to eating a frozen banana instead. But I promise that if you commit to working the sugar out of your diet, you’re going to feel so much healthier it will make your head spin. And after a while, treats you once enjoyed will seem too sweet. You’ll be able to relish a truly divine chocolate dipped strawberry instead of eating a sleeve of Thin Mints.
You will learn to satisfy your sweet tooth with less sugar. Doesn’t that sound heavenly? To be in control of what you eat? To live without cravings?
You want to discover your healthiest self or you wouldn’t have read this far.
So let’s do it.
Do not let sugar kick your butt. Jump in and try something new to satisfy your sweet tooth. Kick those cravings to the curb so you can live the healthy, happy life that you deserve!