For repetitive dieters sugar is often recognised as the biggest downfall. Sugar is also the number one enemy when it comes to all sorts of health issues. A balanced blood sugar level without massive peaks and troughs throughout the day belongs to that of a healthy, vital, energized person. Regulation of blood sugar levels is not just for the diabetic but is a key indicator of the state of your health. I might also add that sugar is very ageing to the body, so forget the expensive miracle creams and ditch your sugar habit instead. In fact, research shows that a diet laced with sugar and refined carbohydrates can be more ageing for the skin than a lifetime of lying in the sun.
Sugar is one of the 3 macronutrients, (the other 2 being fats and proteins), made up of carbohydrate molecules. Most of our energy requirements can be obtained from protein and fats, with only relatively small amounts of carbohydrate - compared to the average modern westernized diet. It is also worth bearing in mind that high carbohydrate foods are more often than not highly processed and full of sugar; sweets, bread, pasta, prepackaged food, breakfast cereals, soft drinks and fruit juices. Unrefined foods are the best way to get the carbohydrate needed in the diet. This is due to the insulin reaction and potential addictive nature of sugar and refined foods.
Food manufacturers are clever to make food labeling misleading and few people read ingredients labels or even understand the names of the ingredients they may read, sugar has countless different names and forms. Take a circuit around your local supermarket. Unless you are buying from the fresh fish or meat section or the fruit and vegetable aisles then I guarantee there will be sugar in virtually every item you pick up from tomato sauce to flavoured water, to cereals, cooked meats and yogurts and even savoury ready meals, that can contain more sugar than ice cream.
So what really happens when we consume sugar in one of its various guises? To kickoff the very pleasurable experience, our tongue is activated through sweet taste receptors. Taste is your brain's way of telling you about what's going into your mouth, and whether it is safe to eat or that you’re better off spitting it out, as it may be poisonous. This message travels to the cerebral cortex part of the brain, our grey matter, which processes different tastes and interprets them. Sugar will activate the reward centre in the brain and the brain knows pleasure when it comes from an external stimulus. The pleasurable sensation gives the okay and releases dopamine.
Sugar alone does not have the stronghold on the reward centre; sex, drugs and wild partying have the same effect in releasing the pleasurable dopamine feel. If this reaction is over activated then it can kick start cravings, addiction, loss of control and increased intolerance. This effect is more commonly seen where substances increase dopamine massively, with alcohol, heroin and smoking leaving some people seeking out that intensely pleasurable high again and again. Anyone who is or has been an addict will recognize these uncontrollable feelings for wanting more and more. Sugar, for some, can have a very similar effect. You’re the person that finishes the whole packet of biscuits without taking a breath or looks for a sugary fix at the same time everyday.
In last week’s blog ‘Nourishing, the family way’ I explained why it was a good idea to keep introducing new foods and different meals, well now there is another good reason. When we eat a new healthy, balanced meal our body releases a spike of dopamine. If we repeat this meal day after day then the dopamine release will be less and less until eventually it levels out. This relaxing of the dopamine reaction encourages us to vary our food and meals to be triggering the pleasurable dopamine reaction. The brain pays special attention to new food tastes and by doing so ensures that we eat a variety of food and therefore a variety of nutrients. It is very difficult to get all the nutrients we need by eating the same foods all the time, variation is key to give our bodies all the vitamins and minerals they need. This reaction also helps to detect when food has gone off and is not good to eat.
If, like me, you rarely eat sugar then when you do consume a sugary treat it will have a similar dopamine effect to a balanced healthy meal. But if we continually repeat this behaviour of consuming high sugar foods, unlike the balanced meals, the dopamine will not level out, but like drugs or alcohol it can leave you wanting more and more as the dopamine continues to rise.
Similarly, the insulin spike that releases from the pancreas to deal with the sugar hit will be far more sensitive and reactive than for those that consume sugar regularly and end up with insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is totally preventable.
In the 5 years leading up to 2011, 2.5 million people in the UK were diagnosed with diabetes, that was a 25% increase in 5 years. There are estimates that a further 850,000 went undiagnosed. Diabetes is now the single biggest cause of amputation, stroke, blindness and end stage kidney failure in the UK. Diabetes is a huge health problem and some research suggests if predictions are correct it will bankrupt the NHS within 20 years.
It doesn’t’t take long to overcome those sugar cravings once you cut the suspect foods out of your diet and replace them with nutrient rich foods. You’ll look better, feel better and be making a great long-term investment in your health.
If you feel you need to help in rebalancing your sugar intake or have blood sugar issues and want to move towards healthier alternatives then you can book me for a free 20 minute Skype consultation to discuss. Here is a link to the form where you can contact me:
Alternatively you can book consultations by calling me 07786 687444 or you can email me email@example.com.
If you found this article interesting and informative then please share with your friends, family or work colleagues. Signing up for my fortnightly health blog can be done here:
Don't forget to join the discussion by leaving a comment in the box below. Do you get sugar or carbohydrate cravings? If so, how do you manage them (or not) I'd love to hear from you.