When the afternoon hunger pains hit, it’s easy to run to the store and grab a candy bar and soda. In fact, it’s not just easy, it’s extremely enticing, too. But if you’re thinking about your health, it’s about the worst plan you’ll come up with to get through the rest of the day.
Added sugars—as in ones that don’t come naturally in fruits, whole grains, and other nutrition sources—are bad for you. They are a major contributor to weight gain and new research has even indicated they are an independent risk factor for cardiovascular problems and a host of other diseases.
But they are such a big part of today’s American diet. They are almost unavoidable and it seems like you’re almost conditioned to crave them when you’re hungry. Really, what are your options? And unfortunately, they leave you just as hungry and slightly more tired shortly after you eat it.
Americans eat too much sugar and it’s taking a toll on the collective health of the country. Links to obesity and disease are very clear-cut and there are almost too many to list.
A few weeks ago, I was listening to a speaker and she explained that you would need eight feet of sugar cane to get the same amount of sugar that’s in one bottle of cola. It really makes you think about just how much of the stuff is being eaten every day.
But how much is too much? It really depends on who you ask. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests sugar should make up less than 10% of your daily calories. The American Heart Association says it should be no more than 100 calories per day for a woman or 150 for a man.
Eating sugar releases dopamine, the “feel good” hormone, which is another reason why it can be so enjoyable. And if you go overboard, the dopamine release revs up as well. This can create more cravings, but these can be defeated. If you’re taking in too much sugar and looking for ways to resist its sweet temptation, here are a few options.
- Go cold turkey: This is tough and there might be some withdrawal symptoms in the first 48-72 hours, but you can substitute with fruits (which are high in natural sugar). Once you’ve passed this initial time period, it will get easier.
- Go for a walk: When the craving hits, instead of going for a snack, take a walk around the block. Get the blood moving, have a glass of water and you’ll likely notice the craving subside.
- Combine it with something else: If you need a quick fix, make it a small 100 calorie serving and have it with some quality nutrition like fruits, lean protein, or healthy fats. This will help control insulin sensitivity and give you nutrients to keep you full.
- Sniff something sweet: I like to keep some loose-leaf peppermint chocolate tea on hand when I’m craving something sweet. I open the can, inhale the sweet smell, and the craving goes away.
- Eat regularly: By increasing your meal and snack frequency with quality nutrition, say every three hours or so, you’re less likely to be hungry and reach for a sugary snack.
Barclay, E., “Why Sugar Makes Us Feel Good,” NPR web site, January 16, 2014; http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/01/15/262741403/why-sugar-makes-us-feel-so-good?utm_content=socialflow&utm_campaign=nprfacebook&utm_source=npr&utm_medium=facebook, last accessed February 12, 2014.
Gupta, S., “Sugar Not Only Makes You Fat, It Makes You Sick,” CNN web site, February 3, 2014; http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2014/02/03/sugar-not-only-makes-you-fat-it-may-make-you-sick/comment-page-5/, last accessed February 12, 2014.