There are certain things you and I are attached from in a regular basis – work, family, responsibilities, etc. Those are things we actually need to either survive or live the day by day. But there are many things we make ourselves dependent from without actually needing them for anything other than pleasure. Unfortunately, this oh so-called “pleasure” has a ton of not-so- desirable consequences that come with it whether we see them immediately or not.
Addiction to food is something that we believe don’t exist because it involves that, food. Food is not only legal but also actually needed to stay alive. However, the kind of foods we are talking about here is the kind of food that you, in fact, can live without and the lack of it will not, by any mean, kill you in the long run – I am talking about sugars!
It’s been a minute since we all realized the grand problem we have in our hands worldwide. Obesity is not something new nor it will end anytime soon. But little has been done to fix the problem. Years ago, the school of thought that fat was making the population overweight is now kind of obsolete. Today, sugars are what we need to be alarmed of. However, not many seem to be very aware of the problem.
Just like cigarettes and recreational drugs, sugar will not fail to give you the short term effects that you are looking for – taste buds happiness, excitement to life and energy that will make you see the world though a more “positive” advantage point. But then what? Whether this effect last a couple of minutes or an hour, this “high” will eventually run off and bring you back to a “crashing” reality – tiredness and lethargy in the short term, and overweight and obesity in the long run.
Chemically speaking, sugars have been shown to have the same effects as any other addicting substance. Sugars affect the “reward system” of our brain, which is located in the nucleus accumbens, exactly where dopamine works conveying the feeling of pleasure. When we eat sugar repeatedly, which is a way to give pleasure to the body, we over stimulate this reward system producing the down regulation of dopamine receptors making them fewer in number.
Another system that regulates satiety and controls the amount of food we eat preventing us from overeating is the hormone leptin. This hormone signals the brain when the body has received enough food and is satisfied. However, when this system does not work properly, the consequence is overeating because we are constantly reacting to a “starvation” state. Studies have shown that obese people actually experience less pleasure from food than their normal weight counterparts. Therefore, like any other drug, they keep craving more and more sugar looking for that “pleasure” feeling that is now decreasing. This is called tolerance.
Tolerance and withdrawal is what makes a drug so powerful. It can take over our control and it can eventually become an addition. It is a chemical and biological transformation in our brain that cannot be easily controlled. Sugar is the “legal drug” of the modern world, which creates a need that people are constantly satisfying with processed foods making us more and more addicted everyday. No one can exert cognitive inhibition over a biochemical signal that keeps going off every minute of everyday. This is the big issue with any addition.
Now, how to overcome sugar addiction? Unfortunately there is not a easy way out for this. Like any other addition, sugar addiction should be addressed by cutting down the substance. This simply means cutting down the refined kind of sugars.
Now, the nutritional spiel on sugars - Basically, addicting sugars come from the refined kind. Carbohydrates are all mistakenly commonly referred as sugars. However, carbohydrates can be divided in two main kinds: Complex and simple. Complex carbohydrates not only provide steady energy but they also help keeping you fuller longer due to its high fiber content which will, in the long run, help you lose weight besides many other benefits. These are the good kind. Simple carbohydrates are those coming from refined sugars and involve foods that do not have any nutritional value. These are the bad kind.
You cannot cut sugars completely out of your diet because they are needed in a balanced diet. But a balanced diet involves the intake of the good kind of sugars, complex instead of simple carbohydrates.
So, instead of cookies, candy bars, cakes, ice cream, whipped cream, and all other crazy sweet treats out there, here are the kinds of carbohydrates you need to maintain your waistline while keeping steady energy throughout the day:
· Vegetables: all of them… it does not matter the time a day, you can always eat veggies!
· Whole fruits: any kind of fruits. Go ahead and make them your go-to sweet treat as they are packed with flavor as well as vitamins and minerals.
· Nuts and seeds: walnuts, almonds, macademia nuts, hazelnuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc. are not only good source of carbohydrate but also protein and good fats.
· Whole grains: make sure to choose from the least processed kinds such as quinoa, oats, brown rice, brown pasta, barley, millet, etc.
· Tubers: sweet potatoes, cassava, potatoes, yams.
· Legumes: black beans, peas, kidney beans, lentils are perfect additions to your meals giving you not only carbohydrates but protein.
Now, next time you have a sweet tooth, there is no sin eating a cookie. BUT, keep it very limited and very far in between. You will notice that the less you eat sugar, the less you will crave it but you have to start cutting it back and the time is NOW!