With so many options for treats and snacks around these days, there is always a chance you might not be choosing the best option for you. But, never fear, there are delicious and nutritious treats out there to keep you full and satisfied.
Refined sugar has many names; high-fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, sugar, brown sugar, anhydrous dextrose, fructose sweetener, malt syrup, raw sugar, white sugar, molasses, syrup, crystal dextrose, etc.
Sugar has been a major source of instant energy since the dawn of human existence. Our brains are designed to like sugar chemically, evolutionarily and neurologically. On a chemical aspect, sugar represents a quick source of energy which our bodies adore, its stimulates a release of insulin which in turn can stimulate appetite.
Sugar and Evolution
Evolutionarily, our brains have evolved to prefer foods that are higher in sugar content as this meant a higher energy supply for our primitive ancestors. Sweeter plants are also less likely to be poisonous, so there is an important survival connection there as well.
Sugar and the Brain
Neurologically, sugar has the potential to be highly addictive as it triggers a dopamine release in parts of the brain associated with addiction, similar to cocaine and heroin. Excessive consumption of sugar can also desensitize dopamine receptors, making a person crave more and more sugar in hopes of acquiring the same dopamine stimulation they experienced before the desensitization dopamine receptors.
Processed vs Natural Sugars
Even some of the most health conscious people are not immune to intense sugar cravings. The key to understanding how to balance these cravings is to only eat sugar in it’s natural context. Refined sugar wreaks havoc on our bodies and our health, depleting our vitality like poison and causing a myriad of diseases including: brain disease, heart disease, tooth decay, diabetes, hypertension to name a few.
However, sugar in it’s natural context has a polar opposite effect. For example the sugar in an apple comes with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and more complex carbohydrates which slow the absorption of the sugar and contribute to health and wellness. Make sure to choose fruit that is in season and ripe, not only will this be the sweetest fruit but also the most nutrient dense.
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Another good practice is to combine healthy protein and fat with your sweet treat to ensure slower absorption and a balance of what the body needs. This way your choice will still feel like a treat, but it won’t send you spiraling out of control.
Suggestions to Reducing Sugar Intake
Here are few nutritionist approved treats for when the body craves and you need something sweet:
- Banana soft-serve:
Make your own ice cream, blend up a frozen banana! When frozen banana chunks are blended, they naturally achieve a soft-serve consistency. Eat it plain or for a more indulgent and balanced treat, add almond butter and berries!
- Drink tea:
Studies show that when more frequent sugar cravings happen, it is because our bodies are registering dehydration as hunger. For a satisfying sweet treat, try brewing some flavored tea (chocolate, vanilla, peach, mango and chai are all great options). Drinking tea will help keep you hydrated and fill you up without adding extra calories. Using a small amounts of honey to sweeten it up (making it more treat-like) also helps, however be sure to be moderate with honey use.
Try snacking on unsweetened coconut chips or shreds, for a treat that is naturally sweet and high in healthy fats. Coconut will also provide you with a decent amount of filling fiber which will further control your cravings by preventing the release ghrelin, a hormone that triggers appetite in response to an empty stomach. Coconut also contains healthy fat, which can help eliminate sugar cravings. Coconut goes well with Greek Yogurt and seasonal fruit.
- Coconut-date treats:
Coconut sprinkled over the tops of dates is also a good source of healthy sugars that will help control excessive cravings. Yes, dates are sweet, but the fiber of them and the small amount of protein they contain helps them digest slower and enter the bloodstream more slowly preventing an insulin spike and energy crash. Pair these with cottage cheese for a balanced treat 🙂
- Berries and Cream:
This traditional Scandinavian treat is an old favorite! Berries are high in fiber, antioxidants and are overall delicious! Add raw milk whipped cream, add a little vanilla whip it and, presto! Incredible! This can be one of the most satisfying healthy treats around!
- Dates, Cream Cheese, Almonds:
Slice the date open in center put a dollop of cream cheese, add an almond and perfecto!
It is important to realize too much consumption of sugar can affect our health, especially refined sugar which has a nastily efficient way of depleting our bodies and making us crave more. Now that sugar is a key ingredient in most items at the grocery store it is a good idea to read food labels and understand what you are reading.
The best choices don’t have an ingredient list, and the second best choices have a short, simple ingredient list. It is sugar that causes insulin problems, excess fat storage, energy luls, sleep issues, and weight gain to name a few health problems.
Try these healthy treats and be amazed that your palate won’t necessarily notice a big difference but the body’s metabolism will. Interested in learning more about how to kick the sugar addiction for good? Make an appointment today with one of Santa Cruz Core’s nutritionists and they can set you up with a program to stop the sugar addiction once and for all.