According to experts, sweet cravings are a potent combination of nostalgia (the memory of fresh-baked cookie as a special treat), habit (always having cake for dessert) – and a chemical attraction, which can be explained by the post-sugar rush you feel due to a spike in blood sugar and the release of feel-good hormones, like serotonin, in your brain.
Plenty of people believe they have an addiction to sugar, so is their craving like that of a drug addict’s? Giving up the stuff can require the same cognitive and behavior-modification skills that people need to stop smoking or drinking.
Woman’s Day advises how to break the habit if you do have a problem. Smart tips include:
• Reading labels. The first five ingredients listed make up the majority of any packaged food. If sugar in any form is there, move on.
• Watching what you drink. Go with juices labeled “100 percent juice” instead of “cocktail” or “punch” and mix your own unsweetened iced tea.
• Picking homemade foods. Homemade foods tend to have less sugar. Take tomato sauce: You might add a dash of sugar to cut the tomatoes’ acidity, but jarred brands are often loaded with sugar.
• Altering recipes. You can almost always cut the sugar by half in cookie or cake recipes without compromising flavor or texture.
• Writing it down. You say you don’t eat dessert, but have you counted the M&Ms from the receptionist’s desk? Keep a food diary for a week, and you’ll uncover all sorts of easy-to-slash sweet stuff.
• Going easy on the fakes. Artificial sweeteners can actually foster a taste for sweets. Cut down on them gradually to kick the habit.
• Out of sight. Kids brought home candy from a party? Toss what they don’t eat so you won’t be tempted.
• Retraining those taste buds. If you must have something sweet to round out a meal, try plain low fat yogurt, a fruit cup packed in fruit juice (not syrup), or a piece of fresh fruit. Over time, if you get reaccustomed to the taste of healthful-but-sweet foods, you’ll feel just as satisfied.
A sugar by any other name
Check your ingredient labels for these sugar sources:
• Brown sugar: White sugar with molasses added.
• Corn syrup: Made from corn starch.
• Dextrose: A naturally occurring from of glucose in fruits and veggies (your body also produces it).
• Fructose: Found in fruits, vegetables and their juices, used in crystalline form as a sweetener.
• High-fructose corn syrup: Highly processed form of sugar made from corn starch and fructose.
• Honey: A natural sweetener; contains fructose and glucose.
• Molasses: Dark syrup made by boiling down sugar from sugar cane.
• Sucrose: Cane sugar (plain white sugar).
• Turbinado: Made by spinning sugar cane extract in a centrifuge or turbine to create large brown crystals.
First printed in the May 5, 2009, issue of Woman’s Day magazine. For videos, recipes and more, visit the Web site at www.womansday.com.