You don’t need to be a scientist to appreciate some of the basic chemistry behind the foods we eat. And the better you understand what’s happening in your body, the easier it can be to make better food choices.
For example, you’ve probably heard the terms “simple carbohydrates” and “complex carbohydrates”. You may also have heard that simple carbs are “bad” for you and that complex carbs are “good” for you. Is this true? And if so, why?
Well, when you eat simple sugars, your body breaks them down quickly and absorbs them into your bloodstream. Whatever you don’t use is converted into fat. Eating sweets will give you a quick energy burst, but then leave you hungry – and tired! Do you feel hungry again an hour or two after eating a muffin? You may be sated for a short time, but then crave another sweet snack…and when you give in, the cycle continues.
Simple sugars end in -ose (lactose, sucrose, etc.) and can be found in milk, honey and many processed foods. Check labels for sugars in the form of corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, and molasses. They’re found in so many foods, in fact, that we often wind up eating much more of them than we realize (also look at labels for tomato sauce, yogurt, canned fruit and even jams.) The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to about 6 teaspoons a day for women, and 9 per day for men. However, on average, American consume 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Six teaspoons is equal to 30 grams; 9 teaspoons is equal to 45 grams and 22 teaspoons is a whopping 110 grams of sugar.
Complex carbohydrates include starches and fiber. Examples of good choices are whole grains, peas, legumes, broccoli, spinach and tomatoes. These foods are broken down by your body more slowly and provide energy – something we’re all looking for! Even better, adding extra fiber slows your body’s absorption of the carbohydrates, making you feel fuller, longer.
Here are some tips to fight sugar addiction:
-Drink water. Sometimes we think we have a sweet craving, but we’re really dehydrated. Try drinking a glass of water, wait a few minutes, then see if you still need something sweet.
-Get going. A change of scenery may be enough to take your mind off your craving. A walk around the block may do the trick.
-Try sweet vegetables or fruit. Fruit contains both simple and complex carbs, and can often satisfy a craving. Because fruits contain vitamins and nutrients, they’re a good snack choice. Notice how well you feel after choosing an apple or a peach.
-Spice it up. Substitute spices for sugar or honey. Cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander and cardamom are all good choices, which your palate will appreciate.
-Eat regularly. Pay attention to how often you need to eat something satisfying – perhaps every 2-3 hours? Don’t let yourself become too hungry, which can then lead to poor food choices (often sugary ones). Plan ahead and have a snack on hand!
-Enjoy sweetness from other sources. Sometimes we think we need a “comforting” snack, when a hug or an intimate conversation will be even more satisfying. Whether it’s time with friends and loved ones, paying attention to our bodies in the form of massage or exercise, or spending time outdoors, there’s no such thing as too much of these sweet choices.