Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sweet Teeth

     Life is no piece of cake & neither is staying on a diet.  I'm usually a really healthy eater (I don't eat beef, pork, milk products, & stay away from fried foods most of the time), but I crave sweets daily. What gives?  

     I decided to get to the bottom of this & did some research on why we (I think it's mostly a woman thing) crave sweets… 

     Lets start at the beginning… The Neanderthal ages to be exact.  Early man had no idea where his next meal would come from (or even if there was going to be a next meal).  Thus, the human body adapted & at least two things happened:  

     First, the brain became adept at figuring out which foods were nutritionally dense and energy-rich and which ones were not (berries, yes… tree bark, not so much).  Our bodies realised that foods rich in sugar like fruits, berries and chocolate-chip-ice-cream (as anachronistic as that sounds) provided much needed energy to replenish the body from all those t-rex-avoidance marathons. The brain released certain chemicals called opioids which gave the body pleasurable feelings at the sight and taste of sugar so that it would never forget to get more of those the next time it found them.

     The second adaptation was that, of course, the body became an expert at storing energy in the form of fat. All excess food consumed was converted and stored in the gut (or booty) for the next dry spell.  This, of course, is why sweets (although heavenly) are considered satanic & mostly be avoided by me.  

     Fast forward to present day.  There are a few modern reasons why we may crave sweets, too.  Turns out, you can blame your mother for those ice cream binges (thanks, Mom).  As children, we are often rewarded for golden stars at school, no temper-tantrums in the grocery store, & being nice to our sisters by the promise of ice cream & other sweet treats.  These foods turn into cravings later on in life because they're comforting & are still seen as rewarding to our brains.    

     Also, modern day stress can be a reason why we reach for a candy bar on a busy work day.  The taste of sugar  releases endorphins that calm and relax us, and offer a natural "high".  Your body might also be low on serotonin levels.  Serotonin is a brain chemical that makes you feel content and happy.  Many antidepressant medications work by keeping serotonin levels high.  Sugar may increase the absorption of an amino acid called tryptophan, which the body uses to make serotonin. This means that eating something sweet may make you feel happy and avoiding sweets may make you feel crabby.  Turns out, common reasons for low serotonin levels is lack of sleep, poor diet, & not enough exercise.  

     No doubt, knowing this info isn't going to keep my cravings at bay, but understanding why i'm craving sweets will hopefully be helpful in making better decisions & practicing portion control (we can dream, right?).  With that, I leave you with some photos from one of my favorite bloggers: Frenchfrosting.  She makes dessert look so good, it should be on a runway.  

No comments:

Post a Comment