Sugar: A Hidden Danger - Part 1
After my first few interactions with some of the members at my new job, I realized very quickly just how many people are struggling with sugar cravings. We are hard-wired to seek out that sweet taste and the pleasure that comes from eating sweets and sugar. Today and in future parts of this series, I will walk you through why we have sugar cravings, how we break down carbs, where we can find good sources of carbs, how we can bust through cravings, and so much more! Get ready for an information-packed sugar series!
For starters, why do we crave sugar? Basically, it comes down to one word: dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the feelings of reward and pleasure in our brain. Dopamine is release in response to a number of good things, one of which includes exercise.
However, dopamine is also release in response to some not-so-healthy substances, including caffeine, narcotics, and sugar.
When dopamine is release, it sends signals through the body to encourage you to seek more of that pleasurable feeling, whether it be from any of the above substances. However, how often do we satisfy a craving with exercise?
Yeah, I didn’t think so – sugar is our main go-to when we experience these cravings. What’s more is that modern, refined forms of sugar trigger the release of dopamine on an even greater scale than other more natural forms of sugar (say fruit for instance). These refined forms of sugar rob our nutrient stores, leading to a constant desire for sugar.
No nutrients in the food we eat = cravings = constant desire for sugar.
It’s a never ending battle.
Besides the dopamine response that results when we eat sugar, there are a number of other reactions that happen in the body when we eat sugar or really any form of carbohydrate.
When it comes to digesting carbohydrates, our body first breaks down the carbs into glucose, which is a usable form of energy for the body. Insulin is released from the pancreas at this time as well, and its job is to send a message to your cells to let the nutrients into the cell (including glucose).
As we eat carbs and break them down into energy, our body uses insulin to get the glucose into your body’s storage bins: the liver and your muscles. Stored glucose is also known as glycogen.
Before storage, however, glucose heads to areas of the body that may need it for energy, like the brain, tissues, or red blood cells. When those areas of your body have received the energy they need, the rest of the glucose heads for storage.
Unfortunately, there is only so much room for storage. What isn’t used up or stored in the liver or muscles is stored on our body as fat. Our body has unlimited storage for fat, but limited storage for carbs.
But wait, not all carbs are to be feared!
Stay tuned for my next post in the sugar series where I’ll help break down good and not-so-good sources of carbs.
Until next time!