The sugar trap: how can you escape?

For some of us, just the word ‘cake’ can set our mouths watering and our minds wondering over images of moist carrot cakes with thick cream cheese icing, or gooey chocolate brownies with big chocolate chips, or big warm scones with jam and clotted cream.

A stack of doughnuts

It’s easy to get carried away – there is certainly something about foods like cakes, puddings, chocolate and sweets that we humans find irresistible. Some experts believe this stems from prehistoric times when we had to hunt and forage for our food. Those who found the highest-energy foods – such as fruits and fatty meats – had a better chance of survival. So, over time humans developed something called a ‘reward response’, which meant our brains would reward us for finding high-energy food by making them particularly pleasurable.

This, experts think, is why we love to load our foods with sugars and fats even to this day.

As food technology has developed over the years, so has the number of imaginative ways manufacturers find to stuff their products with as much great-tasting fat and sugar as possible.

Unfortunately, this is the main reason so many of us in Britain are struggling with bulging waistlines and life-threatening cardiovascular diseases.

Nutrition consultant Claire Harper says: “Refined grains and industrial sugar have been processed to the point at which all the micronutrients have been removed, but they have a very long shelf life. Long shelf life means bigger profits, and health issues have been ignored in order to keep making money.”

So how do we fight our nation’s love for sugary foods? When our brains tell us something is good, it can be very difficult to resist. Here are some top tips for culling those cake cravings:

1. Go cold turkey

Try one or two weeks without anything sugary (apart from fruit) – cut out cakes, biscuits, chocolate, crisps, ready meals etc.. Although it will be difficult for the first few days, before long you will stop craving these unhealthy foods. You may be surprised to find that an apple, banana, or handful of raisins does the job to satisfy that pesky sweet tooth.

2. Eat regular, balanced meals

A good way to avoid cravings is to keep your blood sugar levels balanced. You can do this by eating regular meals throughout the day – three main meals with two snacks in between. Each meal should involve protein, whether that be in the form of meat, fish, nuts or a little cheese, in order to keep your energy levels up.

3. Choose unrefined whole-grains

Brown rice, whole-wheat spaghetti and wholemeal bread are tasty and filling alternatives to the more popular but less healthy white versions. These products also contain high amounts of fibre, which is thought to assist with the slow releasing of energy. This prevents the ‘crash and burn’ feeling (high energy to low energy) usually associated with sweet foods.

4. Reduce alcohol intake

Alcohol is extremely high in sugar and it should always be taken in moderation. If you’re craving something refreshing at the end of a long day, opt instead for a fresh fruit smoothie, or a tall glass of ice-cold sparkling water with a wedge of lemon.

For more nutritional advice and information about how a nutrition professional could help you,  visit our A-Z health pages and browse subjects.

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Written by Zoe Thomas
Written by Zoe Thomas
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