Have you felt yourself reaching for the biscuit tin lately? Is that chocolate cheesecake whispering to you from the fridge? If so, you’re not alone. Finding solace in sweet treats is actually a natural instinct – sugar gives us a welcome ping of pleasure and energy boost. But beware – it comes at a price.
The sugar trap
When we’re feeling stressed out, the hormone cortisol floods our body. It releases glucose from our liver which in turn raises blood sugar levels. This puts us in a ‘fight or flight’ state, so we’re ready to deal with whatever is stressing us out.
In evolutionary terms, this stressor would have been an infrequent predator or a marauding rival. But in the modern world, cortisol floods our systems dozens of times a day when we’re running late, or our car breaks down, or our baby cries, or we’ve missed a work deadline. We’re not designed to experience almost permanent stress, and the events of the last year have only made this worse.
So what happens when we’re feeling stressed? Our bodies crave something that will make us feel happy, to balance us out. And sugar, with its dopamine releasing powers, can improve our mood in a flash. However, the surge in sugar creates a rush of insulin – the hormone that manages blood sugar levels – and we’ll soon find ourselves crashing and feeling sluggish. The sugar trap is set which is why sugar consumption can sometimes feel like an addition.
How much sugar should I be eating?
Large amounts of sugar can be really bad for your health and are linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and weight gain, not to mention tooth decay and for some, congested skin.
The NHS states that adults should have no more than 30g of ‘free sugars’ a day, which is equivalent to seven sugar cubes or six teaspoons. Free sugar is the term given to sugar that is added to our diet such as sugar in your coffee, or the sugar that food manufacturers add to their products such as ready meals, cakes and syrups.
The Institute of Optimum Nutrition says: “These guidelines should be viewed as a maximum rather than a target to be met. A healthy individual does not need sugar – and the less we eat the better.”
A little bit of something sweet is okay
At Balance Box, we’re advocates of a balanced diet and that includes treating yourself once in a while. Life is too short to avoid chocolate bars or birthday cakes. But it’s important to be mindful and take action if you’re starting to feel like your sugar consumption is creeping up.
Hide and seek
Opt for naturally sweet sources of sugar where you can. Fruit, honey and maple syrup have additional nutritional benefits too. It’s refined sugar that you want to avoid consuming regularly. Donuts, shop-bought biscuits, cakes and sweets are not going to make you feel good. Look out for hidden sugars in processed foods. You’ll be amazed at how many teaspoons of sugar lurk in breakfast cereals, sauces and low-fat yoghurts. Read labels and look out for dextrose, glucose, fructose and sucrose, corn syrup, molasses syrup and fruit juice concentrates.
So how can I beat my sugar cravings?
Understand why you’re craving. Are you craving food? Or comfort? Are you eating for energy? Or because you’re bored? Take a moment to pause before you eat, and really get to the bottom of how you’re feeling. Can you keep a journal to track your emotions and triggers? Simply pausing for a few minutes before you eat can be enough of a deterrent.
The last thing you want to do is create a high-low sugar cycle, where you’re stuck in a loop of sweet treats and energy crashes. Instead, choose a diet that is high in protein, whole foods, healthy fats, slow-release carbohydrates and fibre helps maintain your blood sugar levels.
Choose a low sugar breakfast
Swerve that sugar trap! Start the day with a low sugar breakfast which is rich in slow-release carbs, protein and fats. Our favourite breakfasts include fig and nut butter on rye bread or eggs and avocado on sourdough toast – delicious and will keep you fuller for longer.
If you’re a regular customer at Balance Box, you’ll now that we consider healthy snacking helpful to maintaining energy levels. But choose carefully. Biscuits and cakes will leave you feeling low and wanting more in the long run. Opt for fresh fruit or a handful of nuts and seeds instead.
Let us help you
If you’re finding it difficult to control your sugar intake, why now let us help you? At Balance Box, we create delicious and nutritious meals with minimal free sugar. And with our healthy snacks, you can top up your energy levels the right way. Goodbye biscuit tin, hello healthy bod.