Do you have control over how much candy you eat? do you get candy cravings when you’re on the go? do you feel like you need something sweet after you eat? If so, you’re a potential sugar addict. The amount of sugar you take is very marked by the pleasure it gives you. Many times we fill emotional gaps with the food we like best. The common symptoms of sugar addiction are compulsion to eat sugar, emotional relief after eating sugar, and withdrawal and anxiety after eating sugar. A high intake of sugars can alter the activation of dopamine receptors that cause feelings of well-being and pleasure.
Dopamine is a chemical messenger of the central nervous system. It is the neurotransmitter that we make especially when we feel rewarded for something we have done. When dopamine is low we tend to be sad, irritable or emotionally unstable. When dopamine levels run low in the brain, messages cannot be transmitted correctly, directly affecting behavior, mood, cognition, attention, learning, movement, and sleep. When it is high, the consequence is apathy, insensitivity and addiction.
Abusive sugar intake increases dopamine levels and carries the risk of becoming tolerant at a certain dose and that we will need more and more to achieve the same effect, as is the case with certain drugs. The cravings are getting stronger and stronger and we end up being controlled. In turn, if we don’t take the sugar our bodies require, we will have withdrawal symptoms. This may be due to the effect of increased dopamine on long-term memory. According to the Harvard University article, “Drug Addiction and the Brain: Effects of Dopamine on Addiction”, the increase in dopamine levels in the brain makes the experience flattering and we tend to repeat the action of drug use. The intense feeling of pleasure in the brain creates a long-term memory that links the drug to gratification. I invite you to reflect: Is it the same with sugar?
In addition to generating dependence, sugar can also cause health problems such as overweight, obesity, diabetes, weak immune systems, cardiovascular diseases, attention deficit…. In Spain, the average sugar consumption is 120 grams per day. It is equivalent to about 10 spoonfuls of sugar and is found not only in the refined sugar we take in coffee, but also in sliced bread, fried tomatoes, cereals, yoghurt… practically all processed products. The World Health Organization recommends that sugar intake be less than 10% of daily calories. Only the sugar contained in foodstuffs naturally reaches this amount.
There are foods that will help us regulate our dopamine levels and help us with our addiction to candy:
- Foods containing tyrosine (an amino acid that helps form dopamine): bananas, cranberries, strawberries, raisins, dried plums, cod, peanuts, almonds, oats, tempeh, and soy protein.
- Foods with vitamin B6 (vitamin necessary for the synthesis of dopamine): pistachios, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, wheat germ, garlic, potatoes, nuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts and chickpeas.
- Foods with vitamin C (another vitamin necessary for the synthesis of dopamine): red, green and yellow peppers, parsley, broccoli, cauliflower, kiwi, papaya and strawberries.
- Foods with iron (it is an essential nutrient for the stability of the structure and functions of the central nervous system, especially those related to the dopamine system): sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried tomatoes, thyme and tofu. In addition to the emotional addiction to candy, there are other causes that lead us to binge eating:
- The first is the need for sugar. Our body needs glucose to function and asks for it if it is low. The problem is that the body does not know how to differentiate the type of sugar it needs: pastries, fruit, cereal… and in most cases we tend to choose the product with the most fat (chocolate, industrial pastries, cakes…).
- Another cause is the bad and unfair reputation of carbohydrates. Many people believe that carbohydrates make them fat, excluding them from their diet. This causes the body to lack sugars and, therefore, chocolate or sweet food is used in an irremediable, almost compulsive way. To avoid these behaviors we should opt for a more balanced diet and introduce more hydrates, especially whole grains.
- Sometimes a drop in blood sugar can be mistaken for a drop in blood pressure. Even though we believe that the body asks for sugar, it actually needs mineral salts.
- Another reason for our addiction to sugar is our body’s need for something sweet to compensate for an excess of animal protein, salt… This also happens when we don’t know how to distinguish hunger from thirst. In addition to exploring the causes of our sugar addiction, I want to give you a series of guidelines that can help you have more control over sugar.
10 Basic Steps to Remove Candy Anxiety
- Avoid eating sugar for breakfast. Make a natural breakfast, avoid industrial cereals, artificial juices and pastries. Start the day with a high fiber breakfast with whole grain carbohydrates and fruit. This will prevent your body from asking for sugar throughout the day.
- Fewer and more natural packaged products. These types of products are full of sugars and additives that help us stay hooked on the candy. Instead of using sandwiches, pastries or industrial pizza, make a homemade sponge cake with whole wheat flour and honey or eat dried fruit instead of jellybeans.
- Start reading the labels on the products you buy and be aware of the amount of sugar in them.
- Eat more often so that your blood sugar levels are regulated and your cravings are kept at bay. If you’d like an ice cream, have a homemade banana cream. When you eat sweet, eat slowly and savoring, you will be satisfied before you eat and it will give you the pleasure you need.
- Drink water when you’re sweet monkey, maybe you’re thirsty. Learn to identify it by observation.
- Avoid sweeteners. Studies have shown that the sweet taste of sweeteners can increase our sweetener intake. The brain interprets it in the same way as sugar.
- Distract yourself until you don’t feel like it anymore. Go for a walk, read, do something at home…. Keeping busy will make you focus and let go of that immediate desire. You’re stronger than you think, you’re the one who chooses.
- Brush your teeth every time you eat. Keeping your mouth fresh and clean will reduce your desire to eat sweet after eating.
- Have a piece of fruit. If you can’t avoid eating something, the healthiest remedy is to eat a piece of sweet fruit: banana, custard apple, persimmon, watermelon, melon…
- Avoid risky situations. Don’t buy all those things that make you fall into temptation and don’t go to those places that make you anxious to eat candy. Create a safe environment by freeing food from your sight that will produce the desire that controls you.
If, in spite of following all these basic steps to remove candy anxiety, you don’t succeed, you can turn to a professional or a group of helpers to find out what the causes of this lack of control are.