Posts Tagged ‘homeostasis’

Everybody craves. Whether its chocolate, crisps or sweeties, craving these high sugar high fat items is a biproduct of our 21st century lifestyle, our habits and our preferences. sugar-cravings

The reasons why we crave are to do with our blood sugars. Not to get too technical, but for those who don’t know, blood sugar refers to the blood glucose level (glucose is a simple sugar) which your body will naturally regulate as part of homeostasis (the system through which your body maintains regulation in temperature, PH etc in order to keep your internal environment at the ideal levels for optimal working performance).

The idea is to try to maintain a consistent level of blood sugar throughout the day. If you do this your eating patterns will also be consistent and you won’t crave (See picture one)

ideal blood sugar fcThe red line corresponds to the ideal blood glucose level, the blue line is the actual blood glucose level. This shows the ideal way to maintain your blood sugar throughout the day, by eating regularly.

If you starve yourself for hours your blood sugar dips, causing you to crave something sweet to kick them back up. This is the most dangerous time in terms of cheating and will be the time when you are most likely to chose an unhealthy biscuit over something slow release like a piece of fruit (see in picture two).

poor blood sugar fc

Once again the red line is optimal glucose level and the blue line is actual glucose level. Here it is possible to see that between the morning and evening meal the blood sugar dips causing craving. This causes us to eat something high in sugar, like a biscuit which causes the blood sugar to rise, but too high meaning insulin is activated which takes glucose out of the blood once again driving it down.

The scary thing that the time it takes for your blood sugar to dip can be as little as four hours. When this dip occurs you will feel yourself craving and the search for those nasty quick release, white is shite carbs which give you the quick boost. The bad thing is indulging your cravings will often overshoot your required sugar intake, meaning that your blood sugar is now too high! When your body experiences a rapid boost in blood sugar, caused by indulging your sweet tooth, your pancreas releases the hormone insulin. This is a hormone controlled by the pancreas that is central in regulating carb and fat breakdown in the body. Insulin causes excess glucose to be removed from the blood to try to get back to that ideal state once again. The problem here is the insulin can drive the blood sugar too low, so once again the cravings begin to push blood sugar up, and so this self depreciating cycle continues…

As you can imagine insulin is going to have a very hard job if there is too much glucose in the blood. This often causes insulin malfunctions, which is basically what diabetes is.

The best way to prevent this cycle from happening is to eat small meals often, and ensuring you eat foods that are low GI. This means they are low in the glycemic index and so will take longer to burn. This means they will slowly release their sugars maintaining a more level glucose measurement throughout your day, thus reducing the cravings and making it easier for you to stick to a healthy meal plan.

When you find yourself craving something try a rice cake, or eating some protein instead of quick release carbs like biscuits and pastries. The occasional treat is of course allowed but make sure it is not a common indulgence.

Avoiding foods with added sugar is also a good way to keep cravings at bay. Particularly fizzy drinks, fruit juices with added sweetener (see the ingredients) and things with white flour in (pizza, pasta, cake).

Take home points

*Eat little and often: roughly every 3 to 4 hours, be sure not to over eat! Aim for about 300 cals per meal or two larger meals, say breakfast and dinner with a snack in between.

*Eat proteins (chicken, ham, eggs etc …) and fats (yoghurt, milk, cheese…) with every meal. By fats I mean low fat options or healthy fat options such as olive oil dressing or almonds. This will slow carbohydrate digestion preventing spiking blood sugar.

*When choosing carbs avoid white flour like the plague. Remember white is shite so whole foods are a must. The fiber you will get from these will keep you fuller for longer. Things like lentils, brown rice, brown pasta, soda or brown bread and wheat germ.

*If you do give into your cravings don’t worry, just make sure you jump back on the bandwagon in your next meal!

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