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Do You Know Nutrition: How to beat sweet cravings

By By Phylis Canion
Oct. 2, 2012 at 5:02 a.m.

Phylis Canion

I am wondering why I crave sweets after I eat a meal? I can eat very healthy meals, but not long after I am finished I have that sweet craving. What is happening and what can I do?

There are several reasons why one may crave sweets. After a very light meal of just a salad, the brain may think you are still hungry and craves an item that can provide the quickest and most efficient energy, which is usually a sweet.

The American culture is known for sweets after meals as a tradition, despite feelings of fullness, which quite often turns into a habit. Regular consumption of foods high in sugar and fat can lead to neurochemical changes in the brain, hard wiring you to crave sweets.

Also, if you are following a very strict diet, omitting sweets completely, resulting in deprivation, can cause sweet cravings.

Perhaps the answer you may be looking for has to do with brain chemistry and mood elevating serotonin levels. When serotonin levels are low, feelings of depression and sadness set in.

The body will crave something sweet because simple carbohydrates (i.e. cake, cookie, pie, candy) prompt the body to release serotonin, which in turn will increase your mood (eating sugar may increase the absorption of an amino acid called tryptophan, which helps your body make serotonin). Along the chemistry thought, uneven blood sugar levels can also cause you to crave sweets after a meal as well. If a meal of just carbohydrates is consumed, nutrients are not balanced, which can cause blood sugar levels to soar, only to plummet suddenly after a meal. The body naturally will seek a "high" again, causing the sugar craving.

When you find yourself craving sweets after meals, lowering your intake of carbohydrates may be most beneficial, as well as increasing your intake of leafy green vegetables, which provide the needed fiber, which in turn, helps keep you full. Lean protein is also excellent in helping you feel fuller longer because these foods are processed more slowly than carbohydrates.

Thought for the week: The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is the way in which we use them.

Next free nutrition class is 7 p.m. Oct. 8, at Organic Emporium. Call for reservation.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, email her at doc.phyl@yahoo.com. This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.

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