Are you addicted to carbs?
Thursday 22 December 2011
You can Banish sugar cravings for good, once you know how it controls you
Finally, it seems there is a scientific reason you can’t stop at just the one biscuit and often finish the whole packet. You could be addicted to carbs.
According to researchers at Yale University in the US, carbs, or starches and sugars, activate the areas in the brain associated with addiction.
Studies at Yale proved that when people are given carb food cues (shown a picture of a cake, for example), addictive areas of their brain light up. Then, when they’re given that substance, brain scans show they crave another hit right away.
And it’s estimated that there could be even more carb addicts than alcohol-dependents.
Addictive carbs are found in bread, cereal, potatoes, biscuits, cakes, pasta, fruit juice, sweetened drinks… Pretty much anything, in fact, that isn’t protein or fat.
But it seems that not all carbs spell trouble. Rather it’s processed foods that have caused the problem.
‘The sugar cane itself is not the enemy,’ says nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of Fat Around The Middle (£9.99, Kyle Cathie). ‘It’s when they strip away the goodness and refine it into white sugar that it becomes dangerous. Flour is the same. Once you remove the bran goodness, the sugar hits the bloodstream too quickly.’
‘When this happens, your pancreas overcompensates and releases more insulin than normal,’ says Dr Glenville.
‘Insulin tells your body not to burn fat stores, but to extract sugar from your blood – and store it as fat, particularly around your middle.’ This increases your risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
But cutting carbs out completely isn’t healthy. Slow-release carbs provide your body with the fuel to function. The answer is to keep blood sugar constant by opting for wholewheat bread over white, actual fruit over smoothies, or brown rice and wholewheat pasta over white versions.’
So complex carbs all the way, ideally combined with protein. So a jacket potato with tuna rather than salad, or nuts with your banana.
If all else fails, try to eat food in a state as close as possible to how it occurs in nature. Potato with the skin on, not as chips; vegetables out of the ground rather than in a pasta sauce. Armed with this info, it shouldn’t be too hard to beat those cravings.
The 5 most addictive carbs
Chocolate The average bar contains 30g of sugar, over half the recommended daily limit of around 50g. Eating chocolate also triggers the release of dopamine, lighting up your brain’s reward centres.
Cake. White flour, sugar and fat all pleasure the brain.
Chips. Potato in its natural state is no bad thing, but once peeled, processed, fried, and covered in salt, it becomes loaded with trans fat and dangerously moreish.
Cola. If you don’t opt for caffeine- and sugar-free versions it is highly addictive thanks to huge caffeine and sugar hits. One can of cola can contain 50g of sugar, your entire recommended limit for the day.
Wine. It’s actually loaded with carbs. So your craving for a couple of glasses could actually be as much about the sugar hit as the alcohol.
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