Is it Really your Sweet Tooth that’s Causing your Sugar Craving?
Okay, let’s be honest: people love sugar. There are even reports that it’s as addictive as cocaine. If you fall in line with most people, or even if you’re more of a savory craver, you’ve certainly heard people casually say that they have a “sweet tooth.” However, this so-called magic tooth of sweetness is like a unicorn: nonexistent. In fact, there are loads of other things affecting you when you crave sugar. Here’s what you need to know:
It Starts With The Tastebuds
You have upwards of 10,000 taste buds in your mouth, all of which have a perception of different tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter. Your taste buds actually form in the womb, and you’re born with a certain preference.
It Can Be Habitual
A lot of the flavors you learn to love are simply based on what you’re used to eating. If your family always had sugar-heavy meals growing up, you’re going to have adjusted to liking those better, no matter how you were born. “We all get cravings, depending on what our hormone levels are and what activities we are doing,” says Dr. Alia Ezziddin of Enamel & Root in Wilmette, IL. “For instance when you are exercising your body will generate heat and you will naturally get thirsty and crave a cool beverage or water to stay hydrated. We all know that eating sugar triggers a release of serotonin (the feel-good hormone) which can cause you to crave sweet things,” Dr. Ezziddin added.
But! Your Preferences Can Change
Experts say that DNA is far from everything. Your brain chemistry can actually change from childhood, especially if you associate certain foods with certain memories, like specific candies you always eat with your favorite cousin. If your association with that food is positive, your brain chemicals shift to signal your preference. The opposite can always happen, like if you ate something on a really bad date or got food poisoning from a specific food it can be a huge turnoff from that taste.
Although, You Can’t Decide How it Changes
No matter how much you work to alter your preferred tastes—like green juice over sugar-packed OJ or fruit over candy, you’ll likely never be able to redirect it completely. “I frequently get asked about if I advise patients to stay away from sweets completely, and the truth is, that almost every food has some form of sugar when broken down. Obviously I prefer natural sugars such as real fruit, you know what they say: an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” said Dr. Ezziddin.“But I am realistic that kids especially want to enjoy sweet treats like baked goods and ice cream. I always advise my patients to brush with water after eating something like graham crackers or candy or chocolates. Basically you don’t want to have your teeth marinating in sugar and sticky treats. Brushing after enjoying a sweet treat can really help prevent decay in the mouth,” she added. Your best course of action? You know the drill: give into that so-called sweet tooth in moderation.