Mmmm..........Sugar! Why is it so good?! Humans are designed to love the taste of sugar - as are many other animals (including many species of insects). From the beginning of time up to present day, this has been the fastest way to transform calories into energy - by consuming sweet foods in the form of fruits - and honey (as well as a way to store food - bees), if the humanoid was able to find it! And since the Industrial Revolution - white sugar!
But what about the effect on our brains? Consumption of sugar stimulates the brain to release serotonin and dopamine, both "feel good" neurotransmitters which can leave us feeling calm, relaxed, even "high." And as we all know large doses of sugar can create a sugar rush making us feel a surge of energy, physical and even mental -- followed by an inevitable crash...
Sugar is added to processed foods to increase their palatability, resulting in an addictive quality to many snack foods, sugary cereals, and obviously sweet desserts. Many foods that do not taste noticeably sweet have added sugar, such as whole grain bread, spaghetti sauce, crackers, and other savory snack foods. Why is that? While these foods may not taste noticeably sweet the added sugar increases their flavor nonetheless as well as their "addictive" qualities. Ever wonder why it's hard to stop eating junk food? Food scientists diligently study the perfect balance of sweet to salty, crunchy to soft and fluffy... to create the perfect storm of goodness which will have us reaching for more. Obvious why it is hard to stop eating candy and other sweet things... And a lot of candy and some snack foods are not actually high in fat and calories, but they definitely can be hard to stop eating for their addictive nature -- even snacks which are marketed as being "low cal," "nonfat," and "light."
Most of us by now are well aware of "healthy choices." Reduce sugar, white carbs, and fat. Increase fiber, veggies, and lean protein. "Mediterranean diet," "Japanese diet," and eat "junk food in moderation..."
The question is how do we get our kids to follow suit?? They are glued to their screens.. talk about addiction.. And junk food and sweets are equally created to be addictive. How can they stand a chance against the science behind junk food creation? How can we help our children lead healthy lives, beginning with healthy food choices?
One of the main things we can do - is to make healthy food choices ourselves. We know that our kids learn by observing what we do and by the examples we set. In addition to setting a healthy example of how to eat is to make sure our kids have plenty of healthy food choices around them. While skipping out on fast food restaurants may be challenging at first if they are accustomed to them, there are countless places that offer healthy food choices on the menu for kids and adults alike. Stock fridge and pantry shelves with bright and colorful fruit and produce as well as interesting pasta shapes and legumes. Include your kids in the meal prep and grocery shopping. Make it a family event. Making healthy choices, healthy changes, is an opportunity for bonding and for creating family traditions which will endure beyond the quick fix of a sugar "high."
If you are interested in finding out more about the effect of sugar on kids check out the following articles:
Written by Christopher Libby
Founder/CEO Healthy Organic Kids