(Natural News) There are many things about fruits that make them such great health foods. For one, they are rich in essential nutrients that the body requires to perform important processes. Fruits are also generous sources of antioxidant compounds that help protect cells and boost your immune system. But there’s another reason why fruits are an integral part of a healthy diet: The combination of natural sugars, fiber and other nutrients in fruits can help curb not just your appetite, but also your sugar cravings.
Natural sugar vs. added sugar
Natural sugar in fruits come in the form of fructose. It also exists is the form of lactose in dairy products. Natural sugar in those foods are infinitely better for your health because they come with other nutrients – fiber in fruits and protein in milk – that help keep you feeling full longer. While fiber tends to slow your digestion, protein decreases the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and increases the levels of peptide YY, the hormone that limits your food intake.
In contrast, added sugar in the form of refined sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup is rapidly digested by the body. It is typically found in processed foods, which have very little to no nutritional value. As a result, you don’t feel full when you eat processed foods, and the added sugar in them only causes your blood sugar and insulin levels to rise.
Sugar, obesity and heart health
According to Dr. Chiadi E. Ndumele, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, there is enough evidence to suggest that high sugar intake is a huge contributor to weight gain.
Numerous studies show that people who consume a lot of added sugar (about 20 percent of their daily calorie intake) have an increased risk of obesity. But recent findings also suggest that the same people are at risk of dying from heart disease.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, Ndumele and his team found a connection between obesity and heart failure. While being overweight elevates the likelihood of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, they found that obesity by itself increases the risk of heart failure.
Health experts believe that weight management is critical for preventing heart disease and other equally serious diseases. One of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight is to cut back on sugar, especially added sugar. They recommend avoiding foods and beverages laden with refined sugar and opting for whole foods like fresh fruits to satisfy sugar cravings.
Ways to reduce added sugar intake and avoid overeating
The American Heart Association recommends limiting your intake of added sugar to half your daily calorie allowance. That means women should consume no more than 25 g (six teaspoons) of sugar per day, while men should have no more than 36 g (nine teaspoons).
Ideally, people should aim to cut out all added sugar from their diet, as this could prevent many health problems. But according to Kara Shifler Bowers, a registered dietitian, doing so could eventually make a person binge. This is because fructose activates brain regions associated with reward processing, which could trigger eating. Unlike glucose, the type of sugar cells use for energy, fructose doesn’t stimulate the release of insulin. The body needs insulin not just to prompt cells to absorb glucose from the blood, but also to signal the brain to curb appetite.
Instead of eliminating sugar completely, Shifler Bowers suggests reducing the size of the sweets you normally eat. For instance, instead of a bar of chocolate, try eating just a small piece to curb your cravings. Opting for dark chocolate-covered almonds may also do the trick, as almonds are rich in magnesium. A deficiency in this mineral is often the cause of sugar cravings.
Shifler Bowers also suggests saving sugary sweets for special occasions. Since the body can be conditioned to forget about foods, abstaining from eating sweets will be good for you in the long run. Adopting a whole foods diet can also help curb your sweet tooth, as high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables and legumes promote fullness and satiety. These feelings will help you think about food less.
Lastly, Shifler Bowers advises parents to delay the introduction of sweets to their children. “Their taste buds are still developing, so if they get used to sweet foods, that is what they are going to want to eat as they get older,” she explains.
Eating foods that contain natural sugars and plenty of essential nutrients is the best way to avoid added sugar and maintain a healthy weight. For those who crave sweets, snacking on whole fruits is the healthiest solution, as consuming sugar in liquid form is not as filling, according to a study.
Find more natural foods that can tame your sweet tooth at Fruits.news.