Why Do People Crave for Sweets after Meals?

Sweet foods are well-loved by the Indian populace. Everyone in India has an immense love for sweets. Be it desserts, hard candy, or chocolate bars, everyone includes these sugar-infused treats as part of their everyday diet. Different kinds of desserts and sweets preparations can be found in various regions of the country. This is a testimony to the inclusion of sweets as part of the Indian culture. This adoration can be witnessed in almost all Indians irrespective of their age. It is even a great cleanser of the palate, ending a great meal with a sweet refreshing feeling. Even consuming sweetened fennel seeds at the end of a spicy meal can leave a mouth fresher for the rest of the day.

Yet sugar is also a major contributor of calories while providing the body with zero nutrition. As far as fitness experts and dieticians are concerned, sugar should be excluded from the regular diet. For an average Indian however, excluding sweetened food is akin to blasphemy. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), 77 million belong to India out of the 463 million people affected around the world. India also has the second-highest number of children with Type 1 diabetes just after the United States.

While it is not needed to completely do away with sugary food, reduced sugar intake would be a good habit to develop. For instance, rather than engorging on sweetened desserts after a meal, consuming refreshing treats like some mint candies can be opted for, such as the popular Mint ChocOn candy. The sweetness of the chocolate will clear the palate, while the minty flavour freshens the breath, all done with very few calories added to the mix.

Why The Cravings?

Dr Anju Sood, a Bangalore-based nutritionist says, “After your meals, the main function of the body, which takes up the majority of energy, is digestion. And because digestion takes so much energy, the body craves an energy spike which it gets in the form of sugar. Sugar forms a source of quick energy.” This is evidence of all the fans consuming various toffees, candies, fruity jellies and desserts.

That reason may be true for many people, but there are others who look for something sweet to eat or drink simply out of a habit. That begs the question – beyond physiological needs, why do people have cravings for sweet food? It has been made evident that people go for sugary treats not just for the caloric needs, but it can also be psychological. Regularly consuming sugar-laden food can also trigger a certain neurochemical reaction in the brain which automatically makes people crave sweet food. Associating a satisfactory feeling, to consuming sweet food will make it harder for someone to get closure, without having something sweet to ingest.

The increased production of a chemical known as serotonin can also be responsible. It is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for elevating people’s mood. It is also believed that the consumption of sugar enhances the absorption of the amino acid tryptophan. This is an important amino acid which is responsible for the normal growth in infants as well as for the production and maintenance of the body’s proteins, muscles and enzymes. The tryptophan in turn increases the serotonin production in the body. This is what elevates everyone’s mood to feel happier and calm.

Another reason for craving sugar is an uneven level of blood sugar. An unbalanced meal, that primarily consists of carbohydrates, results in a sudden rise and drop in glucose levels. Since the body isn’t able to get used to this sudden dip, it craves more sugar. Also according to Dr Sood, simple carbs are digested very easily, and that calls for more sugar as a fuel.

Making It Go Away

According to Dr Sood, “You can have certain desserts even when you are on a diet. Dieting doesn’t mean that you have to cut out your favourite foods completely. As a dietitian, I let my clients have desserts because I balance out their meals and calories that way. While restricting your carbohydrate and fat intake on a diet, you may often crave sugar as your body needs energy and it may not be getting enough. To fill this energy deficit, I allow my clients to have a small portion of their favourite dessert.”

Everyone should make sure to balance out their meals. A healthy meal is not just about having all the greens, but also including balanced nutrition in a regular diet. A low glycemic diet with more complex carbs is recommended to keep the blood sugar levels down. Some of the best sources of low glycemic foods include brown rice, quinoa, legumes and most types of fruits. Food that contains a lot of salt may also increase sugar cravings and hence should be avoided. Including food that is high in fibre and protein will also provide a satiated feeling after meals, which will ensure that no one is driven towards consuming more food after meals, especially those containing a lot of sugar.

It is also advised to have a small serving of something sweet during breakfasts. This can go towards cutting down those sweet cravings for the rest of the day and help stay satiated. The high serotonin levels just after waking upkeep the cravings down, and hence a small amount of sweetness can help overcome any cravings later in the day. On a psychological level, one could also trick themselves by brushing their teeth immediately after eating, which would mark the end of their eating session. Thus ensuring that craving anything to eat right after a meal has been controlled.

It is only natural to crave for something sweet after a meal, especially spicy Indian meals. It is even alright to indulge, as long as people do not become dependent on it heavily to feel satiated. Enjoying the sweet things in life is necessary and should not be avoided, but it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure that it doesn’t negatively affect their health. It is essential to keep that dependence away by including a discipline regarding eating habits. Moderation is the word, after all, why keep the sweet things away from life completely.

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