I don't have a sweet tooth. I don't crave any food. Given a chance, I would choose spicy food rather than sugary ones. But what I don't understand is why some people crave sugar so much. Yesterday, while at the grocery store, I overheard a girl saying she came to the grocery store the previous night just to buy orange juice, and finished it in her car. I couldn't really believe it (I am male/24yrs). Is this genetic, or the way you grow up, or something else? My dad is similar to me, but my mom would enjoy an ice cream any day. One more observation - I always see that women crave sweets more than men. Why? (as I said I am just stating my observation).
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In the case of women: From personal experience, I find I crave sweets and sugar at different times of the month. Some days I could go crazy with chocolate and such like, other days I am not so worried about anything sugary.
I read that it was all to do with the menstrual cycle and the balance of iron in the body. This is related to sugar intake, as women on high sugar/carb diets tend to have more unpredictable iron levels throughout their monthly cycles, which move in higher and lower peaks and troughs compared to those on low-carb diets, causing them to crave more carbs and sugar at specific times to compensate.
Men are more 'balanced' in this respect, but I have seen many more men addicted to alcohol than women, which of course is only another type of sugar......it comes in many forms after all.
Sugar would have only been available at a certain time of year as fruit, perhaps honey and roots, and would have served the purpose of giving us an extra layer of fat for the winter. After 9 months of eating meat and a few greens, I would expect that the autumn glut of fruits and berries would not have been turned down by anyone, no matter how 'un-sweet-toothed' they were....as someone already mentioned it is all a matter of scarcity and abundance and preparation for future seasonal 'famines'.
Sugar is a very concentrated source of energy, so as animals, we evolved to find it attractive. We have biological responses to it that make it addictive (the high and burst of energy that it gives can be pleasant). This wasn't a problem when naturally-occurring sugar was difficult to find. However, it's a nightmare now that our modern society has made it so the cheapest and easiest to obtain foods are sugar-based. Our bodies weren't meant to handle it, yet those biological urges still push us to eat it.
To make this worse, there are also cultural aspects to sugar that make it appealing. We've grown up enjoying sugar as a celebration (think birthday cakes for kids, pizza parties, candy as a reward, Hallowe'en, etc.) and there are psychological barriers to overcome as well when kicking the sugar habit.
Humans (and guinea pigs) are the only mammals incapable of taking sugar and turning it into vitamin c. Some have hypothesized that sugar cravings in humans are an evolutionary left-over from a time when we used to be able to synthesize vitamin c. I'm not sure how valid this theory is, or how widely accepted it is, but it sounds good to me.
I could just as easily ask you why you like spicy food. Sugar is a high density caloric food and before refinement, also came with nutrients. Seems natural to me to desire it. My question to you would be, why do you not crave sugar? ;-P
Sugar tastes good.
Especially a lot of sugar concentrated into a small food, makes the food even more addictive.
Without fiber and protein, food is not really that filling. It's easy to fill up on meat, but not candy.
I think it's similar (and related) to asking why some people are susceptible to alcoholism. It's genetic, and probably also epigenetic.
Sugar is found in the most nutrient-dense foods found on the planet. It's an evolutionary mechanism which explains why we crave it.
What is that word you smarties use all the time? Epigenetic? I do like sugar. I notice my 6 year old (with whom I gained 60 pounds with) loves it too as opposed to my 5 year old (with whom I did not go as crazy eating sugar with while pregnant) does not. Oh the guilt! I have always wondered if the 6 year old is suffering from my sins during pregnancy.
When I started eating paleo my "dessert" craving while eating my meal was so bad I downed coconut chips after each meal until it passed. I don't get bad cravings anymore even if I do eat a sweet potato or something sugary. I do crave sugar and dairy as my hormones change during the month. I have found a higher fat diet really helps me stay even.
If I am really hungry, like when I miss a meal, I crave sweets. If presented with a choice of a nutritious balanced meal or a hot fudge sundae, I will choose the sundae at these times. Hence, they say never go grocery shopping when you're hungry.
However, some people buy chips and fattu dips, etc., rather than sugary foods at these times.
I have a hypothesis that people who drink alcohol regularly crave salt and fat, and those who do not drink alcohol or do so very seldom, crave sweets.
I can't help but wonder, why so many comments about sugar, particularly by women, concerned about fruit, agave, maple syrup? I'm a woman and I never experience sugar cravings, for fruit, chocolate or syrups...even sweet potatoes. I am genuinely puzzled as to why people crave sweets, part. women. And also, fruit is compose of fructose and glucose, which together make sucrose, which everyone knows is just plain table sugar...who would want to eat fruit? Protein, fat, vegetables, nuts, seeds and a tbsp of wild rice every now and then, are all I seem to need.
Anecdotally, I know more men than women who tend to eat sweet things! It might be because a lot of the women I know watch their weight, though :-/ Anyway, I'm less inclined to think it's rooted in sexual dimorphism and more to do with a combination of subjective factors not related to sex (gut flora; dietary history; incidental psychological reasons) and objective (evolutionary biology).
Subjective: Some people get into the habit of eating sweet things, so the body adapts to this diet and craves the missing component when you don't eat sweet. Perhaps they have been fed high sugar diets as a child. Perhaps they started to eat a lot of fruit because they are health-conscious, and stuck to it. Whatever the reason, repeated dietary input will affect your biochemistry and gut flora which influences cravings. People who have not been in the habit of eating sweet things have different biochemistry and different cravings.
Objective: In evolutionary times, foods high in sugar like fruit corresponds to nutrient-density. This doesn't mean that they ate insane amounts of fruit or that it is healthy to do so, but that coming across fruit was a good thing.
I think it's an evolutionary thing, that sweet meant edible in prehistoric times
I'd sure like to know because I had a tremendous sweet tooth. Got my teeth in a world of problems, likely got me to put on a bit of weight too. No one who saw me would have said I was overweight, I'd always been regarded as thin. After going mostly Paleo/Primal my 5' 6.5" frame dropped from the mid 170s to now 138 on diet alone, my sweet tooth is as strong as ever but because I eat sweets so rarely now that when I do the candies I used to eat now make me ill.
It's really difficult to keep the sweets away.
My theory is that this is specific appetite at work. The degree to which you're 'addicted' to sugar is down to your ability to use body fat as a fuel source. This in turn is dependent on the nutritional state of your body, and given sugar actively depletes minerals like chromium http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WN4-4C4WCSW-HS&_user=10&_coverDate=06/30/1986&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_origin=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1576412593&_rerunOrigin=scholar.google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=1d92f37e2732ec1308cf8a710be5ce70&searchtype=a ... eating it increases your desire for it thus making cravings worse.
To put it more simply, you want sugar because you can't burn fat easily.
As for why women crave more than men, Louise hit the nail on the head above.
Personally, I found my sweet tooth went within weeks on a paleo ish diet (ish being inc potatoes and dairy). I wasn't addicted to sugar, I was just missing minerals.