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Are your Sugar Cravings Genetic?

Why do we love sugar so much? Why does it taste so good? Why do we crave it so intensely when it’s not there? Yes, sugar cravings give us an instant [sugar-high] gratification that light up the reward center of our brains (causing a similar effect as highly addictive drugs), but there's a bit more to it than just that.

Thousands of years ago when our ancestors survived by hunting and gathering, sugar was the prize of life. Food was scarce, and meals were few and far between. When our hunter-gatherer ancestors could get their hands on sugar, their bodies would convert it to fat to sustain them until their next meal. Sugar kept them alive! Then, during extended periods of starvation, a mutation occurred in their genes, increasing their bodies’ sensitivity to fructose, in order to store more fat for survival - aka causing them to crave sugar. Naturally, this gene has stayed with us through evolution and has established its presence in our culture like a drug.

Our gustatory receptor cells, better known as taste buds, most commonly perceive four basic tastes (although there are truly 6!): sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. We have about 10,000 taste buds in our mouth, from our tongues, to the roofs of our mouths, all the way back to our throats. Our taste buds are connected to sensory neurons that relay information about particular tastes to our brains. Over time, our taste buds have learned not only to light up the pleasure center of our brain when sugar touches the tongue, but also to rest assured hard-working body, nourishment is on its way.

Not surprisingly, we also acquire certain tastes learned from emotional, conditioned experiences. As a child, if your parent brought you to get ice cream each time you did something good, then you will most definitely associate sugar with a particular emotion, such as love, happiness, pleasure, etc., which could help to subconsciously establish an emotional connection to sweets in your brain. The thing about conditioned behaviors is that, although they take some dedicated effort to break, they are breakable. In fact, human conditioned behavior is so strong that, in some cases, it can even override genetics. And that genetic, in-my-blood, survival-of-the-fittest sugar craving of yours is a prime example.

The solution to conquering what can feel like a sinful sweet tooth is to be super aware of your body's cravings and sit with them. When your body sends you signals that you need something specific and you need it NOW, then that is a clear sign that that is an emotional - as opposed to a physical - craving. Recognize that craving in your body, tell your body that you are fully nourished as is. Fuel your body with loving, healing plants around the clock, and your sugar cravings will disappear. Better yet - surround yourself with beautiful people and fill your life with the sugar-free sweetness that comes from love, compassion and true happiness will be more than enough to get you through those sugar-free days.


*Image via here

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