The longing for sweetness

Who doesn’t know that sweet-tooth feeling? There are very few people who actually dislike sweet things. We learn quite early on in childhood about how good sweet things are, and soon get used to them. In fact, sweetness is a characteristic of both the amniotic fluid in the womb and of mother’s milk. Sweetness is thus the first taste that we experience in life.

The massive range of sweet foods available also tempts us to consume in excess, although a small, sweet treat is often regarded as a good way to round off a meal.

But does the body actually need sugar? We do not need sugar from a physiological point of view, as all foods that contain carbohydrate (bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, etc.) are transformed into sugar by the digestive process in order to supply the body with vital energy. We also consume sugar in the form of fruit.

The regular consumption of carbohydrates is important, as the body suffers from a lack of sugar if they are missing from our diet. The human brain is an organ that burns up about 120g of sugar every day. If we do not consume this in the form of carbohydrates, the body has to produce energy from its own sources. This includes the consumption, along with other items, of muscle mass to gain energy. If you avoid such foods as rice, pasta, bread and potatoes, it might even be good to have a sweet tooth, as the body would otherwise suffer from a shortage of carbohydrates.

A taste for sweet things does not always depend on a shortage of carbohydrates however, but also on opportunity and habit. It is not unknown for us to reach for something sweet when things aren’t going well, as this really does lighten our mood temporarily.

If you exercise regularly, you burn up sugar. In other words, people who exercise a lot can enjoy sweet things with a clear conscience!

Tips on handling sweet things

  • Plan desserts into your diet, and enjoy them with gusto.
  • Eat something sweet as a treat after meals, NOT when you are hungry.
  • Beneficial sweet foods, which actually contain important vitamins and minerals include carrot cake, nut pastry, fruit creams and fruit-based desserts.
  • Dark chocolate satisfies the appetite relatively well, and contains secondary plant substances that are beneficial to our health.
  • Just remember: too much restraint can make you insatiable!
  • Avoid sugary drinks however, as these can further increase the longing for sweet things.
  • Note also that many processed foods contain hidden sugar. So always favour home-made food, as you know what’s in it.

Secondary vegetable substances are present in all plants, including cocoa. We are still well away from knowing all the secondary plant substances that nature makes available to us, although we are aware of the positive benefits that they offer. Research has uncovered substances with, for example, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, digestive and vasodilatory properties. Chocolate with a high cocoa content is therefore regarded as a confectionary product with extra health benefits.