Beating cravings is hard work, especially if you have a Sweet Tooth although you may actually have a Fat Tooth which means your strategies for smashing a sweet fix won't work very well. Clearly we aren't discussing teeth made of sugar. A 'Sweet' tooth is a term used to describe someone that can eat a lot of sweets/chocolate/biscuits/cake without feeling particularly full or sick. It's also a term used to describe someone with a particular fixation on sweeter foodstuffs. Downside is those sweet foods tend to be high in calories, low in nutrients, highly processed and too easy to consume. Let's explore if you actually have a 'Fat' tooth wrapped up in a sugary disguise as a sweet tooth, why it happens and how the knowledge can support your health and fitness goals.
You might be reading this as you think you have a sweet tooth but the strategies you employ aren't helping. Leaving you with ever increasing cravings that lead to a binge or derailing of dietary control. Things like eating fruits instead of sweets, having artificial sweeteners instead of sugars or replacing sugars with subtly more nutritious alternatives like honey. Yet, you still have that itch and desire for less nutritious foods you know aren't going to support your goals.
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We must clear something up before we go on; SUGARS ARE NOT BAD! Eaten in balanced quantities sugars help reduce muscle wastage, provide quick energy release, help your brain function normally and are a welcome dose of happiness. All carbohydrates, be it potato, oats and vegetables get broken down into glucose by the body which is....a sugar. We need sugars and carbohydrates to fuel our vessels of life.
How do I know if I have a fat tooth?
A fat tooth disguised as a sweet tooth has some pretty obvious giveaways. Namely the type of 'sweets' you tend to go for. The Sweet - Fat - Salt tooth variations is a spectrum though. You won't be absolutely one or the other but have a tendency to go more one way or the other.
Do you go for sweet things like "candies" e.g. boiled sweets, fruit gummies, pick'n'mix, etc... or do you have more cookies, cakes, donuts, etc...?
Have a look at the table below. You may like or eat all of the foods and they all contain high amounts of sugars. See which column you would opt for more often.
Sweet Black Tea/Coffee
Milky Sweet Tea/Coffee
Now if you opted for more things like Chocolate, Ice Creams and Biscuits think what ingredients are in those items. Usually milks, cream, butter and/or eggs. What do those ingredients have in common....a higher fat content! Thus you may be more towards the fat tooth end of the spectrum. Just like sugars, FATS ARE NOT BAD but we'll explain more, further below!
Why do I crave sugar?
We've already said sugar reduces muscle wastage. This is because your body will break down the carbohydrates in your digestive system over breaking down muscle tissue whilst it can. Sugar is also a quick energy source as it's closer to the glucose molecule your body needs thus requires less conversion before use. If you're feeling low on energy or tired you may reach for the sugar snacks because your body needs the energy now. Your brain is fuelled by glucose; the easiest glucose source is sugar! Any and all of these things can make your brain crave sugars.
There are behavioural reasons for craving sugars too. You could be conditioned towards liking a sweetie or five million. As an example, you may have visited a family member where you were always happy, said family member may also have offered sweets or had them available. Over time you'll have developed a connection with sweets and happiness. If you catch yourself saying things like " I love [insert sweet] because my [insert family member] always had them" you've likely made that connection. Similar for rewards for chores or homework as children.
Lastly, the one we have no power over is your metabolism and genetics. You may also be a bit predisposed to burning through carbs faster than the average person. Though try not to use this as your get out of jail free card until you know it's not any of the other causes. Most likely it's a combination of all of the craving triggers to varying magnitudes.
Why do I crave fats?
Fats often come with a lot of nutrients such as essential fatty acids and help your body to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K to name a few. That's why we need at least 5% body fat, ideally more, to remain healthy individuals. Think back to caveman times, fats have a lot of calories, 9 kcal per gram compared to the 4 kcal per gram of protein and carbs, so high fat foods helped you survive longer with less hunger hence why we are a little hardwired to like the taste. Fat as many think of it being the rubbery soft stuff under our skin also protects our organs, helps with hormone regulation and provides us with an insulating layer for warmth. It's safe to say we NEED fats, thus it's not unnatural to want to eat them.
Most fats, processed or not also come with higher salt contents which is another issue in itself (though we also need salt in our diets). Salt is very moreish and used by food manufacturers to heighten the palatability of foods. Fat tastes good and so does salt so it's hard not to give in. Food companies know this!
Like sugars bare in mind your metabolism and genetics. You may be predisposed to burning through fats faster than the average person. Again, try not to use this as your get out of jail free card until you know it's not any of the other causes. Most likely it's a combination of many craving triggers to varying magnitudes.
How does knowing I have a Fat Tooth help?
Now you know which food craving tips will work, you can select the right ones for your needs. Eating a strawberry might not work for you as although you got a little sweet fix, it's the fats often contained in some sugary snacks that your body is actually craving.
Now it's time to find healthy, unsaturated fats to snack on. These are more likely to stop your cravings in their tracks and better yet, now you know, have a little bit before the cravings start, to minimise the potential of going overboard. But what fats? I hear you say. There's no avoiding the high calorie content so you want foods that are nutrient dense for their cost. Some examples are:
Avocado Chocolate Mousse
Salmon and Crackers
Full Fat Milk
So long as you have a controlled portion of your choice of nutrient dense fats you can work the calories into your nutrition plan (if you have one). Remember we need fats so don't be afraid of adding blue top milk as it contains a lot of nutrients and more protein to help fill and fuel your day.
Sometimes you may need to do some fat tooth strategies and other times sweet tooth strategies. You know you best. With more awareness you can figure out if you have a sweet tooth or a fat tooth, choose the appropriate strategy, find the foods that work for you then crack on with your goals. Fats and sugars are essential to a healthy balanced diet. There's nothing wrong with throwing in some jelly babies into your diet, in moderation, or some cheesecake, in moderation.