Picture this: Its late at night, the house is quiet and you find yourself craving a late night snack. You open your fridge and realize that you can either eat whatever sugary junk you have OR an apple. You decide to eat the apple since it’s a “cleaner” “healthier” snack. You eat the apple and thoroughly enjoy it. But, wait… a few minutes later your TOTALLY craving the sugary junk food snack even MORE than what you were before eating the apple!
Surprisingly, there’s a physiological explanation for this. A recent study (see here) found that apples and some fruit in general seem to trigger the “feel good” area of the brain, the hypothalamus, and its surrounding areas. The key word here is trigger, not satisfy. In other words, fruit just teases this area of the brain looking for immediate satisfaction, so once eaten you’re actually left with an even stronger craving then before!
How does this happen?
It’s all about the sugar. The fructose in fruit, while all natural, actually makes you more vulnerable to severe cravings for what your brain really wants, glucose. Glucose is what feeds and lights up that feel good happy brain area and satisfies us, temporarily at least. It’s worth mentioning that this is the same area that lights up when a drug addict gets their fix…eeek!
Why does this matter?
When were in a craving state we tend to NOT make the healthiest of food choices and instead, just focus on IMMEDIATELY satisfying the craving. This is why you may actually grab that piece of sugary junk after snacking on apple, whereas if you hadn’t eaten that apple beforehand, you may have not eaten the junk.
Should you stop eating fruit then if it will just make you more vulnerable to eating junk?
No. Not necessarily. The nutritional benefits of fruit far outweigh any negatives (always in moderation of course). If you want to satisfy that initial mild craving with a clean snack option and stick with fruit, you can snack on a fruit that is naturally high in glucose. This way, you can continue to maintain your healthy eating habits, and nourish your body in a more nutritionally dense manner without the added inflammation from the processed junk.*
What fruits will effectively satisfy glucose cravings?
Grapes, bananas, cherries, and figs are just a few examples of fruits that are high in glucose.
Regardless, fruit IS better for you than a piece a cake or bowl of ice cream.
Keep in mind that if you’re craving something sweet and you find that you’ve eaten a whole bulk container of grapes from Costco, there is most likely more to your craving then just a physiological brain response and definitely worth exploring in depth with your health coach.
Remember to always pay attention to your body before and after eating. So... if you do find your face in a plate of cake after eating an apple late at night, well, now you know why.
*Always remember to check with your healthcare practitioner when eating high sugar fruits if you have insulin issues.
*Some of the fruits mentioned above have both high fructose AND high glucose. The glucose is what will most likely satisfy your craving. BOTH in excess are bad for the body.
This blog is by no means a clinical, scientific and or a scholarly explanation of the physiology of the brain and or science of sugars. It is just a presentation of my interpretation of info available based off of my own research and experience in regards to eating an apple as a late night snack.
http://www.pnas.org/content/112/20/6509.abstract Differential effects of fructose versus glucose on brain and appetitive responses to food cues and decisions for food rewards