Why we crave sweets at 3pm
If you give yourself a sugar high every afternoon – 3pm, every day, without fail – there’s no point berating yourself. As according to a new study, this is simply how our brains work.
Experts at Flinders University, Australia and Liverpool University in the U.K. studied more than 300 young women aged between 17 and 25 to track their feelings towards food at different times of the day. In their study results, they found that the women were automatically wired to feel cake is more appealing in the afternoon.
"Our findings showed a tendency to automatically think of unhealthy snack foods in a more positive manner as the day progressed, which previous research has shown to contribute to greater craving, desire, and ultimately, consumption of those foods," said Dr. Ashleigh Haynes. "This highlights that it might be especially important to implement strategies that replenish our capacity to control automatic responses, or limit the availability of unhealthy snack foods later in the day, when we tend to evaluate those foods more positively."
Flinders University dietician Dr. Kacie Dickinson said the results might be explained by "our commonly accepted standards" for snacking. She said that while we may feel like getting an energy boost during afternoon tea breaks by snacking on cakes, biscuits or salty snacks, it's important to be aware of what such products are actually made of.
"Unfortunately, many common snack foods we eat are highly processed, with high amounts of sugar, fat and salt, so potential strategies to reduce people’s intake of these foods is really important," explained Dr. Dickinson, adding that snacking between meals is not necessary for healthy people to maintain a healthy balanced diet.
Instead, she recommends healthy snack options for between meals, such as piece of fresh fruit, 1/3 cup of unsalted nuts or a small tub (170g) of natural yoghurt.
"This research is useful in increasing our understanding of a range of influences on perceptions of foods and can help inform ways to decrease unhealthy food consumption to stem the increasing rates of overweight and obesity and related chronic disease in the community," Dr. Dickinson said.
Going forward, researchers hope to conduct further studies into how to combat snacking urges.
The paper was published in the Elsevier Food Quality and Preference journal.