There’s nothing like a good cup of coffee to wake you up in the morning and get you ready for a busy day. The rich flavor of your fresh brew makes everything better, and you feel more alert and energized for the day. But did you know that coffee can actually trigger a sweet tooth? There’s a reason you want to eat sweet treats after your morning cup of coffee!
Why Coffee Triggers Your Sweet Tooth
Coffee is a bitter brew, one rich in caffeine, a stimulant known to suppress the adenosine receptors in your brain. These receptors detect the presence of adenosine, the chemical that tells you that you’re feeling drowsy. Essentially, caffeine blocks these receptors and prevents them from sending fatigue signals to your brain. However, blocking these receptors also decreases your ability to taste sweet flavors. This means you end up eating more sugar without realizing it—one of the reasons flavored and sweetened coffees are so sweet!
The Pavlovian Response
Coffee is usually served with dessert, as the bitterness and rich flavors of the brew help to balance out the sweetness of cakes, cookies, and other treats. When you have a cup of coffee, your body has the instinctive desire to eat something sweet because of all the times it did so in the past. The flavors and aromas of the coffee trigger the Pavlovian response, thus increasing your desire for sweet treats. You’re more likely to want something sweet because of this response.
Coffee Changes Your Perception of Food
The strong flavors of coffee can mask subtler, more delicate flavors in your food, which is why coffee is usually served AFTER a lunch or dinner. However, caffeine also affects the way you perceive food. Caffeine reduces your perception of sweetness, which is why you end up eating more sugar than you would after a cup of water or herbal tea. The reduction in perceived sweet taste means your taste buds detect less sugar with every bite. You could easily end up eating far too much sugar because of this.
How to Make Coffee Healthy
If you want to avoid eating sweet foods after your coffee, it’s important that you avoid adding sugar to your brew. The bitterness of the coffee and the flavor-altering properties of the caffeine will increase the amount of sugar that is required to make your coffee sweet. You could end up consuming two or three times more sugar than normal thanks to the effects of coffee. However, if you’re going to add sugar, keep the amount limited to anywhere between 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon. Add a splash of milk to sweeten the coffee (with lactose), and use less sugar to flavor it. Less sugar and milk means fewer calories.
Avoid Over-Sweet Treats
When you’re hit with those cravings for something sweet with your coffee, try your best to ignore them. The Pavlovian response to a cup of coffee can cause you to over-eat sweet treats. Worse, because of the flavor-altering properties of the caffeine, it will take more sugary foods to satisfy your sweet tooth or sugar cravings. You’re far more likely to overeat these foods because you can hardly taste them. This can lead to an overabundance of calories, which goes straight to your gut and waist line. Don’t have coffee before your dessert, but have it at the end, after you’ve satiated both your hunger and your desire for something sweet. Drinking it last will help to avoid this desire for sugary foods!