It may be the most common addiction in the world today: Sugar. Here’s how it hooks you, how to beat sugar addiction and why you need to start today!
Sugar Addiction has become unquestionably the most talked about subject regarding nutrition in recent years. Very few people do not enjoy sweet treats. Despite medical studies indicating that eating sugar often leads to a multitude of health issues, which I’ll address, many people often still indulge in sugary treats.
Scientific research shows that increased levels of triglycerides and decreased levels of lipoproteins and good cholesterol occur when abnormal amounts of sugar are ingested. An eating habit like the latter heightens these factors within your body, boosting the risk for possible heart diseases.
A big percentage of people whose diets were controlled in medical studies showed that calories could easily pile up when added sugars are included in diets. The more calories, the bigger the person becomes in terms of body mass index and fat.
People who have a sweet tooth tend to munch sweets throughout the day without realizing they may have already ingested a combined total of up to 46 teaspoons of sugar. Imagine eating this much sugar straight out of the container!
This is an alarming amount as it may lead to minor health problems such as tooth decay, and more problematic ones such as obesity and diabetes. I’ll address these later in this article. Very few people can actually stick to consuming the least amount of sugar, which is only 3 teaspoons per day.
Why is sugar bad? Let’s explore…
Protect Yourself From Sugar
Many diets today consist of numerous types of sugars, both good and bad. Sugars found in fruit are considered the natural ones, while those found in moist chocolate cakes and our favorite desserts are the processed and additive ones that we could do without. Supposedly, only 6 teaspoons of sugar for men and 9 teaspoons for women are recommended daily. But, it’s not hard to believe that most of us go way beyond this intake in our simple diet plan.
Producers and consumers must all find a way to minimize added sugars in our foods to keep everyone medically fit. For instance, heavily taxing soft drinks and candies could decrease the sales of these items. As more research confirms the unhealthy effects of consuming too much sugar in our diet, we must all therefore, control ourselves from adding that extra teaspoon of caramel on our scoop of ice cream for dessert.
But, as you’ll see, this is easier said than done!
Whether or not sugar is addictive is a contentious subject. Sugar itself is not addictive. Even if you love the stuff, I doubt you’d sit there and happily eat plain sugar from the bag all day long.
Rather, what you crave and desire is high-sugar foods. These are foods that not only contain sugar, but they are also high in salt, fat, additives and flavorings. And, it’s these combos that can have an addictive effect.
Again, if these foods make up a small part (10 to 20%) of your diet, and you’re eating the right number of calories, there’s no desperate need to cut them out. If you know you’re a bit of a sugar junkie however, you likely should look at lowering your consumption.It’s important to understand what does sugar do to your body.
Sugar Withdrawal: Steps To Curb It
You may find at first you experience a few sugar withdrawal symptoms, such as feeling extremely tired at times when you’d usually indulge your cravings. Don’t worry. There are a few simple steps you can take to rectify this.
First, try to include protein in every meal. Protein’s slow digesting effect will help keep blood sugar levels stable. For that reason, you should base your meals around meat and fish. You should snack on boiled eggs, protein bars and shakes, or dairy foods like Greek yogurt and cottage cheese.
You should eat more fiber. Like protein, fiber aids digestion and fullness. As a result, you should eat more low sugar fruits, beans, whole grains and green veggies.
Don’t look to cut carbs completely in fact, look into the carb cycling diet. If your usual mid-afternoon Snickers bar and can of Coke contains 70 grams of carbs, don’t try to completely cut all of these. Instead, look to get a decent-sized carb serving from alternative, more filling high protein foods, such as a wholemeal wrap with a protein filling, a protein bar, a homemade smoothie or even some deli meat and a few pieces of fruit.
Sugar Is Complex And There’s More To This Sweet Treat
Not only does sugar help to make you fat, it’s rotting your teeth, contributing to the type-2 diabetes epidemic, is massively addictive and can even contribute to cancer. The World Cancer Research Fund says that when it comes to preventing cancer, being as lean as possible in a healthy range is at the top of the list. At number three, even ahead of eating more veggies, is advice to limit consumption of energy-dense foods or foods high in fat or added sugars and sugary drinks.
Recent research has shown that sugar can be as addictive to lab rats as heroin or crack cocaine. While artificial sweeteners are good tools for getting you through the withdrawal period, they don’t offer a long-term solution. The good news is that more people are beating their sugar addiction as they realize the damage it does. Food makers have been made to reduce sodium levels in their food, and sugar is next on the list.
Sugar abuse is one of the primary causes of obesity and our love affair with this cheap, addictive substance has resulted in record levels of diabetes and overweight people. Beating sugar addiction is a matter of learning how to plan and eat consciously instead of reactively, and retraining yourself to be more mindful of why you eat, what you eat and how much you eat.Sugar just can’t be a staple of your plan if your diet plans to lose weight.
Learning the facts about sugar is the first, most important step. Sugar has many different names. That makes avoiding it can be quite difficult. Not everything that contains sugar uses the word sugar in the list of ingredients. Of course, this can make things a little harder.
It’s all in the choices. One of the main problems with a high-carb diet is that it triggers the production of too much insulin, which leads to fat storage and diabetes.But don’t rush into a no carbs diet. By cutting back on the sugar in your diet and by choosing carbs that are high in fiber and nutrients, you can keep your insulin levels under control, get off the sugar high/sugar crash roller coaster and stop storing so much fat!
Sugar And Your Brain
Because of how it impacts on hormones and your brain, sugar has some unique fat-promoting effects. These are just some of the common nasty side effects of sugar.
Not all calories are created equal. Different foods can have different effects on our brains and the hormones that control food intake. Recent studies show that fructose doesn’t have the same kind of effect on satiety as glucose.
In one study, people drank either a fructose-sweetened or a glucose-sweetened drink. It was found that the fructose drinkers had much less activity in the satiety center of the brain and felt hungrier. There’s also a study where fructose didn’t lower the hunger hormone ghrelin nearly as much as glucose. Over time, because the calories from sugar aren’t as filling or satisfying, this can mean an increased calorie intake.
The dopamine release in the brain is huge!
Therefore, sugar is massively addictive. Like many common drugs, sugar causes a release of dopamine in the reward center of the brain. Like many junk foods, sugar can cause a huge dopamine release, much more than foods found in nature. So people who have a susceptibility to addiction can become very addicted to sugar and other junk foods.
The Role Sugar Plays On Diseases
Sugar can raise your cholesterol and lead to heart disease. For a long time, people have blamed saturated fat for heart disease. But, new studies are showing that saturated fat isn’t the problem! It may well be that sugar, not fat, is one of the biggest leaders to heart disease due to the harmful effects of fructose on the metabolism. Studies show that large amounts of fructose can raise triglycerides, small, dense LDL and oxidized LDL, raise blood glucose and insulin levels and increase obesity, major risk factors for heart disease.
It’s true that sugar can contribute to cancer. Cancer is one of the biggest causes of death in the world, made worse by the uncontrolled growth of cells. Insulin is one of the key hormones in regulating this sort of growth. So, many scientists believe that having constantly higher insulin levels because of sugar consumption can contribute to cancer. Also, the metabolic problems linked with sugar abuse are a known contributor of inflammation, another cause of cancer.
Added sugar is also bad for your teeth. You know it’s true, added sugars (like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup) have no essential nutrients and are known as empty calories. They have no proteins, essential fats, vitamins or minerals. They’re just pure energy. This can really contribute to nutrient deficiencies. This is also bad for the teeth, as it has easily digestible energy for the bad bacteria in the mouth.
What Role Does Sugar Play On Obesity?
Sugar is a massive factor in obesity. The way sugar affects hormones and the brain is a big contributor to fat gain. It leads to decreased satiety and can get people addicted so that they lose control! One of the most important things you can do if you need to lose weight is to significantly cut back on sugar consumption.
Fructose can overload the liver. Before sugar enters the bloodstream from the digestive tract, it’s broken down into two simple sugars. These sugars are glucose and fructose. If we don’t get glucose from the diet, our bodies produce it.
Fructose is different. Our bodies don’t produce it in an ample amount and there’s no real need for it. Fructose is fine if we eat a small amount (like fruit) or straight after a workout. At that point, it’ll be turned into glycogen and stored in the liver for future use. But if the liver is full of glycogen, eating a lot of fructose overloads the liver, forcing it to turn the fructose into fat. This can lead to a fatty liver and all kinds of major issues.
These Are Some Good Sugar Swaps
No matter how clean your diet is, almost everyone gets cravings for sweets or junk food now and then. As you begin better eating habits and coax yourself off sugar, use these tips to fight back when a sugar craving hits.
Drink a cold glass of water or lemon-flavored mineral water. Search for what caused the craving, and don’t allow yourself to have the treat until you come up with the answer.
Is it hunger?
Is it a stressful event?
Become aware and make a conscious decision to eat or not eat the sweet. Remember, no one makes you do anything. If you decide to eat sugar, it’s your choice. Don’t make excuses!
Choose a positive alternative. If you do decide to eat something sweet, be smart. Remember the 10-minute rule. Wait 10 minutes before you eat a sugary snack. If you still want it after 10 minutes, go ahead. Put the amount you intend to eat on a plate first, no eating from boxes or serving bowls.
Brown rice pasta, whole wheat pasta, or quinoa pasta
Mineral water with a squeeze of lemon or lime
Brown rice or quinoa
Junk food snack
Try a substitute sweet fix instead. For instance, try a couple squares of sugar-free dark chocolate, low-glycemic fruit like apple or pear, green or mint tea to help restore adrenal function or water sweetened with stevia and fresh lemon.
Remember that eating healthily is all about balance. Indulgent foods, such as those high in fat and/or sugar, can be enjoyed and savored, but only occasionally, not every day. The majority of our diet should be made up of balanced, nutritious everyday foods.
By Keith Cormican, RD