Sugar is a type of carbohydrates also known as “simple carbohydrates”. For many centuries, this delicious ingredient was a commodity, in which only wealthy people could afford to pay high prices for only a few ounces of sugar. Nowadays, sugar is a staple in any home and accessible to everyone.
So, what’s all the fuss about sugar?
For starters, we are eating much more sugar than we did 50 years ago. The average amount of sugar consumed by an individual has risen from 110 pounds in 1950 to 152 pounds a year in 2000. The excess sugar consumed is affecting our health and it is responsible for the increase in obesity and related medical conditions such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
In addition, the food industry has added refined sugars and artificial sweeteners to most of the processed food and beverages, increasing the amount of sugar we are consuming.
Before we continue, take this brief quiz and find out if you are addicted to sugar.
____ I eat sugary food every day
____ I cannot stop after eating one piece of candy or pastry
____ I feel relaxed, happy, and relieved after eating sweets
____ I feel tired, fatigued and sluggish after eating sweets
____ I go out of my way to eat sugar
____ I can go without cravings for sugar for more than a week
____ I can have sweets in the house without eating them
____ I can stop eating sugary food after just one piece
____ I get sugary cravings close to or during my period
____ I can share dessert with another person
**To get the answers go to the end of this page.
Addiction is the persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or control substance use.
Sugar can cause dependence or addiction at two levels:
• It can trigger the natural reward system in the forebrain–the same as nicotine, alcohol or illegal drugs. These substances increase the release of the two neurochemicals dopamine and serotonin. These neurochemicals cause a sensation of happiness, relaxation or euphoria. If you feel you may be a sugar addict or at risk, it is important you determine what triggers your cravings for excess sweets.
• The consumption of large amount of sugars and simple carbohydrates (starches, grains, flour) can cause a chain reaction in our body triggering the release of insulin. Insulin is a powerful hormone regulating blood glucose levels. It moves glucose (sugar) obtained from the food into the cells. The cells are then able to use the glucose for energy. An excess of glucose not utilized by the cells will be stored as fat. Individuals who eat large amount of simple carbohydrates tend to have higher insulin levels. They can develop episodes of low blood glucose levels that are correct by eating more simple carbohydrates. People with this eating behavior tend to gain weight, becoming obese overtime.
Read the nutrition label and look for the amount of total carbohydrates, fiber and sugars. Remember, the amount in the nutrition label is only for one serving.
Look at the list of ingredients. You don’t always see the word “sugar” on the list of ingredients; it still can be hiding inside the package under other names such as agave nectar, brown rice syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, glucose, lactose, malt syrup, molasses & sucrose.
Packages that list any form of sugar in the first few ingredients or contain more than four total grams of sugar aren’t worth the calories. There is a variety of natural sugars and sweeteners available in the market for home and commercial use. Artificial sweeteners can also have the same effect as the natural sweeteners in our brain and body.
These are examples of commercial food labeled as “healthy” but contain large amounts of hiding sugar: box cereals, protein bars, granolas, barbecue sauces, salad dressings, fruited yogurt and fruit juices.
Bottom line–eat a well-balanced diet and decrease the amount of refined sugars, simple carbohydrates and processed fats you consume.
If you feel you suffer from a sugar addiction, talk to your physician or attend an overeaters anonymous group meeting. They can help you overcome your sweet tooth and achieve a healthier life.
Answers to quiz:
If you have more than 2 answers from Set A, you are a sugar addict.
If you have more than 3 answers from Set B, congratulations, you don’t have to worry.
If you answer 2 questions from Set A, you could be at risk.