Are You Addicted to Sugar?

Lots of people may find sugary foods hard to resist and for many people their sweet tooth drives them to eat foods that are unhealthy. But there’s a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that sugary foods can be more than just a preference. They can actually be addictive.

Author David Ludwig who wrote Ending the Food Fight, and his group of researchers at Harvard conducted a study that showed that high sugar foods and others such as white flour and refined starch have an especially high glycemic index and trigger the the nucleus accumbens region of the brain. This is the area that is also sparked in response to alcohol, drugs, gambling and other things we think of as addictions. Scientists used brain scans to show that high sugar, high carb foods spurred a brain response similar to that of cocaine! So, it’s easy to see how eating highly processed and sugary foods regularly can lead to a habit that is hard to break.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men. Want to know where most people come in? It’s closer to 22 grams of added sugar a day, which adds up to a whopping 66 pounds of added sugar in a year! Now, we’re not talking about natural sugar from nutritious fruits and vegetables. That is 66 pounds of refined, processed and often hidden sugars present in the foods we eat every day. Here are just a few startling examples. Did you know that one serving of grocery store tomato sauce has more sugar than a serving of Oreos? How about that yogurt you had for breakfast? Unless it was plain and unsweetened, it could have more sugar than a can of soda.

So, how can you tell whether you’re addicted to sugar? Here are just a few of the signs.

  • Do you have a hard time stopping at just one serving of some foods? If you’re addicted to sugar, you may start out having “just one” piece of candy or one brownie or one cookie. But one tastes so good that you have another, then another and before you know it, you’ve made a huge dent in the candy bowl. After the initial sugar high, what follows for sugar addicts is often a feeling of regret.
  • Do you rationalize what you’re eating? Do you often find yourself thinking of ways to justify the sweets or treats you might eat? Sugar addicts will know they shouldn’t indulge in certain food but think, “I’ve been good all week,” or “I’ll skip dessert for the rest of the week,” as a way to feel better about eating sweets.
  • Are you a “bread” person? Simple carbohydrates like those found in bagels, croissants, white bread and pasta very quickly turn to sugar in your body once you eat them. So you may find yourself craving these foods as they feed your sugar addiction as well.
  • Do you often experience a sugar hangover? Many sugar addicts will actually find themselves feeling hungover after eating sweets. They’ll experience headache, brain fog, fatigue and sleepiness and even bloating and gas.
  • Do you crave sweets or high carb foods when you’re stressed? When you’re stressed your body will create large amounts of the hormone cortisol. Know what counteracts this stress hormone? It’s another hormone called serotonin which makes you feel calm and relaxed. Know what can give you a quick up kick in serotonin? Sugar. Over time trying to reduce your feelings of stress with sugar will take more and more of the foods you crave.
If you think you are addicted to sugar don’t despair. For one, you are not alone. Because of changes in the food industry and the western diet, millions and millions of other people are addicted to sugar too. And, what’s best is that you can kick the habit with an overhaul of your diet and some lifestyle changes. Here are some quick tips for starters:
  • Reduce your sugar intake gradually
  • Increase your water intake
  • Learn to read food labels
  • Up your activity level
  • Eat more protein
  • Get more sleep
Want to kick your sugar habit with a healthy nutrition plan that’s created just for you? Check out Synergy’s Personalized Nutritional Counseling offered by certified nutritionist, Linnea Laverty. She will devise a diet that is not only effective in helping you reach your goals, but realistic and sustainable over time.
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