I’m guilty. I like sugar.
In fact, I crave it sometimes and I’ll have to admit that I have driven across town to pick up one of my latest favorites—an organic, gluten-free, coconut macaroon. (Albeit, this is an infrequent occurrence.)
It’s not surprising that I have a sugary guilty pleasure. I’ll take the liberty and make an assumption here…we ALL do. (If I’m wrong, please correct me.)
Why do we crave sugar?
For starters, it’s so addicting—in fact, it’s been called a recreational drug due to it’s addictive properties! It’s believed that sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine!
When we eat sugar, it creates a “high” in our brains by stimulating the same addiction centers that recreational drugs do (like cocaine and heroin).
Dr. Mark Hyman, a well-respected advocate of healthy eating, has called sugar addiction a “biological [addiction] disorder” instead of an “emotional eating disorder”—because eliminating it from our diet requires rewiring and resetting of our brains and bodies.
It’s a common belief that sugar is only a problem in folks who are overweight, obese, or diabetic.
BUT, I have seen sugar addiction contribute to many of the issues people face like: fatigue, insomnia, chronic disease, cancer, hormonal dysfunction, and mood disorders.
And, furthermore, I’ve also diagnosed diabetes in people who are thin and look “good” on the outside (but are very unhealthy on the inside).
One of the biggest challenges with sugar-addiction is that most of us are completely unaware that we’re addicted!
Many of us unknowingly consume enormous amounts of “added sugars” and wonder why we feel fatigued constantly, have mood issues or have trouble maintaining a healthy weight.
This phenomena has become widely publicized by the recent movie, “Fed Up” which I highly recommend you see. It’s purpose is to shed light on the food industry and obesity in this country—which is largely due to our “added sugar” consumption.
In the movie, they stated that there are 600,000 food items in America and 80% of them contain added sugar.
I know what you’re thinking (because I immediately thought it too)…well, those are the “unhealthy, processed, sugar-filled foods”. I assumed that these are the foods I’ve chosen not to eat.
I’m pretty mindful about choosing healthy options…I mostly cook for myself and eat a healthy whole-foods diet. (But, I also live in the real world and on busy days I rely on some processed or pre-packaged food.)
After the great reminder from the movie, I did a quick check in my refrigerator and pantry and much of my “healthy” food contains added sugar!
If I’ve gotten “duped” I imagine you may have too!
It’s recommended that most people consume no more than 20-25 grams of sugar a day.
One teaspoon of sugar contains 4 grams. (For some perspective…a can of soda? Approximately 44 grams of sugar!!)
Here are a few of the “healthy items” in my home that contain added sugar. (Keep in mind these are ALL marketed and labeled as organic, gluten-free, “healthy” products.)
- “Alternative-to-dairy” (i.e. almond, coconut, hemp, soy) milk— 1 cup, 7 grams
- “Alternative-to-dairy” yogurt— 4 ounces, 12 grams
- Pasta sauce— ½ cup, 8 grams
- Salad Dressing— 2 TBSP, 7 grams
- Hummus— 2 TBSP, 2 grams
- Crackers— 7 crackers, 4 grams
- Veggie Broth— 1 cup, 2 grams
- Dried Fruit— ¼ cup, 29 grams
- Dark Chocolate Bar (72% cacao)— ½ bar, 13 grams
Just a quick glance of the “what if I ate all these processed foods in one day” scenario shows I would consume well-over my recommended daily limit.
So what to do?
Watch the movie, “Fed Up” and tell me what you think.
Take a quick glance in your refrigerator and pantry. Look on the labels to see how many grams of sugar are listed. Be sure to look at the serving size too…food labels are notorious for listing very small portion sizes to trick you into thinking the product is lower in calories, fat, and sugar.
Look for healthier alternatives to the products that contain large amounts of added sugars. Or, make your own. Salad dressing and vegetable broths, for example, are super easy to make.
Get the support you need. If you feel like you are “addicted to sugar” and have many cravings for it, talk with your health-care provider about doing a short detox, formulating a new healthy eating plan, or doing a “pantry makeover”.
It’s possible to eat a low-sugar, healthy diet. But, it takes mindfulness, education, and persistence.
What’s your take?
How does sugar influence your life?
Please leave a comment below.