SUGAR: would you eat it if you knew it was FAR more addictive than cocaine?
When I say sugar, what thoughts come into your mind?
Maybe you’re picturing a plate of warm, gooey, freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. Or maybe you’re thinking of a chocolate bar? Does the thought of sugar make you feel happy?! Maybe sugar makes you think of Christmas treats or your last birthday celebration. When you really think about it, do your thoughts about sugar take you back to being a child? Are memories of holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions now at the forefront of your brain?
We think warm, positive, happy thoughts when we think about sugar and there’s a reason!
Recent studies show that craving sugar has far more to with our chemistry than willpower. Sugar is extremely addictive. Several underlying physiological causes feed our deep desire for sugar and the exact mechanism behind sugar addiction is complicated. But, to put it simply, all you need to know is this: when you consume sugar, your body releases several neurotransmitters that make you feel good --- really good.
According to Mark Hyman, M.D., chair of the Institute of Functional Medicine, (one brilliant man!), sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine. Eight! On top of that, Americans consume 152 pounds of sugar per person, per year. Most of that sugar is hidden in processed foods. That is roughly 30-60 teaspoons of sugar in one day. That is pants-loads of sugar, folks – literally. Less than 100 years ago, we consumed an average of four pounds of sugar per year. Why are we so surprised that more than 35 percent of adults in the US are obese? HELLO?!
Sugar is hidden EVERYWHERE. You may think you’re aware of how much sugar you’re eating, but honestly, we all have some learning to do. Were you aware that most yogurt (a “healthy” breakfast choice) contains more sugar than ice cream? You wouldn’t start your morning with ice cream, would you? Why are you eating yogurt?
Here’s the (sad) sweet truth:
There are 17 grams of sugar in a six-inch Subway sandwich.
There are 27 grams of sugar in a Yoplait yogurt.
There are 33 grams of sugar in a Vitamin Water.
There are 49 grams of sugar in a Jamba juice.
There are 50 grams of sugar in an Odwala Superfood drink.
There are 58 grams of sugar in a vanilla Frappaccino.
Here’s the take-away: many of the foods that we recognize as “healthy” are loaded with sugar. And some of the foods that we consider to be desserts have less sugar than some of these foods that we view as healthy.
Sugar is elusive. Know how to identify it.
Sugar has many names and hides well among a list of 95 other ingredients. Become familiar with all the faces of sugar.
Here is a list of 257 different forms of sugar (no wonder we are confused!).
What does sugar do to our health?
Here is a list of 141 reasons how sugar destroys your health. Did I mention that sugar does not have ONE health benefit? Okay, good. Not one!
Sugar kills. Slowly, but surely.
Sugar. How much should we eat?
Bottom line? We should NOT eat sugar. Think about that: there is NO daily recommended dose of sugar from any institution. It’s all about LIMITING sugar. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that men limit daily sugar intake to 36 grams or less and women to 24 grams or less per day. However, I recommend you completely remove all processed sugar from your diet. Remember, does it offer ONE health benefit? NO!
This is a topic I have researched extensively. Most naturopathic physicians and functional doctors agree on only a select few alternative sweeteners as healthy and safe. These are the sweeteners that are most commonly suggested:
· Stevia: a plant-based sweetener that grows in North and South America and is about 300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia is a zero-calorie sweetener and has a glycemic index of zero, meaning it will not raise blood sugar.
· Xylitol: a sugar alcohol, with a sweetness similar to sucrose (table sugar), but contains about 40 percent fewer calories than sugar. Xylitol has a low glycemic index (7) compared to sugar (60-70) and therefore, has little effect on blood sugar.
I ditched sugar and it is, by far, one of the best nutritional choices I’ve ever made. Few people love sweets more than me! I don’t feel deprived. You don’t have to, either. There are tons of tasty, satisfying, sugar-free recipes available.