Do you hit the afternoon “wall” and head straight for the T.V. chair? Are you running out of energy and in a brain fog by 3 pm? Do you crave certain foods even if you are not hungry? Then there is a good chance you are suffering from sugar addiction.
The average American consumes 130 lbs of sugar a year. That equals 153 grams daily. Yep, it is the same as downing 36 teaspoons of sugar every day. The worst part is that we crave it. Sugar stimulates the brain like cocaine. It works by stimulating the feel good hormones and the reward center of our brains. We can and do build up a tolerance to sugar so that we need more and more to achieve the same good feeling – and we crave that feeling.
Sugar is everywhere and in almost everything that we eat. While we are more accustomed to thinking about the Big Bad Offenders like candy, cookies, donuts, soft drinks and ice cream, a diet full of processed, prepackaged and fast foods will also be packed with sugar. We know when we need to cut back or should cut back on those sweet treats but we are often not even aware of the HIDDEN sugar that is ADDED to almost everything that we are eating and drinking. These sugars hit our blood stream fast and they are converted to fat very quickly. Most of these sugars are in the form of:
• High Fructose Corn Syrup
• Cane sugar
• Brown Sugar
• Sucrose or table sugar
We have to be extra careful to really read the labels of packaged foods. Even if they say “Natural” or “Healthy” that does not mean that they are not loaded with sugar. When reading a label, the higher up on the ingredient list an item is, the greater the percentage of it in the food. So to put it in terms that we can understand, for every one gram of sugar that is listed, it would be the same as eating ¼ teaspoon of sugar. That doesn’t seem like much but it adds up fast.
Take a “meal replacement bar” for example – it reads 15 grams or 3.50 teaspoons of sugar. The company labeled the sugar as: sugar, corn syrup, fructose and dextrose. Yes, all four were in that little bar. Another example that might surprise you is French fries. A medium serving of fast food fries has the equivalent of nearly 11 teaspoons of sugar. Hard to believe but you can see how and why our nation is obese. The really sad part is that our children are being diagnosed with obesity at a younger age every year.
Excess sugar consumption, whether it is intentional or it is hidden in our food, has been directly linked to numerous diseases processes. Diabetes, obesity, coronary artery disease are some of the big ones. But sugar also has been linked to depression, violent behavior, hyper active behavior in adults and children, nervous tension, chronic fatigue, headaches, multiple cancers and overall chronic diseases.
Avoiding processed, pre-packaged and fast foods is one of the best ways to reduce unintentional sugar consumption. The American Heart Association recommends that added sugar consumption be limited to 25 grams (six tsp) of added sugar for women and 35 grams (eight tsp) for men.
Some people believe that because added sugars are unhealthy, the same would be true for fruits, which also contain fructose. But when eating whole fruit, it is almost impossible to consume enough fructose to cause harm. Fruits are loaded with fiber, water and have significant chewing resistance. For these reasons, most fruits (like apples) take a while to eat and digest, meaning that the fructose hits the liver much more slowly.
The over use of artificial sweeteners has recently been getting a lot of press because of the side effects on brain tissue and the disruption of the natural intestinal flora that we need for proper absorption in our digestive tract. There are healthier zero calorie options like Stevia and Munk fruit. They both come in powdered and liquid form. Healthier calorie sweeteners include brown rice syrup, dates, local raw honey, yacon and pure maple syrup. Pick some up and try it, your body and brain will thank you.
The best gift that we can give ourselves and our children is the gift of healthy lifestyle changes. Cutting back on sugar and artificial sweeteners is a really great way to get started.
By Pamela Flores, RN, IN, HHP – www.nourishingbodyandsoul.org
Pamela Flores is a Registered Nurse, Integrative Nutritionist, Holistic Health Practitioner and LAFD wife. You can reach her at (805) 368-8011 or Pamela@NourishingBodyandSoul.org