A Nation of Addicts: Sugar Addicts
The average American consumes 100 pounds of sugar per year that is 25 times more than the average consumption of early colonists to America. The USDA recommends 10 teaspoons of added sugar per day and yet most people consume 30 teaspoons or more. The extra sugar is primarily coming from sweetened beverages, including fruit juice, sodas, coffee drinks, teas, and lemonade. Sugar in liquid form has a more dramatic impact on blood sugar causing a sharp increase and fall leading to the desire to consume more sugar.
Overconsumption of sugar has been linked to deadly diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, arthritis and autoimmune diseases. In many instances these diseases are preventable by eating whole foods; whole grains, vegetables, meats, and dairy.
There is more and more research proving sugar as an addictive substance including studies at Yale and Princeton Universities. Studies show sugar as addictive as drugs like cocaine or heroin. Signs of addiction include; inability to control portions and amounts consumed in one sitting, the need for continued willpower to avoid it, and a constant craving for sugar despite negative feedback. People who give up sugar will often experience symptoms of withdrawal including headaches, mood swings, cravings, and fatigue.
If you experience any of these effects from consuming or giving up sugar, you are not alone. Humans evolved to crave sweet things to stay alive; in these times of food availability we are battling our genetic make-up and the food industries exploitation of our natural desire for sweets.
In the book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss, the author delves deep into the world of food science and food production. Food scientists use our natural inclination to salt, sugar, and fat and make processed foods with very little nutritional value that we are driven to consume in mass quantities. The food giants are making billions of dollars every year off of this exploitation and Americans are getting more obese and more malnourished.
So, if we are genetically predisposed and our environment is flooded with the availability of sweet things what can the average person do to avoid and reduce sugar in their diet?
First and foremost become aware of the situation. Keep a food diary and highlight every item on the list that is a processed food, including bread, tomato sauce, peanut butter (anything in a package that is not a whole food in its original form). Then go to your pantry or refrigerator and look at all of the nutrition labels of those foods. If any of those foods have 5 grams or more of sugar per serving, toss it. If the ingredients list has more than 6 items that are not whole foods, toss it. Now go to your office and any other place you keep food and do the same thing. Once you remove these foods from your environment, you will be less likely to eat them. Set yourself up for success by eliminating temptation.
Now, restock your pantry and snack drawer with healthier versions of what you just tossed. Keeping low sugar snacks handy will keep you from visiting the vending machine when you need a pick me up in the afternoon. Snack ideas: plain roasted almonds, coconut chips, kale chips, hardboiled eggs, cheese, vegetable sticks, popcorn, hummus, avocado.
Kicking a sugar addiction can be very rewarding and you will see improvement in many aspects of your life. Balanced mood and sense of well-being, sustained energy throughout the day, fewer colds, and weight reduction are just a few of the positive affects you can look forward to.
Don’t let the food giants hijack your health and pay them for doing it. Enjoy better health and save money in the long term by reducing processed, sugar laden foods from your diet.
Tara Hire is a certified holistic health coach with a degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Maine, Orono. She is a former sugar addict who coaches women to break free from their addiction and live life to the fullest. She does this through wellness retreats on Monhegan Island as well as individual and group counseling. Visit www.monheganwellness.com for more information.