Americans generally consume an outrageous 156lb of sugar per person, annually!
ARE WE A NATION OF ADDICTS?!
According to compiled research derived from pubmed.gov, sugar stimulates the brain’s reward centers via the neurotransmitter dopamine. This just so happens to be the same stimulation pathway used by heroin. Certainly a sugar “addiction” renders a far less severe connotation than a heroin addiction, however, biologically speaking the two may have more in common than we’d care to admit.
No one strives to be a heroin addict, equally no one aims for obesity. Both issues source from primitive neurochemical reward centers in the brain that override willpower and overwhelm our biological signals associated with indulgence and control.
So what if we are addicts? Unlike a heroin addict, a sugar addict can maintain productive & successful function within society. Why bother with such concerns? Ask Yourself…
What is sugar doing for you?
Undeniably, arousing your senses, stimulating your palate & rewarding your nervous system.
What is sugar taking from you?
Clarity, control, energy + focus.
Physiologically, sugar consumption promotes a laundry list of undesirable symptoms such as: headaches, fatigue, gastrointestinal upset, hunger, thirst, brain fog, as well as adipose production.
How does sugar promote fat cell production?
Sugar consumption spikes blood sugar levels thus prompting the body to produce more insulin. Insulin is essentially a fat-storage hormone; it facilitates energy conservation, thereby promoting metabolic pathways to shift toward fat deposition. In the simplest terms:
Sugar = Increased Insulin = Fat Production
Few would negate the obvious ill-effects induced by sugar consumption. However, the tricky part is avoiding this extremely accessible drug.
How does one overcome an addiction to sugar?
Good question! I’ve been consciously battling mine for over 3 years now + it’s been challenging as hell. I’d like to share my 3 step process developed as a means to dismantle my own addiction.
Step 1: Recognition
Avoiding the obvious is easy: cakes, cookies, ice cream, candy. How about the not so obvious? Items such as teriyaki sauce, BBQ sauce & Ketchup all contain surprisingly exorbitant amounts of sugar. Sugar has even managed to swindle its way into the majority of “health” proclaiming products. Cliff bars for instance, contain as much sugar as a twinkie, and double that of a Krispy Kreme doughnut! Surprised? I certainly was!
Sugar has become elusive!
Creative marketing approaches paired with sales promotion has welcomed this sly dog in to just about every pre-packaged item available. Sugar is no longer limited to listing exclusively as sugar.
Here are a few terms associated with sugar:
barley malt syrup
high-frutose corn syrup
dehydrated cane juice
fruit juice concentrate
organic cane sugar
Aaaaaahhhhh!!! How does one keep track of all of these terms? Simplified, if you’re trying to avoid sugar, beware of any ingredient ending in “ose” or listed as syrup or sweetener.
What is the best sweetener to use?
This is a fairly controversial topic. Most would agree that avoiding artificial, chemically engineered forms of sugar such as Splenda, Equal or Sweet’N Low is in your best interest. Many are inclined to suggest natural sources such as agave, honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, or stevia. I would agree that while natural sources of sugar are wiser selections, the body will break down natural sweeteners in the same fashion as white granulated sugar. Ultimately, limiting your sugar intake is the best option.
Step 2: Limitation & Replacement
Once you recognize the full political scope & proliferation of sugar additives, it becomes easier to regulate consumption. Limitation can be expressed in various forms. Perhaps begin by cutting back. Continue to ingest the same sorts of sweets you’re accustomed to eating, simply in smaller quantities. If ‘cutting back’ isn’t in your vocabulary set yourself up with a challenge such as a juice cleanse, elimination diet or 30 day sugar detox. In my experience, limited abstinence has led to healthier habits and a gradual decrease in sugar consumption.
Here is a limited list of sweet fix alternatives:
Fresh or frozen fruit
Naturally sweet vegetables such as sweet potatoes and beets
Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and honey
Whole fruit smoothies
Trail mix (avoid types with candy)
Whole fruit pops
Dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher)
Natural peanut butter with whole fruit preserves
Mission figs with goat cheese
Step 3: Avoidance & Re-appreciation
The sustainability step. I recognize this may be a bit extreme and certainly not the most practical for the majority. Although, for those interested, I can assure you it is the most gratifying of all! What began as yet another avoidance challenge readily transpired into an unwavering desire to eliminate sugar from my diet almost entirely. Almost serves as my loophole. I’m working on my all or nothing approach- striving for greater balance + continuity. Almost allows for unadulterated sugars (derived from whole fruits & veggies), as well as the occasional indulgence. This step has been in progress for the past year. My cravings have diminished substantially and it’s become much easier to avoid sugar altogether. Admittedly, I occasionally backpedal. When this happens, I set myself up for a 30 day sugar detox challenge. By the end of the challenge, I’m generally back on track- leaner stomach, increased energy and dissipated cravings. Sugar is an addiction- one that can be exceedingly difficult to quit. Start where you are. I assure you over time your palate will evolve eventually developing sensation re-appreciation.