Are you a secret sugar addict? A study done on sugar addicts suggests that excess sugar is deadlier than fat and more addictive than heroin.
It makes us fat, rots our teeth and has been linked to heart disease, yet sugar is found in just about everything we eat — and in rapidly rising amounts. For many of us, sugar has become our drug of choice, helping us through the afternoon energy crash in the form of a handful of biscuits, and going without it makes us tired and grumpy.
Although fewer of us sweeten our tea or coffee, we are consuming more than ever due to the increase in ‘stealth sugar’, which is added to most processed foods, even savoury staples such as soups, sauces and bread. And while the risk of ODing on fat has been well-documented, sugar’s potential side-effects have slipped below the radar.
It was back in the 1970s that medical establishments in the West first made a link between dietary fat and heart attacks, which resulted in fat being stripped out of many shop-bought foods. To ensure food still tasted good, manufacturers responded by adding more sugar. Even the fruit and vegetables that we buy today, such as strawberries, apples and more recently broccoli, are bred to be sweeter than the varieties we ate in the past.
Now experts fear that in our obsession to cut out fat, we’ve become addicted to sugar. Study also suggests that most of us are simply unaware of the amount of sugar in our daily diet — a shocking 21 teaspoons per day according to some reports, when the recommended healthy limit is 10.
Why Sugar is Toxic
Although we need sugar to fuel our body and brain, large amounts have said to raise insulin levels, increasing the risk of diabetes. The body turns surplus sugar into fat and stores it around the vital organs, placing us at risk of liver and heart disease.
To top things off, studies have suggested that sugar could be as addictive as drugs and alcohol, which earlier this year led academics in international journal, Nature to call for sweet stuff to be taxed and restricted like booze and cigarettes.
Just Can’t Get Enough?
The official line has always been that while sugar is high in calories but it’s not addictive. Research suggests the opposite may be true. Scientists at Princeton University found that chemicals released when we eat sugar travel along the same brain pathways that heroin does. And when we’re stressed or sad, the foods that can produce this feeling trigger powerful cravings, causing us to eat up to six times more than our normal intake.
Sugar stimulates the release of endorphins, which make you feel good, say nutritionists. Too much on a regular basis means you become deaf to your own natural endorphins, and ‘need’ sugar to feel good. In other words you become hooked and suffer withdrawal effects if you try to quit.
Signs That Help You Realize That You are Sugar Addict
If you answered YES to two or more questions, there’s a good chance that you’ve developed a sugar dependency.
- Do you eat high sugar foods such as sugary sweets, white bread or pasta every day?
- Do you feel tired and irritable in the morning and again mid-afternoon, but feel relieved when you eat something sweet?
- Do you ever find that once you start eating, it’s hard to stop?
- Do you end up with sweets and biscuits in your shopping trolley even though you promised yourself that you wouldn’t buy any?
- Have you ever tried and failed to limit the amount of sugary foods in your diet?
Tips To Cut Down Sugar From Your Diet
When first cutting down on sugar, you’ll probably experience headaches and feel grumpy and lethargic for a few days. After a week, you’ll start to feel better.
Cutting Sugar Gradually
Set yourself reasonable targets based on halving your sugar intake each week until you have none. For example, if you normally have two sugars in your tea, have one in the first week and half a teaspoon in the second week.
Eat a Low Glycemic (GI) Diet
This means swapping white pasta and rice for brown, and eating wholemeal breads and wholegrain cereals such as bran flakes or porridge for breakfast. This will slow the speed at which sugar gets into your system, keeping blood sugar and energy levels constant, making you less likely to crave that instant sugar hit.
Little But Regular Diet
This will keep your blood sugar levels steady so you won’t be hit by a sugar slump in the mid-morning or afternoon.
The more tired you are, the more your body craves sugar to give you an energy boost. While you’re weaning yourself off sugar, aim to get seven to eight hours of shut-eye per night and avoid burning the candle at both ends.
We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences of sugar addiction. Please leave me a comment and let us know.