Friday, January 2, 2015

Addicted to Sugar

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Sugar, it is my nemesis! According to the USDA, in 2010, the average American consumed 132 pounds of sugar in their annual diet. This is astounding, when you consider in the year 1700 our ancestors consumed only 4 pounds of sugar per year. No wonder we are all getting so fat! The American Heart association recommends that we limit our daily sugar consumption to 7% or less of our daily calorie intake, that is only about 6 teaspoons for an average woman's diet and 9 teaspoons for the average male.

One 12-ounce can of soda contains 8-10 teaspoons of sugar. If you have read my other posts, you know that I am addicted to Mountain Dew, which contains a whopping 11.5 teaspoons of sugar. I have been known to down a six-pack per day. It is no wonder my triglycerides and sugar levels are elavated.  With one can of my favorite green drink, I am almost doubling my daily recommended allowance of sugar and that is before I even take a bite of food or drink the other 5 cans of it that are cooling in my fridge.

To further the problem, since the 70s, we have been told that fat is bad. Well meaning (I like to give them the benefit of the doubt) food companies decreased the fat in our favorite foods and amped up the sugar to add flavor to these fat free snacks. So, we were all on the low-fat diets, but increasing our sugar consumption by the tablespoon.

Not only has sugar become a staple in the American diet, many of us, like myself, consuming the stuff by the can, but, sugar is known to increase dopamine and serotonin in our body, which means means, these feel good neurotransmitters make it more and more difficult to break the sugar habit. Many of us are truly addicted to sugar.

Diets high in sugar have been linked to incrased waistlines, type 2 diabetes, elevated triglycerides, low HDL (the good cholesterol), heart disease, migraines, depression and autoimmune disorders. I don't know about you, but I cannot count on my one hand, the number of these problems I am starting to see or feel in my own body.

So, you may think you are not eating much sugar, because you don't drink soda and you don't add any sugar to your diet. However, sugar is known by many other names.

Agave nectar
Agave syrup
Barley malt
Beet sugar
Brown rice syrup
Brown sugar
Buttered syrup
Cane sugar
Cane juice
Cane juice crystals
Carob syrup
Confectioner’s sugar
Corn syrup
High fructose corn syrup
Corn sugar
Corn sweetener
Corn syrup solids
Crystalized fructose
Date sugar
Diastatic malt
Evaporated cane juice
Fruit juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Glucose solids
Golden sugar
Golden syrup
Grape sugar
Grape juice concentrate
Invert sugar
Maple syrup
Raw sugar
Refiner's syrup
Sorghum syrup
Turbinado sugar
Yellow sugar

Do you recognize any of these in your favorite foods? Start reading labels, you might be surprised by all the hidden sugar in your diet, I am. Kicking the sugar habit is not going to be an easy task. In fact, some studys show the withdrawal from sugar may cause the same neurological symptoms as withdrawal from nicotine, morphine and alcohol. The neurological response in your brain is equal to that of nicotine and morphine. This is due to those pesky feel-good neurotransmitters again. The reward our brain gets from the neurotransmitters is the very similar to those other drugs. The fact that sugar is so readily available makes it even more difficult to kick the habit.

So, how on earth do we kick the sugar habit? More and more research shows that replacing sugar with artificial sweetners is like giving up cigarettes for cigars. It just isn't any better for our body and may even be worse in terms of will power because the artificial sweetness gears the brain up for the rewards of sugar, which it doesn't get from the artificial sweetners. Then, our self control goes out the window because the brain starts searching for the serotonin and dopamine your tongue promised, when it tasted sweetness... How is that for bad news, artificial sweetners may make it even more difficult to resist sugar.

As I mentioned above, many low-fat foods are loaded in calorie-laden sugar, which isn't doing your wasteline any favors. Fat has been the bad guy for so long, but increasing your intake of healthy fats, like coconut oil for example, may help ward of the sugar you are craving. I am not saying eat a ton of fat, so that you don't eat sugar. I am saying, eating more healthy monounsaturated fats will make you feel full and might help kick your sugar cravings.

When I talk to friends who are on low-carb diets, or low-sugar diets, many of them say they feel better than every, have more energy and no longer crave sweet foods. If you think about sugar in terms of addiction, is it possible that the more we eat, the more we crave. Do we become immune to the serotonin and dopamine produced with sugar intake? Just as someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, we need more and more sugar to get the same effect. So, we slug through life, sluggish, foggy brained and tired, because our body needs more and more sugar to get us our sugar-high. 

I have now read a ton of articles on how do break the sugar addiction and honestly, none of them seem to promising to me.But, here are some of the suggestions I found from various sources:

1. Do not replace sugar with artificial sweetners (I already mentioned why above)

2. Increase intake of fresh organic fruits and vegetables (organic produce is full of complex carbs, that break down slower than simple cards and do not send the "craving" signal to the brain,

3. Use Raw Honey (still has a lot of calories, but also has antioxidant, antimircobial and appetite-regulating benefits.)

4. Get more sleep (apparently, lack of sleep lowers natural production of those feel good neurotransmitters, and the brain starts to beg us for its daily high, making us reach for.. sugar)

5. Eat more Fruit - I just don't feel as good about this one, while it is natural sugar, it is still sugar and I cannot see how replacing one sugar with another is going to help you stop wanting that sweetness. I think I would just end up eating more sugary fruits.

6. Eat more Healthy fats -  I honestly think this is the best bet. Without fat in the body, the brain starts craving energy from sugar. By adding more healthy fats for your body to use as energy, this could help put those pesky cravings for sugar at bay.

7. Eat more complex carbs - Again, Since I am really trying to limit carb consumption, I just don't see eating more of them, no matter what form they are in. However, maybe it will work for you. Examples of complex carbs include brown rice, whole grain bread, potatoes, carrots and squash.

8. Finally, consider craving cutting supplements such as Vitamin D, which helps turn off your appetite, Omega 3s assist with insulin control and Glutamine, tyrosine, 5HTP and Rhodiola can help reduce cravings.

Are you starting to see a trend? I sure am, it seems the same foods that will help me lose weight and reduce stress are now listed as foods that can help me quit sugar.

One this is for sure, I need to kick this sugar addiction in order to get healthy. I do see a trend in supplements that can help with both the cortisol response and the sugar addiction. For this reason, I think it seriously time to consider supplements, perhaps it can make the transition to eating healthier smoother. What do you think?


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