Are You Addicted To Sugar?

Do you feel powerless against your sugar cravings? Are you eating sweets (or thinking about them) multiple times a day?20140625-054030-20430955.jpgAddiction to sugar is probably more common than you think. According to the USDA, Americans consume an average of 20 to 30 teaspoons (about ½ cup) of sugar daily.

Why is Sugar So Addictive?
Sugar meets all the criteria for an addictive substance:

• It stimulates release of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin, in a manner similar to alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs of abuse.

• People eat it compulsively, despite negative consequences and the intention to stop.

• With continued use, people develop a tolerance to its effects.

• Heavy sugar consumers have trouble functioning without it.

• When consumption ceases, withdrawal symptoms occur.

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How Much Sugar Is Too Much?
If you’re like most people in the U.S., you eat 19 teaspoons or more of added sugar a day. That adds up to 285 calories, which health experts say is way too much. How much sugar should you be eating? No more than 6 teaspoons daily for women. That’s 100 calories. Men should get a max of 9 teaspoons. That’s 150 calories.

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Why Does it Matter?
Studies show that excessive sugar intake has been linked to a variety of health problems, including obesity, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), attention and memory problems, hyperactivity, anxiety, and depression.
Sugar is also very bad for the teeth, because it provides easily digestible energy for the bad bacteria in the mouth.

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How To Reduce Your Sugar Intake
If you think that you might be addicted to sugar, here are a few things to help you break your sugar addiction:

1. Take Baby Steps to Reduce Your Sugar Intake.
If you make small, simple changes to your diet, it’s easier to maintain them. Start by eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking extra water. Check food labels, and pick those that don’t contain a lot of sugar. Cut out a little bit of sugar each week. After a few weeks, you’ll be surprised at how little you miss it.

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2. Eat More Protein.
Eating protein is an easy way to curb sugar cravings. High-protein foods digest more slowly, keeping you feeling full for longer periods of time. Protein doesn’t make your blood sugar spike the way refined carbs and sugars do.

3. Fill Up on Fiber.
Fiber helps fight sugar cravings in many ways. First, it keeps you full. High-fiber foods also give you more energy. Because they don’t raise your blood sugar, there’s no hungry crash after. Choose fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Or smear some peanut butter on an apple for a protein/fiber combo.

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4. Limit the “Healthy” Sugars Also.
Coconut sugar, agave nectar, honey, brown sugar, and cane juice may sound healthy. But sugar is sugar! Whether it comes from a coconut palm, bees or sugar cane, it can cause your blood sugar to rise. Honey and unrefined sugars are slightly higher in nutrients, but their calories still count.

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Remember: It generally takes about 3-4 weeks for a new behavior to become habit…. So the most important thing is to stick with it!

Can Artificial Sweeteners Help?
Some studies suggest artificial sweeteners may leave you craving even more sugar. The problem is that artificial sweeteners don’t help you break your taste for sweets. Pay attention to your body. Are sweeteners making you crave even more sugar? If so, look elsewhere for that sweet taste.

But how do you know if you’re addicted to sugar? Take this quiz to see if you’re more drawn to the sugar than you think…

1. You find it difficult to say no to your favorite sweets.
Always
Usually.
Sometimes.
Rarely or never.

2. When you’ve tried to cut back on sugar in the past, how intense were your cravings?
Strong.
Very strong.
Noticeable.
Barely Noticeable.

3. You find yourself thinking about sugary foods ____ times a day.
More than 4 times.
3–4 times.
2–3 times.
Rarely or never.

4. Once you start to eat sugary foods, it’s hard to stop.
Always.
Usually.
Sometimes.
Rarely or never.

5. Your mood and/or energy level rise right after you eat, but you tend to crash/or feel hungry an hour or two later.
Always or often.
Sometimes.
Rarely or never.

6. You often feel guilt or shame after you eat sugar.
Yes.
No.

7. You seek refuge in sweets to avoid feelings like anger, loneliness, sadness, or powerlessness.
Always or often.
Sometimes.
Rarely or never.

8. You reward yourself with sugar after a challenging task because you feel you “deserve” it.
Always or often.
Sometimes.
Rarely or never.

9. You overeat sugary foods when you’re under stress.
Always or often.
Sometimes.
Rarely or never.

10. At least one of your favorite sweet treats is fused to a memory of feeling loved and cared for.
Yes.
No.

11. The more you indulge in sugar, the less it satisfies (but the more you seem to “need” it).
Yes.
No.

So, are you addicted to sugar?

Adapted from The Sugar Smart Diet, from Prevention magazine.

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