Many of us recognize that sugar in our diets comes from sweets – candy, cookies, cakes, and ice cream. What we do not realize is that it also comes from things made with wheat flour. These are things many of us consume every day without thinking twice about it. Things like bread, pasta, croissants, and muffins. Many of us use sugar to jumpstart our day by consuming a muffin, toast, or croissant and pairing it with a sugar-filled coffee drink.
History of Sugar
Sugar cane, the plant that sugar is derived from, is native to Asia. It grows like a grass and people used to pull it up and suck on the stem to get the sweetness from it. Christopher Columbus has gained the fame of bringing sugar cane to the Dominican Republic and Haiti where it was discovered that it grows quite well. However, to convert sugar cane to refined sugar is labor intensive. Enter the start of the slave trade. Slaves were brought in to these countries to convert the sugar cane to concentrated sugar and then it was shipped to Britain and France where initially only the wealthy could afford it. In the late 1600’s the first sugar refinery was built and the annual consumption of sugar climbed to around 4 pounds of sugar per person. Today, the average adult consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar per day. This is over 80 pounds of sugar per year!
Why is sugar so addictive?
To recognize why sugar is a problem, let’s first define the word “addictive.”
- Removing sugar from the diet results in withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can range from headache and fatigue to mood swings to flu-like symptoms.
- Having the substance creates the desire to have more. With refined sugar, this can be the result of spiking the blood sugar too quickly resulting in extra insulin triggering the brain to crave more. Combine this with the double whammy of sugar on the dopamine receptors in our brain which stimulates the desire for more of the addictive substance.
Sugar triggers the same receptors in our brain as cocaine does plus other receptors that create a sense of calm in us. Scientists actually consider sugar MORE addictive than cocaine and heroine.
Besides being addictive, sugar also leads to the suppression of the immune system and “is so destructive that it can probably be linked to just about any health condition you can think of and then some.” – Cynthia Perkins, M.Ed.
Sugar substitutes are NOT the answer
“It’s okay. I don’t eat sugar, just sugar substitutes.” Sugar substitutes trick our body and our brain into thinking we are getting something sweet. The body will actually release insulin in preparation to process the sweet stuff. What this does is lead to a craving that results in consuming more calories than we would have had if we had just given in to our sweet tooth to begin with. In addition, some sugar substitutes alter our body chemistry. This leads to issues digesting the healthy food we eat, causes food allergies and food sensitivities, and ultimately can cause more health problems than those we were trying to avoid by skipping the refined sugar.
Know where sugar “hides”
Besides wheat flour converting to sugar as it is digested, the food industry tries to disguise sugar in various ways. Be a label detective! The following are ways to identify sugar that is hiding in processed foods:
- Words that end in “-ose” such as maltose, sucrose and fructose
- Words that end in “-ol” such as xylitol and mannitol
- HFCS (high fructose corn syrup: NOTE: “-ose” in fructose.)
- Natural sweeteners are sugars too. Some examples of these are maple syrup, honey, and agave
For foods with less sugar, look for products with shorter ingredient lists. One example of this is Quaker Oats Apple and Cinnamon Oatmeal. There are over 15 items on the ingredient list including several chemicals which are not necessary for us to consume. An alternative would be to eat Quaker Oats Rolled Oats. There is one ingredient on the label and, even by adding your own sugar, you are most likely consuming less than what is in the pre-packaged version. Add fruits, berries, nuts and seeds and you have an easy to prepare, healthy breakfast. It takes about the same time to make as the pre-packaged oatmeal, you can make a big batch of it all at once and consume it over several days and, bonus!, it costs less than the more processed stuff.
How to wean yourself off of sugar
There are several ways to reduce the sugar in your daily diet. Here are just a few:
- Drink a glass of water, wait 10 minutes and then decide if you still want a snack. Frequently thirst is confused for hunger and many of us do not drink enough pure, unadulterated water.
- Eliminate fat-free or low-fat foods from you diet. Here is a secret. (Shhh!) The food manufacturers realized that by eliminating fat from certain foods, they taste horrible! They took care of this problem by adding in sugar which is fat free.
- Eat meals with plenty of healthy fats. A common myth is that eating fat will make you fat. Actually, we need fat to keep our joints healthy and functioning smoothly and to keep our brain sharp. All our cellular membranes are made of fat and it is essential that we eat it! Healthy fats are fats found in avocado, nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil and grass-fed meats.
- Many people consume sweet things because they are lonely, stressed or bored. There is not enough “sweet” things in their lives. These things are found in relationships with friends and family, a career that invigorates and inspires, spirituality, or in creativity. Find ways beside food that make you happy and provide you with sweet things in your life.
Sugar is addictive and many people can not remove sugar from their diets alone. Contact me for a 30 minute breakthrough session where we explore how sugar is affecting your life and I can help you decide which of my programs might be best for you to remove sugar from your life to become healthier and happier!