Recent studies have found that sugar can be as addictive as cocaine or alcohol according to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse. For some people, eating foods high in sugar may produce chemical changes in the brain’s “reward” center causing addictive cravings. Sugar is sugar … don’t be fooled by replacing white table sugar with honey, agave, or brown sugar. Those may have some nutritional value, but they are still sugar with calories and addictive qualities. In fact, sugar overuse may sometimes lead to problems other than addiction like diabetes and liver disease.
SUGAR IN TWO FORMS
- Free sugars are those added to food and liquids whether at the table, in the kitchen, or at the manufacturer. Free sugar is the form we need to cut down on consumption. Identifying these sugars can be difficult since they appear in many different forms like agave, raw sugar, cane sugar, corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, molasses, glucose, dextrose, coconut sugar, and honey.
- Natural sugars are those found in fresh, frozen, or dried fruits and vegetables. They are also found in dairy products like milk, plain yogurt, and cheese.
WHAT FREE SUGAR DOES TO OUR BODIES
Consuming excessive sugar over long periods of time stimulates our brain activity and hormone levels. This increases glucose levels which lead to the pancreas releasing insulin. This causes the body to retain calories as fat, causing weight gain. Carbohydrates such as rice, pasta, chips, and fries process slower than free sugar, however, still break down into sugar. The result: the excess weight puts strain on our joints and we crave more sugar.
Since these sugary foods stimulate the same areas of the brain as drugs of abuse, they may cause loss of control over consumption and cravings. Currently the average American consumes almost 20 teaspoons of sugar every day; that’s over 65 pounds of sugar a year, per person!
SO HOW DO WE WIN THIS WAR?
- The World Health Organization recommends a maximum of 10% and ideally less than 5% of our calories be consumed from added or natural sugar. For the average person per day, the recommendation is 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men.
- Read labels; food labels list ingredients in descending order. If sugar or a form of sugar is in the first 3 ingredients, put it back on the shelf.
- The same goes for a packaged food with more than one sugar listed — put it back!
- Eliminate soft drinks and fruit juices; they are jam packed with sugar.
- Limit consumption of candy, baked goods, and desserts to special occasions.
- “Low fat” packaged foods often compensate with extra sugar; read the label.
- Eat fresh fruit rather than canned which have added syrup containing sugar.
- Protein such as eggs, beans, and nuts can help control sugar cravings.
- Eliminate sugars from your diet slowly; don’t go “cold turkey”.
- Drink water!
The good news is that when cutting back, no math or calorie counting is involved in eliminating sugar. Try replacing sugar with tempting flavors like ginger, lemon, vanilla bean, nutmeg, or cinnamon. Bottom line, the easiest way to cut back is to avoid processed sugar whenever possible and eat fresh fruits instead.
Taking care of our bodies through eating well and proper exercise is paramount to healthy bones and muscles. If you experience pain or discomfort in your joints or muscles, give us a call at 941-951-2663 for an appointment. At Sarasota Orthopedic Associates we have four locations and offer same day appointments when needed.
Sources: WebMD; Authority Nutrition; American Diabetes Association; US National Institute on Drug Abuse; World Health Organization