Sugar: More Addictive Than Drugs?

Food and Drink, Front Page, Health

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     It’s certainly no secret that most of us LOVE sugar! It’s a comfort food with very strong ties to our emotions. Think about it. How do we console ourselves when stressed? Or celebrate our successes? Ever bribe a child with cookies? Cheer up a sad friend with ice cream?

     But is this a good thing? I would argue, no.

Let’s test your sugar knowledge with a fun, short quiz. Don’t fret! It’s only five questions.

#1 How many teaspoons of “added” sugar does the average American consume daily?

     According to Alice G. Walton, the average adult consumes at least 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, over 130 pounds in one year (and this is a conservative     estimate).  The average child ingests 32 teaspoons per day, an even scarier fact.

#2 What is the recommended daily amount for sugar, according to the American Heart Association?

24 grams (6 teaspoons) for women and 36 grams (9 teaspoons) for men

One teaspoon = 4 grams of sugar = 16 calories

     Side note: a typical twelve-ounce soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. One drink = 40 grams of sugar!

#3 What percentage of food items on our grocery store shelves have added sugar?

     75-80%. Shocking, right?! You’ll find sugar in spaghetti sauce, ketchup, breads, barbecue sauce, canned soups, salad dressings, baked beans, canned and dried fruit, cereals, granola bars, sports drinks, instant oatmeal, yogurt, jelly and jam.

     Sugar is everywhere! Read your food labels and be an educated consumer.

#4 The food industry is quite tricky. How many different sugar ingredient names are used?

     I’ve compiled a non-exhaustive list of over 50 names used to label sugar, including (but not limited to) high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), brown rice syrup, malt syrup, fruit juice concentrate, evaporated cane juice, beet sugar (likely genetically-modified), palm sugar, fructose, maltose, sucrose (table sugar), glucose, and dextrose. Not to mention all of the artificial sugars (sorbitol, aspartame, erythritol, lacititol, maltitol, mannitol, saccharin, sucralose).

     Pack a detective hat on your next grocery run!

#5 Sugar is as addictive as cocaine. True or false?

     False. Sugar is actually MORE addictive than cocaine (some say eight times more). Current research shows that sugar is the #1 food or drug that we are addicted to. The same brain pathways that are activated when we consume cocaine are activated when we ingest the sweet stuff!

     Nicely done! You all passed with flying colors.

     We know that sugar (a “legal drug”) is extremely addictive, but did you know that the food industry spends BIG research money to create products that hack your brain chemistry and keep you addicted? Their methods are very effective, too.

     Breaking the sugar habit can be quite tough and goes beyond self-control and willpower. Maybe you can relate to the difficulty of resisting certain foods that we know are bad for us? You can do anything you put your mind to, but your taste buds and your brain have literally been hijacked by the added sugars in processed foods (even the ones you think are “healthy”).

     Sugar gives us an instant boost because it triggers the “feel-good” brain chemical serotonin, which is responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being. Our bodies then crave this substance’s influence on our brain cells. But guess what? Many healthy foods and habits can boost your serotonin levels, like eating bananas, leafy greens, walnuts, oats, and green smoothies. Soak up some sunshine, laugh more, take a walk, enjoy some yoga, and get outside in nature.

     So, what’s the good news? With a little awareness and dedication to raising our standard for health, we can take back the reigns and make better choices with what we buy, what we consume, and how we bake.

“Now, more than ever, it is time to take control and actively pursue the health, energy and vitality we all deserve and desire.” ~ Tony Robbins

     For more information, check out my eBook “Simple, Gluten Free Dessert Recipes” featuring many of my best (and nourishing) sweets recipes, handy baking tips, and savvy info to help you take control of your sugar intake NOW! You can also find low-sugar recipes at mindfuldine.com. Sending out good vibes from my kitchen to yours. Let’s go bake!

Leslie is the creator of Mindful Dine, a community dedicated to inspiring nutritious eating and healthy living. She is a self-taught cook, writer, marine scientist, ocean lover and wellness advocate. Leslie is passionate about wholesome, healing food and enjoys inspiring others to be active participants in their health. A native Texan, she now lives in Puerto Rico with her husband.

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