Health

What Do You Know About Sugar Addiction? Part 2

This is part 2 of a two- part article focused on sugar addiction. In this article, I will discuss the historical sugar consumption in the US, how the level of consumption in the US compares to other countries, how to recognize hidden sugars, the ways you can break a sugar addiction, and a plan for moving forward.

Historical Sugar Consumption in the US

I think historical context is important as it will give a context as to how much our sugar consumption has grown through the years.

source: http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2012/02/by-2606-us-diet-will-be-100-percent.html

You can see that our appetite for sugar has grown steadily for nearly 200 years. Interestingly, the period from the 1920’s through 1960’s, the consumption of sugar was relatively flat. Then in the ‘60s, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) hit the market, creating a boom in processed foods, and a resulting increase in sugar consumption.

How does the consumption of sugar in the US stand up to consumption in other countries? Historical perspectives are difficult to obtain, but here is a view of the DAILY consumption.

RankCountry Average Daily Sugar
Consumption Per Person (grams)
1United States126.40
2Germany102.90
3Netherlands102.50
4Ireland96.70
5Australia95.60
6Belgium95.00
7United Kingdom93.20
8Mexico92.50
9Finland91.50
10Canada98.10
table source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/02/05/where-people-around-the-world-eat-the-most-sugar-and-fat/?utm_term=.03c12fb3ad42

Clearly, the US leads in consumption. Those daily numbers equate into approximately 130lbs of sugar consumed by every American, each year. 126grams equates to a little more than 25 teaspoons. The USDA recommendation for sugar consumption is that it should not exceed 10% of the individual’s daily calorie intake. For a standard 2000 calorie diet, 10% equates to 13 teaspoons, or 65grams. That means, on a daily basis, Americans are consuming 2X the amount of sugar that is recommended.

I do find it interesting that other Western nations fill out the Top 10 spots. Since the US is a country of immigrants and initially founded by folks of the West, I wonder if our collective immigrant experience has influenced our sugar consumption. Maybe a food historian can run with that idea and see if there is a story to be had.  

Where Is All the Sugar Going?

I’m surprised at all the places where you can find sugar. A really good place to better understand where sugar is hidden is at sugarstacks.com. On the site, they pictorially point out how much sugar in the foods many Americans regularly consume. They use sugar cubes to represent 4 gram increments of sugar (1 teaspoon is equal to 5 grams)

So, check out these surprises

Powerbar, 23 grams of sugar
Yoplait yogurt, 27 grams of sugar! I thought yogurt was supposed to be healthy?
Craisins, 26 grams of sugar. But aren’t they tart tasting?
NutriGrain Bar, 13 grams of sugar. All the sugar you should consume in a day, in that one bar.
Cinnabon cinnamon bun. 55 grams of sugar. More than 4X the recommended amount of daily sugar consumption. I feel a sugar crash just looking at the picture.

I think these pictures are enlightening. If so, you are probably now asking, “How do I kick this sugar habit?” Let’s take that on next.

How to Break A Sugar Addiction

The advice below is based upon recommendations from the psychologist and the Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic has a 10 Day Sugar Detox program and I refence that program in the links below.

Steps you can take to break a sugar addiction

  1. Recognize the issue : I shared my story in part 1 of this story. For me, it was the realization that I had a craving to eat, and yet, I wasn’t hungry. The body was craving the dopamine hit.
  2. Look for triggers: Do you binge eat when you are stressed; when you are tired or go through an extended period of little sleep; After consuming alcohol, you just have to have something to eat, you consistently binge at the same time of the day. Recognize these triggers and you can be mentally prepared to say to yourself, “I am not hungry, and I will not allow sugar to rule my life”
  3. Remove temptation: Remove all the sweet and starchy food from your home. If you are craving the food bad enough, you will drive to the store. 9 times out of 10, the craving will go away before you arrive at the store.
  4. Drink more water: 1oz water for every 2lbs of weight. A 100lbs person should drink 50oz of water each day.
  5. Have a plan for when you have a craving: Keep healthy snacks nearby. Eat some lean protein and something high in unsaturated fats, e.g. nuts and avocado.
  6. Track your results: If you slip, fine. Don’t beat yourself up. Look at how many days you did not slip and how well you are doing
  7. Get help: If you find this process to be overwhelming or too difficult, get help from a trained psychologist.

A few thoughts on going “Cold Turkey” vs a Moderation approach. Some folks advocate for a moderation approach with the belief that you can wean yourself off of sugar. Their theory goes that it is too difficult to get away from sugar because it is in so much food, so we should slowly wean people off sugar and show them a way to live with lower consumptions of sugar. This theory is one used by folks who wean themselves off of nicotine.

My belief is that moderation does not work for sugar addictions, and that is because nicotine addiction is different and reacts differently in the brain. Sugar addiction is more like an opioid, and going cold turkey has shown to work best in these types of addictions.

What Can You Expect to Happen When You Quit Sugar?

Nearly 40 percent of Americans are considered obese. By eliminating sugar, not only will you lose weight, you will also lower your risks of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke due to high blood pressure. Cutting out sugar could also help you eliminate acid reflux, migraines, joint pain, rashes, anxiety, and irritable bowel syndrome. And although we associate sugar as a quick energy boost, eating less of it could improve your energy levels overall.

Moving Forward

Here are some simple steps that could have a profound impact on you health.

  1. Be conscious of what you eat: Remember what you saw in the Sugar Stacks example? Sugar is hidden in many products
  2. Read the labels: Since sugar is hidden, read the labels on the food you purchase. Look for the added sugar and eliminate those foods from your diet
  3. Consume Fewer Simple Carbohydrates: Eliminate refined flours (cakes, cookies, crackers), starchy vegetables (potatoes, yams, corn), starchy fruits (bananas, plantains) and processed grains (white rice, rolled oats)
  4. Consume More Complex Carbohydrates: Leafy green vegetables are a very good example. Look for vegetable high in fiber
  5. Consumer More Lean Protein and Foods high in unsaturated fats: Fish, poultry, nuts and avocados have the protein and fats to make you feel full, and lessen the likely hood that you will be hungry and trigger a craving.

Remember, you only need 13 grams, or less, of sugar a day. That is only 3 sugar cubes.

Best of luck to you. Please comment below if you have fought through sugar addiction and won, or if you are now recognizing that something isn’t right with you, and you are beginning your fight.

References:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/open-gently/202006/how-wean-yourself-sugar

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/eating-mindfully/201204/sugar-addiction

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/advancing-psychiatry/201906/six-steps-stop-addiction-sugar-and-junk-food

Health, sughttps://www.thediabetescouncil.com/45-alarming-statistics-on-americans-sugar-consumption-and-the-effects-of-sugar-on-americans-health/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/02/05/where-people-around-the-world-eat-the-most-sugar-and-fat/

http://sugarstacks.com/

ar, sugar addiction, blood sugar, sucrose, glucos