For most people, addiction would mean cigarettes, drugs or caffeine. However, little do we know, that the most addictive substance in the world is a big part of our daily diet – Sugar.
Why is sugar so addictive?
How can sugar be addicitive? I’m sure an inner voice must be refuting this, believing it to be untrue. Sugar is sweet, and humans develop a taste for all things sweet since infancy. So that doesn’t qualify as an addiction!
Unbeknownst to you, sugar releases a hormone called dopamine in the brain, the one responsible for the ‘feel good rush’. For some adventure sports, for the hardcore addicts it is the addictive substance, and for many others, it could be sugar which triggers the dopamine rush. Still don’t believe me, look up the term ‘sugar rush’ on the internet!
Research has shown that excess consumption of sugar can ‘blunt’ the secretion of dopamine in the brain. So sugar addicts may need more amount of sugar for the ‘feel good’ factor.
Apart from this, excess effects of sugar is well elaborated in research, in the form of diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease, obesity among many lifestyle disorders. If you are used to or ‘addicted’ to excess sugar, chances are you may enjoy indulging in sweets and fast foods often too. In short, a deadly hormonal concoction resulting in lifestyle disorders.
Are you solely to blame?
You may argue that except for tea/coffee, you do not add any sugar to your diet. A quick dietary recall may look like pancakes with maple syrup, a glass of orange juice, flavoured breakfast cereals, low-fat snacks et al. But, a trained professional eye can spot the sugar hidden and sometimes overtly stated on packaged foods. In the above recall, maple syrup, orange juice, the flavour in the breakfast cereal all have added sugar. As it turns out, the food industry is to blame as well.
Sugar can hide under the names of maltose, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, maltodextrins, xylose etc. Although your snack may state low fat, is it low on sugar? Hence it is important to read the nutrition label carefully.
How can I cut down on my sugar intake?
The first step to discovering whether you are having more sugar is to track it. For just one day of regular eating, log your foods and check the amount of sugar in it. If you are consuming more than your recommended dosage, then you know you have a problem.
The next step is to actually cut down on sugar. When you are out shopping, read the nutritional labels behind each product you buy. Make a note of which of your favorite products seem to have more sugar and resolve to cut down on them. Replace processed foods like ice cream which are rich in sugar with fruits.
The World Health Organization recommends cutting ‘free sugars’, the ones added at the table or by the manufacturers, down first by 10% and gradually to 5% of total energy. Simply put, begin by consuming only 12 teaspoons and then aim for 6 teaspoons throughout the day.
Don’t give up!
A drastic change in your sugar intake is bound to be difficult, which is a good indicator of its addictiveness. A sudden halt of sugar intake may even exhibit withdrawal symptoms, so it would be normal if you were to find it difficult to stick to your ‘new’ diet. What you could do is chart a plan to slowly rid yourself of this addiction. Slowly cut down on the sugar intake week by week, and reach your goal to reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.