Sugar: Are You Addicted?
Sugar is literally in everything. How do I know that? I have a high intolerance to cane sugar. Besides desserts and sweets, it’s in chips, fast food, breads, frozen foods, meat entrees, pizzas, tonic water, tomato sauce, sauces in general, dips, crackers, protein bars, protein powders, bottled green juices and smoothies, and the list goes on and on. Are you addicted to sugar? According to brain scans, sugar is as addictive as cocaine.
I didn’t realize that I was addicted until 8 years ago. I did a (doctor guided & recommended) cleanse for 8 weeks to reset my life (best decision ever) and eliminated fruit, dairy, corn, soy, wheat, sugary vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, etc) and sugar, as well as decreased my carb intake to only 40g carbs — which I quickly learned is almost nothing. I didn’t eat unhealthy prior to this, but I wasn’t eating right for ME. Technically, you could say that I was eating unhealthy for me, even though I was eating what society deems “healthy.” We ate things like whole wheat pastas, proteins, bananas, corn, etc. We ate cheeses, lots of fruit, made smoothies, didn’t drink soda, didn’t eat processed foods, etc. You can read more about my journey, here.
Within a few days of eliminating these everyday foods, I began to have terrible sugar cravings and awful headaches which kept me in bed. I didn’t realize all the “sugar” that I was eating in the form of carbohydrates (wheat, fruit, etc.), which basically turn to sugar, as well as the sugar found in the items listed above. Once my 8 weeks were done, I fixed so many health issues that I had, including: high blood pressure, constant breakouts, and I even lost a lot of weight. (I didn’t do it for the weight loss, and I do not recommend you try this cleanse, or any diet/cleanse, without permission from your doctor.)
Fast forward to 2016 when I learned about my cane sugar intolerance. Cane sugar was one of the foods that I already avoided on the regular, but I would eat chips, breads, sauces, crackers, and protein bars that contained cane sugar on a regular basis. When I learned of my cane sugar intolerance, I realized that I was eating cane sugar in so many different forms without realizing it, and it got me thinking… if I am already aware of the fact that cane sugar is in everything, and I avoid it 80-90% of the time, and then have to eliminate it completely, and then really realize how many things cane sugar is actually in… then what does the everyday person, who doesn’t have food allergens or intolerances know? How much sugar are they eating without even thinking?
Let's keep it real. Sugar has ZERO nutritional benefits. It has 0 vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fiber. It also has been linked to hypertension, high blood pressure, depression, fatigue, acne, diabetes, aching limbs and so much more.
Americans consume the most sugar in the form of sugary soft drinks. Next would be sugars and candy, then baked goods, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, milk and other grains.
According to the American Heart Association, women should consume no more than 24g per day, and men should consume no more than 34g of sugar per day. Children between the ages of 2 to 8 years old shouldn’t really consume more than 16g of sugar in a day, and children younger than 2 shouldn’t consume any added sugars in the form of sugar drinks, etc.
Men - 34g
Children under 2 shouldn’t consume added sugars, as they are in need of nutrient-rich diets
I see so many friends on Facebook who are feeding their children ungodly amounts of crap food. I am not being judgmental, but observant. Really… how many people know that there is sugar in everything? If you asked 10 people how many grams of sugar should they have in a day and how many grams of sugar do they consume in a day, what would their answer be? I am sure it would be far from correct.
What if I told you that the soda you have with lunch every day is the amount of sugar you should have in the entire day? What if I told you that the Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks is the amount of sugar you should have in 2 days? What if I told you that the “Magically Delicious” cereal you are serving your children for breakfast has double the amount of sugar that your kiddo should have in a day -- and that's assuming you are only feeding them 1 serving. What if I told you that the large Icee, breakfast donut or large milkshake with whipped cream has toxic amounts of sugar for your child? "Once in a while" doesn't mean once a week, in my opinion.
What about the energy drinks that certain companies are deeming a healthier alternative to the mainstream energy drinks, yet contain the exact same amount of sugar… which is well over the amount of sugar you should consume in a day? Trust me, I know this is a lot to process. Sugar is everywhere, and it’s marketed towards your children in cute little packages with familiar cartoon characters and positive health claims.
This amazing video is from Zevia, one of my favorite companies. I believe that every single person in this world should hear this information! Please take a few minutes to watch.
In 1822, the average American consumed 45g of sugar every five days. In 2012, the average America consumed 765g of sugar every five days. 200 years ago, the average American ate only 2 pounds of sugar a year, and in 1970 the average American ate 123 pounds of sugar per year. Today, the average American eats almost 152 pounds of sugar in one year, which is 3 pounds per week… which is also equal to 1,767,900 Skittles!
Some sugar facts from FactRetriever:
A 16oz can of Monster Energy has 54g of sugar, the same as 3.5 cups of Frosted Flakes.
A 23oz bottle of Arizona Green Tea has about 51g of sugar, which is the same as eating 20 Hershey’s Kisses.
A 32oz Gatorade bottle has 36g of sugar, which is like eating 5 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
A 20oz bottle of Coca Cola has 65g of sugar.
Sugar can come in several forms: sucrose, fructose, lactose. It also has at least 115 names. To avoid having to list “sugar” as the first ingredient, manufactures may use alternative names. They are trying to fool consumers. It's working.
According to Business Insider, Fast Food contains hidden amounts of sugar. You might think you are ordering a healthy, or somewhat healthy, salad or burger and may not even realize you are eating up to 128% of the recommended daily intake! The following is from this article.
Taco Bell’s XXL Grilled Stuffed Burrito - 6g
Five Guys: Single Cheesebuger - 8.5g
Burger King Bacon & Cheese Whopper - 9g
Shake Shack: Smoke Shack burger - 11g
McDonald’s: Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich - 11g
Arby’s: King Hawaiian Fish Deluxe Sandwich - 19g
Panera Bread: Fuji Apple Chicken Salad - 20g
Chipotle Salad with sofritas, brown rice, fajita veggies, corn salsa, sour cream, cheese, guacamole and dressing - 26.5g
Subway: Sweet onion chicken teriyaki footlong - 32g
Chick-Fil-A: medium sweet tea - 32g
Wendy’s Apple Pecan Chicken Salad - 40g
Starbucks: grande non-fat white chocolate mocha with no whipped cream - 58g
Jamba Juice: 16oz Orange Dream Machine Smoothie - 71g
"There are 600,000 food items in America. 80% of them have added sugar," warns Dr. Robert Lustig, the University of California in San Francisco's professor of pediatric medicine. Are you surprised that so many people are addicted?
Obviously there are special occasions when it comes to sweets and treats, and I totally get that. I ate a lot of wedding cake on our wedding day. I just got back from vacation in Europe, and I definitely had a Tradelnik (Czech pastry with cinnamon sugar) in Prague, I had some gelato in Italy, and desserts in France and Ireland as well. I will share a dessert with my husband (or my family) at a family wedding or birthday party. But it’s really not the norm for us. I also love sweets and indulge every now and then, but I have noticed a few thing about how I feel when I do eat lots of sugar (because I don’t eat it often):
1) It doesn’t always taste as good as it looks, more than often.
2) It leaves me jittery if I have too much
3) I feel sick after or tend to break out, sometimes up to 2 weeks later.
Is it worth it? Yeah, sometimes. Other times, it's really not. I also am grateful that I know my body well enough to know how I feel after I eat certain things that I don’t eat often. Getting a breakout from eating something that I shouldn’t (due to PCOS for example) is a good thing because it’s a response that I am fully aware of and can measure.
Are you eating too much sugar? Have you ever thought about it?
Seriously consider eating the way you normally do, but keep track of how many grams of sugar you are eating that day. Look at what you are eating for breakfast, what you are putting in your coffee, what you are drinking at lunch and throughout the day, what you are having for dinner, dessert and to snack and what you drink at night when you watch your favorite shows.
Are you making fruit smoothies thinking they are “healthy” but are forgetting to add vegetables and protein to them? When you think you are drinking a healthy smoothie in the morning or in the afternoon, you really are drinking a big glass of sugar. Adding 2 bananas to your smoothie can add an extra 30g of sugar, and that doesn’t include all the other fruit you pack in your blender! These are all things to consider throughout the day.
I once talked to a friend that said they are addicted to diet soda. They can’t live without it, and even after 30 days without it went back to drinking it. When I offered a healthier option (which you can read below) they said it was too pricey and they went back to diet soda. How much is your health worth? If the healthier alternative to Diet Coke is too expensive, then why not eliminate soda altogether? You don’t NEED to drink soda. It’s an extra thing. But rather than allow yourself to have a ice cold chemically-filled drink, drink water or something else that doesn’t contain aspartame.
Aspartame is much worse than sugar. Yes - it’s true! It might have 0 calories, but it is 100% bad for you. Aspartame a chemical that is found in “diet” foods under the names like “Equal” and “Nutrasweet.” Items that say “no sugar” “low calorie” and “sugar free” more than likely contain aspartame. Sadly, it’s very popular, and while the FDA approves (do you really believe everything the FDA tells you? lol), it is very bad for your health. It’s used in products because it’s about 200 times sweeter than sugar, but doesn’t have the calories that real sugar contains. You might be satisfying your sweet tooth with a no-calorie or low-calorie diet “something-or-other” thinking it’s a win-win! Sweets without it affecting your waistline. Wrong! Do not pass GO! Do not collect $200. You are doing so much silent damage to your body and insides. While many people say that aspartame is actually okay to eat, you might want to avoid it! The University Of Liverpool conducted a study in which they found that when aspartame is mixed with common food color ingredients it can be toxic to brain cells. Okay… I will wait for you to go dump your diet soda in the trash.
Chances are - 1 in 5 who will read this blog are drinking diet sodas on the daily. There have been a number of studies that have found that diet-soda drinkers are actually at an increased risk of developing diabetes (type 2).
Fake sugar is commonly found in things like: gum, hard candies, candy in general, sodas, drinks, baked goods, etc. Just read labels!
You also might be doing a disservice to your body (and your family) by eating artificial sweeteners (Equal, sucralose a.k.a Splenda, Aspartame, etc.) By eating and drinking foods with fake sugar your taste buds are becoming used to these ridiculously sweet “sugars” which is ruining your actual preferred level of sweetness. My aunt put six packets of Equal in a regular glass of iced tea. SIX! My mom and I tried it once just to see how SWEET her tea was, and we literally freaked out! It was the sweetest thing I have ever tasted, and it was honestly, no joke, sickening. We couldn’t get the taste out of our mouth for a long, long time. When you are constantly eating fake sugars, you are becoming immune to the sweetness of natural sugars: dates, honey, maple syrup and even cane sugar.
Consider making some healthier everyday swaps, and, once again, see how many grams of sugar you are eating. Swapping to drinks and food that say “diet” or “low fat” or “made with Splenda” are NOT good to swap. You are harming yourself big-time with diet sodas and foods/drinks sweetened with Splenda, Equal, or Sweet & Low. They are filled with chemicals that are equal to, if not worse than, drinking the real sugar-filled drink.
I have compiled a list of SMART SWAPS for you. If making these swaps cost more than what you are willing to pay, then in my opinion, I think you should just think about eliminating that food all together. Especially if it’s something you are feeding your child… do it for your kid’s sake! They aren’t able to make an educated decision about whether or not they want to ingest chemicals or toxic amounts of sugar. Do it for them! When they are old enough to understand, let them make up their mind. If you want them to choose a healthy lifestyle, you have to lead them on the right path.
NOTE: Think about the serving size you are eating or feeding your children. How many people really measure the amount of cereal before filling up their bowl? I don’t! But, I have measured before and it’s quite less than the average bowl. I am better about measuring it out now, or I use a super tiny bowl to begin with.
Because this blog got really long, visit my Smart Swaps To Decrease Your Sugar Intake, here. I will give you 15 SMART SWAPS you can make that will surely cut out A LOT of the sugar you may not even realize you are eating.
BOTTOM LINE - Do I think sugar is bad for you? Well, kind of. Cane sugar has ZERO nutritional value whatsoever. There is no “good reason” to eat sugar. Deep down, I don’t think cane sugar is the problem though, it’s the amount of cane sugar that is being consumed. 200 years ago, people ate about 9g of sugar per day. It was probably in the fresh pi made with real ingredients that they baked for dessert, too. That is how much sugar people eat in like 2 bites of something.
Sugar is in everything, as I mentioned above: sauces, chips, yogurts, soups, cookies, desserts and sweet things, savory things, crackers, gum, soda, drinks, and basically everywhere else in life.
Screenshot from Zevia's Youtube Video. Click photo to see powerful video on sugar.
It's the holidays so take that into consideration. You probably have lots of Halloween candy around the house and with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up (or Hanukkah or whatever holiday you choose to celebrate) there are desserts everywhere. It seems like there are cakes, pies and holiday cookies everywhere. Honestly, don't deprive yourself but also, once again... consider the SMART SWAPS.
There are so many alternatives to the things you love… let me help you find something to replace the bad stuff! Start with this blog about smart swaps to cut the sugar in your life, leave me a comment or send me an email with any questions about a product that you just want to cut out of your life but you want to find a healthy alternative for! I got you!