Merriam-Webster defines addiction as a compulsive need for, and use of, a habit-forming substance characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal. After reading that definition, could you possibly be addicted to sugar?
According to the USDA, the average American consumed 151 pounds of sugar in 1999—an all time high. Since then, consumption has dropped slightly and in 2010 the average American consumed 132 pounds. Most of that sugar consumption comes from the beverages we drink on a daily basis, such as fruit drinks, sodas and sports drinks. The rest of the sugar we consume comes from condiments, pastries, cookies, cereals and yogurt.
The American Heart Association recommends women consuming no more than 100 calories a day from sugar and men consuming no more than 150 calories a day from sugar.
Four grams of sugar on the label is equivalent to one teaspoon of sugar. One cup of your favorite cereal can easily have 20 grams of sugar, which equals five teaspoons of sugar. Most people will consume more than one serving of cereal in one sitting and many may even add more sugar to the cereal!
Now think about the beverages you drink. Many people believe if they are not drinking soda they aren’t consuming sugar. Well, think again. One can of soda (12 ounces) has an average of 35 grams of sugar and 140 calories. Twelve ounces of 100% fruit juice has an average of 40 grams of sugar and 160 calories. This doesn’t mean soda is better or even acceptable; it is just an eye opener to limit your overall sugar consumption.
What’s the Big Deal?
As you know, the more sugar you consume means more calories in your diet and this leads to a bigger waistline. A diet high in sugar, and people who are overweight or obese, are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and elevated triglycerides.
A diet high in added or hidden sugars can release serotonin and dopamine, which can lead to a euphoric feeling. This lasts for a brief moment, a “sugar rush”, and then you crash and burn. Over time, you will have to increase your sugar intake to break your tolerance of the amount that once left you with a euphoric feeling. This is a vicious cycle that gets worse, if you don’t reverse that tolerance.
Limit the amount of added sugars and start consuming whole foods, such as whole fruits and vegetables. These whole foods will provide you will natural sugar and essential vitamins and minerals. Aim to look for nutrient dense foods versus calories dense foods. This can be done if you stick to the perimeter of your local grocery store.
Christina Bartlett RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and the owner of Everything In Moderation. Dedicated to providing nutrition information that is tailored to the individual.
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This post originally appeared on our May/June 2012 Magazine