As a health-supportive chef, it isn’t easy for me to confess my recent addiction to sugar.
Addiction is not an exaggeration either. Studies have shown that sugar is as addicting as tobacco and alcohol. Depending on how much sugar you regularly consume, if you quit cold turkey you will experience withdrawal symptoms. Headaches, irritability, nausea and mood swings are not uncommon when trying to give up sugar.
As humans, we are hard-wired to prefer a touch of sweetness. Mother’s milk, a baby’s first tasting experience out in the world, is sweet. It’s a pleasant flavor that our brain craves and needs for survival. The problem happens when we eat too much, too often which is of course exactly what’s happened.
On top of that, most of the sugars we consume are hidden, overly processed sugars disguised under other names: Dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice, high fructose corn syrup, etc. Whether or not the processed good you are about to eat is organic doesn’t change the fact that you’re still eating sugar.
There’s a little more bad news. Natural sugars such as raw honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, etc. are still sugar, too and your body will process them as such. The problem is when the addiction hits and we constantly crave or need more. This increased consumption taxes our pancreas and liver especially. When the body perceives sugars (carbohydrates count, too) entering the body, the body gets to work removing the glucose from the bloodstream and putting it into cells that will use it for energy. But when the system gets taxed and insulin isn’t being used adequately or can’t keep up with the demand, we start heading into Type 2 Diabetes territory, not to mention obesity territory, too.
Additionally, sugar contributes to inflammation and persistent, low-grade inflammation leads straight to illness. Cancer’s all time favorite food is sugar because it thrives in the acidic environment it creates. Cut out the sugar and cancer cells begin to shrink. Cut out the sugar and unexplained infertility begins to fade away. Cut out the sugar and those recurrent colds disappear. One teaspoon of sugar reduces your immunity for up to 6 hours. One teaspoon! Do you know how many teaspoons of sugar are in your foods? One teaspoon equals 4 grams of sugar. Go look.
Sugar’s effects don’t stop on the physical level either. Ever notice those peaks and valleys you go through after eating a candy bar? While we’re on the topic, have you noticed how cranky you get until you get your next fix? If this language is leading you to think about crime-ridden streets overflowing with drug problems, you wouldn’t be wrong. There is a correlation between high sugar consumption and a higher crime rate. Ditto for high sugar and low performance in school.
In the documentary, Supersize Me, Morgan Spurlock talked of the troubled, low performing Appleton Central High School in Wisconsin. There were behavioral problems and truancy issues. The school got rid of the candy vending machines and replaced processed, canned and fried cafeteria meals with fresh, whole foods. They got rid of sodas and juices and replaced them with water. It wasn’t long before performance started to rise as well as a more peaceful environment. It’s not a coincidence.
Next time you eat a processed food, see how much sugar it has. Then, take note of how you feel immediately after, 10 minutes after, 1 hour after. Then take note of how long it takes before you’re reaching for the next sweet snack. It might surprise you to find out that indeed you have a sugar addiction, too.
Part 2 is now available – find out how to break the sugar addiction…