The first step in recovery is admitting that there is a problem…. The one thing this article doesn’t discuss is if the cravings will go away over time.. As with drug users, once the withdrawals are over it takes a good amount of time befo
Are You Addicted to Sugar?
Yes, it’s possible your sweet treat cravings could be a sign of sugar addiction. Here’s what you should know about the addiction — and whether it’s time to get help.
If you’re like many people, most nights after dinner, you get a craving for a little something sweet. But a chronic sweet tooth — an increasing problem for Americans, who are conditioned to crave sugar because of constant exposure from processed foods — isn’t just bad for your teeth or your waistline. More and more research links excessive sugar intake to serious health issues, includingtype 2 diabetes, blood pressure, stroke, and dementia.
So how much sugar is too much sugar? The amount your body can metabolize is slightly different for everyone, but the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day for women — less than the amount of sugar in a single 12-ounce can of non-diet soda — and no more than 9 teaspoons a day for men. A 2009 survey by the American Heart Association found that adult Americans consume an average of 22 teaspoons of added sugar daily, mostly from soft drinks. You can calculate the number of teaspoons of sugar you’re getting per serving of a particular food or drink by taking the number of sugar grams in one serving as listed on the product’s nutritional label and dividing it by four.
A Sweet ‘Drug’ Habit
Once you’re in the habit of eating too much sugar, it becomes harder and harder to stop. “Sugar addiction is a real phenomenon,” says Nicole Avena, PhD, a food addiction researcher and assistant professor of neuroscience at Princeton University. “Research indicates that changes to brain chemicals after sugar consumption are similar to changes seen after drug use, and constantly overeating sugar leads to addiction andobesity.” Sugary foods and drinks activate the “reward” centers of the brain, which lead to more cravings for the sweet stuff.
The issue isn’t limited to obviously sweet snacks like candy and soda — it’s also the sugar added to processed foods that don’t even taste sweet, like ketchup and salad dressing, and also those found within white starchy foods like pasta and bread.
So how do you know if your hankering for sweets is harmless, or if you’re consuming an unhealthy — and possibly addictive — level of sugar?
Do You Have a Problem With Sugar?
Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of Beat Sugar Addiction NOW!, is an internist who studies sugar addiction and has identified four types of sugar addicts:
“Constant anxiety, fatigue, and constant sugar cravings are all signs of an addiction,” Dr. Teitelbaum says. “There’s no one amount of daily sugar that is a sign of sugar addiction, it all depends on whether a person feels poorly and exhibits the symptoms of the four types of sugar addicts. At that point, it’s time to figure out your addiction type and how you can treat it.”
If you’re constantly turning to sugar for an energy boost or craving a sweet treat, Teitelbaum says you can typically treat your addiction by drinking more water, eating a more balanced diet, eliminating soda, and sleeping more. Some addicts are triggered by stress, so identifying and eliminating the source of your stress is key. If you’re suffering from a hormonal imbalance, you might want to talk to your doctor about hormone therapy or supplements.
7 Ways to Control Your Sugar Cravings
Whether it’s bread and pasta or chocolate and cookies you crave, here are seven easy ways to take control of your sugar habit — and your health.
If you think your habit is out of control, take a step back, analyze how you feel, and figure out what’s at the root of your sugar cravings. One way to properly assess your sugar intake is by using a food journal such as My Calorie Counter that calculates the total amount of sugar you’re consuming. Once you’ve done that, Everyday Health nutritionist Kelly MacDonald, MS, RD, LDN, suggests a few easy adjustments that will help you survive the sugar season that begins at Halloween and continues through the end of the year — and help you keep your sugar intake (and the scale) in check year-round:
- “Psychoanalyze” your eating habits. Ask yourself why you’re reaching for carbs and soda. Do you really want the food itself, or is it an emotional response triggered by stress or habit? Eating carbs and sugar triggers the release of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, which can make you think you want the sugar when what you really want are the calm, happy feelings it produces.
- Switch to whole grains. Compared to white bread and rice, the complex carbs in whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, and oats are packed with filling fiber, which prevents the blood sugar spikes and dips that lead to sugar cravings. Eating whole grains has been linked to a lower diabetes risk and sustained weight loss over time.
- Reach for healthier sweet snacks. When sugar cravings hit, try to satisfy them with a healthier option such as whole fresh fruit or nonfat yogurt. Although both contain natural sugar, they also have other healthy nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins, protein, and fiber.
- Keep sugar out of the house. On Halloween, it’s tempting to fill up on candy for trick-or-treaters or leftovers from your kids’ loot. Avoid temptation by handing out non-sugar options to trick-or-treaters, such as school supplies, small toys, or small bags of nuts.
- Plan your meals. As holiday season begins, it’s hard to avoid sugar temptation. Plan ahead to make sure you’re not caught around the office cookie plate on an empty stomach. If you’re throwing or cooking for a holiday party, bring a fresh fruit salad instead of a pecan pie, for example. Chances are, there are other sugar-minded dieters at the party who will thank you for it.
- Be honest with yourself. The only way you’ll really stop or prevent a sugar addiction is to constantly keep yourself honest. Use a food journal to keep tabs on your diet. If you’re eating more sugar than usual or find yourself constantly battling cravings, add more fresh produce and whole grains.
- Stop after a few bites. Teitelbaum says a little dessert every night is fine, but the key is to limit the portion. Your taste buds are saturated with sugar after just a few bites, so it’s best to have a few spoonfuls of Ben and Jerry’s to satisfy your sweet tooth and put the rest back in the freezer.