Sugar, addiction, our health and happiness • 08.04.08
Are you a sugar addict?
Do you eat a lot of bread, pasta, noodles, pastries, soda, fruit drinks, or candy on most days? Can you imagine not eating those foods for even a day? Does food help you feel better when you are down? If you are stressed or tired, what do you reach for? Cut vegetables and dip, or a box of cookies, a slice of cake, a thick piece of toasted sourdough bread? Do you promise yourself that you won’t eat any of “those” foods today and at the end of the day you realize you didn’t make it to lunchtime without breaking your promise? Do you get annoyed if someone suggests you are addicted to sugar? What foods do you obsess over? What do you crave? Do you feel crappy after eating sugary foods, but eat them anyway? Do you wake up in the middle of night on a regular basis – or are you able to sleep solidly through the night? Do you have energy crashes? Do you want to eat nutritious meals but haven’t found that it’s “worth it” to give up your favorite foods?
Historically, the medical industry has asserted that sugar is not addictive. More recent research however, is beginning to show otherwise. In fact there is a study showing that sugar is more addictive than cocaine! And we know anecdotally… sugar addiction definitely has legs. Next time, before you leave your next get together with friends and family, check out the buffet table. Chances are that the veggie tray is still at least half full, but the plates of cookies, cake pans, ice cream buckets and pie tins have been wiped out.
Why Does This Matter?
If you are overweight, we know sugar doesn’t help our cause. Sugar adds empty, nutritionless calories and more inches around our waste. Sugar comsumption increases insulin levels in our bodies. Increased insulin means that you can count on living with one or more conditions like premature aging, type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol , heart disease and cancer. Being overweight, our risks are already high, but we are adding another couple bullets into the chamber in our game Russian Roulette by having a lifestyle filled with sugary foods.
Now, say you are right-weighted, pretty active and eat, in general, pretty good. Feeling a little more blase about avoiding sugar? Here are just a few things that sugar does to our bodies, overweight or not:
- Suppresses the immune system, making us open to bacterial infections
- Increases inflammation
- Throws off the body’s ability to both absorb and maintain proper balance of essential minerals (i.e. calcium, magnesium, chromium, copper)
- Creates hormonal imbalances
- Creates mood, mental and behavior shifts such as depression, hyperactivity, anxiety, aggression, inability to concentrate or think clearly, drowsiness, etc.
Remember, this is only a partial list!
The impact of sugar on our bodies is pervasive. Let’s focus on one in particular, inflammation. Inflammation is a catch word flying through the medical research community. We are finding that inflammation in our bodies is the source of virtually all of our physical ails. Sugar feeds inflammation and inflammation is the catalyst and cause of nearly all degenerative diseases including allergies, asthma, Alzheimer’s cancer, diabetes, digestive disorders, hormonal imbalances, and osteoporosis. Degenerative disease are what most of us chalk up to “aging”… so yes, you are correct to associate sugar with premature aging on your health and your appearance.
Remove Excess Sugar and You Will Be Doing The Single-Most Important Thing to Improve Your Health
According to the World Health Organization, no more than 10% of our diet should come from added sweeteners. The USDA recommends 9% or less. If you use a formula that the USDA provides, take the example of a 2,000 calorie diet. That would amount to no more than 200 calories from sugar a day. That translates to about 50 grams. Many yogurts have 25-35 grams of sugar per serving, so you can see how easy it would be to hit that 50 gram mark pretty darn quickly. Removing excess sugar from your diet requires a lifestyle change. It’s not going to happen without choosing it and planning it.
Is It Worth It?
That’s a question you can only answer for yourself. I’ve been discovering that for me, it is. And, when I read the stories of those who’ve chosen to embrace their health, they are happy. Very happy. They are ecstatic that their bodies support them in accomplishing and doing what they want to do in life… in play, in relationships, in work, and in their dreams. Our physical health reaches beyond our bodies. It influences and impacts everything about who we are and how we spend our days. It’s that important.