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Addicted To Sugar? Here’s Why!
By Liat Golan, RD, LD/N

Some people find it impossible to leave the dinner table without dessert; others can't seem to go a day without having chocolate. Americans consume an average of 20 to 30 teaspoons (about ½ cup!) daily of sugar, that's 68.5 pounds per person per year, and 28 percent more added sugar than we consumed just two decades ago. The increase in sugar is at least partly due to manufacturers "dumping" added sugar (and calories) into all processed foods, including soft drinks, baked goods, pasta sauces, yogurt, bread, peanuts butter cereals and more. Even bottled water can be a culprit. An 8-ounce serving of Glacéau Vitamin Water contains 3.25 teaspoons of sugar.  The truth is that once we include sugar in our daily routine, it becomes more and more difficult to stop. Sugar and other sweeteners add calories with no other nutrients and have no doubt helped contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hyperactivity, anxiety, depression and many other chronic conditions.

Have To Have It?
Sugar is a type of simple carbohydrate that can be digested, absorbed, and released into our bloodstream very quickly. If you've gone too long without eating, or if you have somewhat unstable blood sugar levels to begin with, it can be easy to get caught up in a sweets dilemma.  Here is Why: You feel low on energy because you have eaten poorly, or you've gone too long without eating, or you didn't get a good night sleep, or some other reason-and then you reach for sweets that can raise your blood sugar up quickly and make you feel richer in energy (even though you really aren't). The "energy" you feel from sweets may be quick, but it is also very temporary. Usually within 30 minutes or so, you'll find yourself wanting more sweets because your elevated blood sugar level will have descended back down.   

The second reason for sweets craving is as a means of seeking comfort. Sweets are treats we believe we can count on to make us feel better. When our day has not gone well, or when we are just looking for something to brighten our outlook on life, sometimes there is nothing better than a sweet treat. We also tend to associate sweets with celebrations and special occasions that we want to mark in a memorable way (the decorative birthday cake is a perfect example). This aspect of sweets craving can be one of the most difficult to shift. Finding ways to celebrate that have nothing to do with food of any kind, and finding things to look forward to that aren't related to eating, can sometimes be the only way of lowering a sweet craving that is related to the comfort aspect of sweets. 

Stress & Hormones
There are many other physical causes for sugar cravings, too, like hormonal fluctuations, which can disrupt one of our major hormones insulin and subsequently other hormones like estrogen and progesterone; intestinal yeast, which thrives on sugar; and stress, which provokes cortisol and the urge to refuel after a disturbing event. Let's take a closer look at sugar's health effects and what you can do to stop cravings, lose weight, and transform your health!  

What Should You Do? Eat a protein-rich breakfast 
Research shows that protein at breakfast may help reduce cravings later in the day, compared to eating a carbohydrate-rich option for your first meal. Here are Some High Protein Breakfast Ideas:

  1. Veggie omelet  + whole rye crackers 
  2. Protein smoothie -- berries, Greek yogurt, almond milk and protein+fiber powder
  3. Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with flax seeds and berries
Leftovers of previous dinners/lunch that have lean protein and   veggies, reheated
  5. Oatmeal + berries + hard-boiled egg   

Add nutrients
Specific micronutrients like zinc, vitamin C and the B vitamins are particularly helpful in calming sugar cravings by influencing serotonin production. Equally important are omega-3's, which are crucial for regulating mood and inflammation - factors that are both associated with cravings. Try quality supplements like the ones we offer in our Bee Well Nutrition Personal Program to cover all the bases. 

Avoid inflammatory foods
Processed grains, sugars, and red meat are high in a pro-inflammatory molecule. Eating a lot of meat and refined carbohydrates tends to increase inflammation and acidity, causing the body to crave sweet foods in an attempt to maintain balance. Choosing anti-inflammatory foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as those that are alkalizing and antioxidant-rich, such as nuts, fruits and vegetables, can offset the damage and the cravings associated with this food. Look for unsweetened choices. 

It's easy to pick up a jar of applesauce, pasta sauce, or peanut butter without realizing that the manufacturer has added a lot of sugar. (One leading pasta sauce, for instance, has 24.4 teaspoons of sugar in a 26-ounce jar, while a similar sauce from another manufacturer has only 2.5 teaspoons.) For foods like these, which taste great naturally, be sure to look for unsweetened or slightly sweetened alternatives on the grocery-store shelves.

Add your own sugar
Instead of relying on presweetened drinks, cereals, and fruit yogurts, buy the plain varieties, then mix a teaspoon of sugar into the product yourself. Quaker Instant Oatmeal Cinnamon & Spice, for instance, has 4 teaspoons of added sugar per packet. Chances are you'd be just as satisfied with a teaspoon of sugar and a dash of cinnamon sprinkled on a bowl of the plain variety.

Lifestyle changes-such as exercising, becoming more involved in non-eating hobbies and activities, and stress reduction techniques-may also be critical for you to escape from this aspect of sweets craving.


About The Author

Liat Golan, RD, LD/N is a Registered Dietitian and Florida Sate Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist. For several years, Liat has counseled individuals to manage their weight and various health conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, digestive disorders and hypertension. She has extensive experience educating both individuals and groups on nutritional wellness and helping clients create individually tailored and realistic nutrition and lifestyle programs to meet their unique needs during various life stages including pregnancy and lactation.

Liat passionately believes in using the power of food to prevent and manage illness and maintain optimal health. She helps people make realistic and gradual changes to their current eating habits and food choices.

Education and Credentials:

  • Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from Florida International University
  • Registered Dietitian (R.D.)
  • Florida State Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist (LD/N.
  • Certificate in Adult Weight Management through the Commission on Dietetic Registration
  • American Dietetic Association and Florida State Dietetic Association active member
  • American Dietetic Association Sports Nutritionist (SCAN) and Nutrition in Complementary Care (NCC) practice groups active member
  • American Dietetic Association Sports Nutritionist (SCAN) and Nutrition in Complementary Care (NCC) practice groups active member

Visit Liat on her webstie website at Bee Well Nutrition, on Facebookor contact her at: 727-735-4473

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