There’s been a lot of hype recently about sugar. In fact, it seems that sugar is the new fat, at least in terms of a dietary scapegoat for all the health problems we face in Western culture. Indeed, excess sugar consumption has been linked to an increase risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and dementia. And while I don’t believe that we can pinpoint one sole cause of the nation’s ailing health. with the average American consuming 22 teaspoons of added sugar daily (that’s 130 pounds per year, as opposed to the 10 or so pounds consumed per person per year in the early 1800s), it’s clear that our sugar consumption is out of control.
Yet, even with these staggering statistics, sometimes it’s hard to tell, am I someone who eats too much sugar? Because sugar is added to the majority of processed foods, which in turn make up the majority of the standard American diet, chances are yes. But, should you have any doubts, here are 5 clues that you might eat too much, or even be addicted to, sugar:
- You crave sweets. As it turns out, the more sugar we eat, the more we crave it. If you are eating too much sugar, chances are, you will be looking for your next “fix” throughout the day.
- Speaking of sugar “fixes” . . . you are finding it increasingly difficult to satisfy your sweet tooth. Similar to the first point, the more sugar we eat, the more we need to eat to feel satisfied. In turn, significantly reducing our sugar intake helps us feel satisfied with having less.
- You get jittery, shaky, or hangry if you miss a meal. Refined carbohydrates and sugary foods are quickly digested and cause our blood sugar levels to spike (and subsequently crash). It is the crash in this cycle that causes us to become shaky, jittery, and/or crabby, and in many instances we perpetuate the cycle with #4 . . .
- You rely on an afternoon snack/treat to boost your energy. When your blood sugar and energy tanks, you reach for a quick fix to recharge, whether that be a candy bar, bag of chips, or sweetened coffee drink. This only continues the cycle of sugar-highs and crashes.
- You have to have dessert. Your meal doesn’t feel complete without something sweet. Not only does this in and of itself lead to a higher sugar intake, but it’s also a sign that you are not only physically but also emotionally addicted to sugar.
If any of this sounds all too familiar, you’re not alone! That being said, many of us could use a major overhaul on our sugar eating habits. Cutting out soda and other sugary beverages is a great place to start, since soda accounts for about 33% of added sugar intake, and the average American drinks 53 gallons of soda per year! Other obvious culprits include cookies, candies, pastries, etc. If you’re wanting to take it even further, cutting out all processed foods and sticking to a minimally processed, whole foods diet high in veggies, fruits, lean proteins, and healthy fats will greatly minimize added sugar intake.
Sugar, while delicious, is undeniably detrimental to our health, especially in the quantities in which most Americans consume it. Cutting back can be challenging, but so worth it!
Additional Reading and Resources:
- Jones, D. The Textbook of Functional Medicine (2010). The Institute for Functional Medicine.
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