photo credit: D Shannon Pruitt
By Andrea Green, Contributing Writer
According to the USDA, the average American consumes over 90 pounds of sugar a year.
90 pounds a year!
The recommendation from the World Health Organization is to eat just 6 teaspoons of sugar a day. This includes the natural sugar that occurs in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
When you consider that the average soda has 10 teaspoons of sugar, it’s easy to see how we are averaging those 90 pounds of sugar a year.
Sugar In Our Bodies
We are biologically programmed to love sweet flavors, so it is safe to assume we will be making food choices that include some sweet treats.
So what happens when we ingest the most common sweetener, refined sugar?
There are two main components to refined sugar, also known as sucrose: glucose and fructose.
Glucose is both vital and necessary for us to survive. It is the fuel our cells burn, and when we ingest it, our bodies immediately set to work to convert glucose to energy.
Should you consume more glucose than your body immediately needs, your body converts the excess glucose into fat to be stored for future energy. If you don’t ever use that future energy, you store that fat indefinitely.
Isn’t that interesting? It’s not fat that causes fat stores in the body. It’s excess sugar that causes fat stores in the body!
Ingesting too much glucose not only leads to fat stores, it also disrupts the blood sugar balance, setting off a vicious cycle of sugar cravings.
photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt
Here’s how our blood sugar balance works:
- When we consume too much glucose, our blood sugar spikes.
- In reaction to the blood sugar spike, our pancreas secretes insulin.
- Our body uses the insulin to help even out our blood sugar.
- When the amount of insulin our body produces becomes too much, our body then has low blood sugar.
- Low blood sugar then triggers our body to crave sugar.
- Since refined sugars will shoot our blood sugar levels up quickly, that’s what our body craves most.
Identifying the sugar craving cycle is the first step to beating it.
Types of Sugar
The problem with sugar is it comes in many different forms.
First, you have the sugars that naturally occur in fruit, vegetables and whole grains. If you are eating a healthy, balanced diet, you will be eating just the right amount of natural sugars.
Next, you have those sugars that are in processed foods. The most notorious of these is high fructose corn syrup. But sugar hides in processed foods under several different names.
Your best defense against added sugars is to read labels. It is almost never labeled “sugar” on a nutritional label, so you’ll need to find the hidden sugars.
The following is a list of names for hidden sugars you are likely to find in your food:
Agave nectar, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, crystalline fructose, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose and syrup.
One strategy to avoid excess hidden sugars is to avoid the majority of prepackaged foods and to cook for yourself. When you do the cooking, you can limit the amount and type of sugar you are using.
But let’s face it. Living a life without sugar isn’t reasonable. As I mentioned previously, we are programmed to enjoy sweets. Therefore, it is important to remember not all sugars are created equal.
For example, sucrose contains no protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants or fiber. When we consume sucrose, we are getting calories without any nutritious elements.
There are some naturally occurring sugars that have trace minerals and some vitamins. By using these whole food sweeteners, you can at least get a little nutritional benefit in your sweet treats.
It’s easy to replace refined sugars with whole food sweeteners to satisfy your sweet tooth. To adapt your favorite recipes, use this Whole Food Replacements for Sugar Printable Baking Guide.
photo credit: D Shannon Pruitt
Beat Sugar Cravings
How can you beat those sugar cravings?
The first step is to know what triggers your desire for sweets. [Tweet “The 3 major lifestyle reasons for sugar cravings are lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and stress.”]
When you experience a sugar craving, ask yourself what might be the trigger. Then look for a healthy way to ward off the craving.
My strategy to ditch the sugar craving is to use one of these 15 Things to Do Instead of Eating. They really work!
If you find that sugar cravings have taken over your life, you may want to try a sugar detox. My husband and I successfully completed a 30-day sugar detox last year. It wasn’t always easy. But I discovered some sugar detox tips and tricks that helped us to be successful. They are also tips and tricks I continue to use to be able to enjoy sugar but in a limited and controlled way.
Do you limit your sugar intake?
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