Do we eat too much sugar?

Fit & Training door thijs

Alarming claims about sugar consumption are difficult to ignore. With headlines like, "Are you addicted to sugar? " or "Are you unknowingly eating 10 teaspoons of sugar in your 'healthy' yogurt?" we want to share some information about sugar consumption. 

It's overwhelming constantly being told new information about what you should or shouldn't eat, and it might make you want to run for the hills. We get it, but sugar is something we don't want to have too much off. So, do we eat too much sugar? Don't stick your head in the sand and ignore all the information about sugar or cut every bit of it out of your diet in an instant. All of the information available about sugar might be overwhelming, but making yourself aware of what is included in your food is important so that you can make the right choices for your diet.

Cookies on the brain 

You know when you eat that one Oreo cookie and put the rest back in the cupboard? No? If you can't stop after just one cookie, the reason might be more scientific than just losing your will power from that single rush of sugar. This action is linked to the chemical reaction that happens in your brain when you eat something that is high in sugar and fat. Similar to when you listen to music and a song you really love, you experience the effects of dopamine which is released before adrenaline. Not that you don't know already, but eating Oreo cookies makes you feel so good that you might be tempted to go back for more and more, chasing that 'good feeling'. In an experiment using lab rats, the animals favored the parts of the maze where there were cookies added to it rather than rice cakes. But really, who could blame them? The behavior of the animals around the Oreo cookies was also likened to cocaine by comparing their behavior from another experiment which exposed them to cocaine and a salt substance.

The great debate

The researchers from the Oreo cookie study (read more about it here) suggested that the cookies could be addictive because of the feel-good chemical reaction experienced when you eat something high in fat and sugar. Others in the sugar debate remind us that the substance is not a toxin however, and therefore not toxic in the same way as actual drugs. Dr Katz, an expert who is often referenced to in this debate, stated that glucose is found in our body and it is something that we need to survive. So when comparing sugar to drugs, it is important to keep things in perspective. But your urges to succumb to your sweet tooth can be overwhelming because sugar cravings are real, especially for those who binge on lots of it all at once. The similarity of the effects of sugar on the brain to other adrenaline spiking activities, including gambling and taking drugs, mean it may become addictive for some people. Unknowingly eating too much sugar is a problem as excess sugar in the diet can cause people to yearn for more and if a tolerance has built up, cravings can become harder to satisfy.

No added sugar needed - you're sweet enough.

Making the switch to whole food products and being on the look out for 'no added sugars' in store bought foods are reasonable ways to be more aware of how much sugar you consume. Try to stay away from all things refined as much as possible, choosing wholegrain bread and quinoa over white bread or pasta. The reason being, whole food products have more of the actual food product and the good stuff that helps your blood sugar stay leveled, keeping you in top shape. If you are inclined to think that whole food consumptions is a fad, then consider what the alternatives are. Simply, non whole foods contain more artificial substances to make it taste good, with added sugar in all different forms. Not sure what to look out for? Well, many things ending in -ose is a good indication of sugars, for example dextrose, fructose and of course glucose.

Detoxes derail your diet

Mistakes that people make with all of this information is to suddenly go cold turkey on sugar. One, this is really difficult to do and two, it's not a guaranteed answer to the problems of eating too much sugar. Learning intuitive eating, is suggested to be the best way to overcome cravings so that you can have a healthy relationship with food over a life time. Nutritional therapist Theresa Kinsella, states "the other problem with restrictive eating rules is that they disconnect you from your body — your hunger and fullness. When you eat consciously, you often realize it doesn't feel good to consume large amounts of high-sugar foods. Then you're naturally less likely to overindulge, because you want to feel good." Completely restricting one type of food from your diet in an attempt to 'detox' your body without a lot of thought and planning. It comes down to testing your will power instead and it's likely you will eventually give in.

Sugar alternatives

If you feel like you need to gain more control over your sugar cravings and you want to try reducing how much refined sugars you eat, there are lots of options. You might notice alternatives to regular sugar in your favorite healthy bloggers' recipes. These other sources are often from plants and include the low calorie sweetener Stevia, agave syrup or coconut sugar. They taste good and are considered to be healthier choices because they have lower levels of fructose. This means that you don't experience the same sugar spike that makes you feel so great but sets you up to crash drastically and leave you wanting more. If you are keen on baking, then these are good alternatives to satisfy your sweet tooth.

The bottom line is, remember to take news reports with a pinch of salt - but not literally of course. Being mindful of how and what you eat will help you have a healthy diet. Knowing about the ingredients that go into the food you eat is a process of educating yourself so that you can make the right choices for you. Let us know how you manage your sweet tooth while keeping it all balanced. It is a tricky one, so we could all do with some advice!