Whilst we may be concerned about the amount of actual sugar we eat, many people are unaware of the effect of starchy foods on their blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates break down into the same glucose in the bloodstream as pure sugar – and your body doesn’t know, or care, whether you ate a bowl of pasta, a Cadbury’s creme egg, or a slice of Aunt Mildred’s victoria sponge, it’s all the same once it is broken down.
I have written about sugar before, which you can read more about here, but basically there are 3 types of sugar that our bodies have to deal with on a regular basis:
- Natural sugar from fruit and honey
- Glucose metabolism from carbohydrates
- Added sugars in processed foods
Eating a high carbohydrate diet, including lots of fruit, honey and starchy vegetables and consuming a large intake of added sugars in processed foods can have an extremely detrimental effect on your health. And, of course, there is also sugar found in foods such as milk (lactose), which can also add to your overall consumption. And, whilst not directly causing diabetes, sugar is a highly contributory factor, so the more you can cut down on your intake, the better results for your overall health.
But just how easy is it to do in reality?
Sugar is actually a highly addictive substance, releasing the brain chemical dopamine when you ingest it, making you feel great, but for a short period of time only. This is the same mechanism by which drugs such as cocaine and heroin create addicts. And the more sugar you eat, the more addicted you are likely to become. The dopamine high doesn’t last long, in fact by the time you have taken your last bite the effects are already beginning to fade, creating the feeling of withdrawal. This is how you can often end up eating “just one more” biscuit, chocolate or another slice of Aunt Mildred’s cake. Your hunger and satiety hormones are effectively “switched off” and the brain is no longer responding to commands that should help you to stop eating these foods, even though you are full. And the more sugar you eat, the more your body will crave. This is why it is so hard to really beat those sugar cravings because, in reality, even a small piece of something sweet will trigger your brain into wanting more.
Even on a low carb diet people often eat “healthified” desserts, and although these foods are made with healthy full fat products such as cream cheese, avocados or coconut milk they still tantalise the tastebuds because they are usually sweetened with a natural sweetener such as stevia, which can also promote cravings. It is only when you truly go completely without any sweet taste that your cravings will eventually subside.
So just how addicted are YOU? Take the quiz below to find out whether your relationship with sugar is a healthy one or not…
Answer yes or no to the following questions:
- Do you eat sugary/starchy/sweet foods every day?
- Do you regularly consume smoothies and juices made with fruit?
- Do you eat these foods more than you wish to?
- Have you tried to cut down or quit these foods but are unable to?
- Do you have a craving or a strong desire for these foods?
- Do you often find yourself unable to concentrate until you have satisfied your cravings?
- Do your cravings subside when you have eaten these foods?
- Do your cravings intensify when the food isn’t available?
- Do you go out of your way to make sure you have access to these foods?
- Do you continually eat these foods despite the negative impact they may cause you socially, mentally, physically or emotionally?
- Do you ever eat these foods in secret?
- Do you find yourself abstaining from, or reducing, social interactions or recreational activities due to the lure of these foods?
- Do you often eat a dessert, even though you are not actually hungry?
- Do you feel you “need” something sweet after your main meal?
- Do you eat sugary foods when you are feeling stressed or upset?
- Do you tell yourself you will just have a small portion, and then find you have eaten the whole thing?
- Do you find it difficult to stick to just one helping?
- Do you find it difficult to stop once you have started eating these foods?
- Do you find yourself regularly eating these foods in potentially hazardous situations such as driving?
- Has your need for these foods increased in order to achieve the same desired effect?
- Do you feel guilty whenever you have “indulged” in these foods?
- Do you “punish” yourself for having eaten these foods?
Zero YES answers: you do not have an issue with sugar addiction.
Two or less YES answers: you are mildly addicted.
Three or more YES answers: you likely have a strong addictive type behaviour issue with sugar.
So what next? If you have discovered an addictive behaviour with sugar then it’s time to take control and start to lower your intake. Start with reducing your consumption of processed foods, making sure to read labels and find out how much added sugar is in each product. Better still, try and eat only foods that do not come in a package! Eating real, whole foods will naturally reduce your intake of sugar and eating whole fruit instead of smoothies or juice will ensure a lower amount overall plus the fibre to help slow down the metabolisation in the body.
If you would like help to reduce your sugar consumption please schedule a consultation with me here, and together we can achieve success!