Lets get one thing straight, your body needs sugar. And depending on your daily activities and unique body composition, you may need more or less than the next person to power your cells and energise your body. So the question is less about sugar or no sugar, and more about how much and which type of sugar?
In the past, the majority of our sugar intake would have come from fruit, and the fibre and nutrients in these fruits slow down the digestive process so the sugar is released into the blood stream in a controlled way over a longer period of time. The fibre also helps us to feel fuller for longer, therefore reducing the amount of sugar we ultimately consume.
However, in the past century the amount of refined sugars consumed has gone from the occasional slice of cake or muffin, to being added to everyday convenience foods, including savoury products such as soup, bread and sauces. Over time this has led to our taste buds becoming desensitised to the additive and our bodies becoming fixed on the sugar high that is fuelling an epidemic of health issues from obesity to diabetes.
Reported as being more addictive than cocaine, and having been secretly added to hundreds of different foods over the past 20 years, it's safe to say most of us may well have an addiction to the sweet stuff without even realising it.
So how do you know you're addicted to sugar?
HERE ARE 8 SIGNS THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE A SUGAR ADDICTION:
1. A SWEET TOOTH?
You literally 'crave' sweet foods. Eating sugar stimulates the pleasure centre of the brain and, similar to the effect that drugs have on the brain, makes your body crave, binge and experience withdrawal symptoms when consumption is limited.
2. BINGE EATING HIGH SUGAR FOODS
Like you'd expect from any addiction, the more you have, the more you crave, leading to uncontrollable bingeing on high sugar foods in order to get your 'fix'. But each time your body craves larger quantities in order to get the same 'high'.
3. ENERGY CRASH
When you consume large amounts of sugar your body, in an attempt to re-balance, will produce large amounts of insulin to rid the sugar from your blood as quickly as possible. But in the process will leave you with a sudden sugar deficiency which can leave you feeling exhausted due to a lack of sugar to fuel your cells.
4. WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS
If you experience headaches, feel lethargic and are lacking concentration, when you avoid sugar for more than a day or two, the chances are you're going cold turkey. And like any addiction, it's this reaction in your body that will lead you to crave more to get that 'feel good fix' again.
5. CARBS ARE YOUR BEST FRIEND
If you also crave starchy carbs like fries, crisps, pasta and bread, the chances are this is your body trying to gain additional sugar intake from a different source. This is because simple starchy carbs are quickly converted to sugar in the body, but because they don’t have much fibre or protein to slow down the breakdown of starches into sugar, they can cause surges and then energy crashes just like sugar.
6. EXCESS BODY FAT
If the body consumes excess energy from food sources, this can be stored as fatty tissue. It can take a long for this fatty tissue to break down and provide energy for the body. And so it's best to only consume sufficient sugars needed for everyday activities without the excess which can lead to storing excess fat.
7. MOOD SWINGS
The impact of sugar and insulin on your blood sugar levels causes the surges and crashes in energy but can also cause surges and crashes in your mood! If you find that you need a constant supply of sugar to keep your mood consistent and happy, the chances are you're addicted to sugar.
8. TOO TIRED
If you're constantly tired, despite a lack of physical exercise, then it may well be that you need to cut the refined sugars. Feeling tired after a busy, active day is normal, but if you've spent the day loafing around on the sofa and still feel ready for bed by 7pm, then this could be one of the reasons as your body looks for sugar to boost its energy, and without it, you just feel tired all the time.
If you are concerned that you may be addicted to sugar, try to reduce your daily intake on a gradual basis to prevent withdrawal symptoms becoming too severe. Become more aware of the foods and drinks that you consume on a daily basis and check the ingredients of any shop brought products to see just how much the sugar content actually is. The average amount of sugar a healthy and active woman should consume is no more than 6 teaspoons a day. But depending on your activity levels this may be more or less for you. Try making healthy swaps for your favourite sugar laden foods and drinks and increase your intake of natural sugars to fuel your body through fruit and complex slow energy releasing carbs like wholegrain breads and pasta. And don't forget to fill up on those greens!
Written by Kate Swinson - Wellbeing Coach and Founder of MEvME