Are You Addicted to Sugar?

How many times a day do you consume sugar?

Do you find yourself reaching for sweet foods or starches throughout the day?

Do you feel like you're on an energy roller coaster, with super highs followed by crash and burns that leave you feeling lethargic, moody and in a brain haze?

I have never really been a dessert person. I'm not someone who has to "seal" every meal with something sweet. I've always been someone who prefers salty to sweet. I will take a bag of potato chips over cake any day. So I didn't believe that I had a sugar addiction. 

But a couple of summers ago, despite training for marathons and working out daily, I began gaining weight. I was following the advice my personal trainer at the time gave me of "burning more calories than I took in" so I couldn't figure out why this was happening to me. 

I had already cut out gluten and dairy from my diet and was eating relatively healthily.  It was perplexing, to say the least.

So I pulled out my food journal and read through my entries where I had detailed the foods that I had been eating and I recognized a trend.

I was eating more packaged and processed foods than I realized!

For years I had stayed away from packaged junk foods. But when I cut out gluten, for some reason my brain decided that anything labeled "gluten-free" was healthy. I guess that had given me the "green light" to eat all kinds of gluten-free cookies, crackers, pasta, bread, pastries and foods that I had avoided eating for years.  Hey, since it was gluten-free, it was healthy, right?! I even had become a regular at my local gluten-free bakery! 

It was a profound moment for me when I made the connection that gluten-free doesn't, in fact, mean healthy. The truth is of the matter is, when it comes to gluten-free packaged foods, it usually means more sugar. 

So I started paying more attention to food labels and was startled when I realized just how much sugar I was honestly consuming every day. 

While I was cutting back on the processed junk foods, I was still consuming sugar hidden in the brand of flavored coconut water that I drank. Sugar was also in the sauces that I used to season my food. And sugar was in the seemingly endless slices of gluten free bread I had been eating (seriously I was going through entire loaves every couple of days).

Here I was, someone who prided myself with eating healthily, yet I was still eating more sugar that I needed, wanted or realized.

So I started truly paying more attention to what I was putting in my mouth. I continued to use my food journal, this time, connecting the dots and making correlations between food and my moods. 

What I discovered is that my cravings were most intense after eating mostly carb meals. I found out that I was super moody and lethargic after eating sugary foods. I even recall going to a gluten-free expo, loading up on free samples and then feeling shaky and brain-fogged by the end of it, no doubt from an overload of sugar.

In my studies at IIN and Functional Nutrition Labs, I've learned that one of the many reasons we have cravings are because of our bodies' inability to regulate our blood glucose levels (blood sugar). Since our bodies are always looking for balance; cravings are a sign that we're out of balance.

Conquering cravings is possible. And it is possible to satisfy our sweet tooths without junk foods filled with refined sugar.

Studies conducted by the USDA show that sugar consumption has increased almost annually since 1982. Common sources include cane sugar, beet sugar, corn syrup, and corn sugar. This increase can be attributed to added sugars in many popular soft drinks and processed junk foods (even gluten-free ones!).

Did you know that:

  • A cookie with 18 g of sugar is equal to 4.5 cubes of sugar
  • A candy bar with 24 g of sugar is equivalent to 6 cubes of sugar
  • An energy drink with 27 g of sugar is equal to 7 cubes of sugar
  • Two pancakes with 1/4 c syrup are equal to 9 cubes of sugar
  • A pint of ice cream with 84 g of sugar is equal to 21 cubes of sugar

Like me, you may not be aware of just how much sugar your are consuming. You might not even be able to recognize sugar on food labels.

I believe that knowledge is power, and once we understand how sugar honestly affects our bodies, we are more inclined to make better choices with the foods that we choose to put in our mouths.

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Naomi Nakamura is a certified Holistic Health Coach who takes a holistic approach through functional nutrition. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, coaching programs, and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with acne and other chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop! Connect with Naomi at: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest.