Sugar -- we all crave it. How could we not? It's sweet and makes basically everything taste better. If you're one of the many people who have tried to cut back on sugar, you know how difficult it can be. Some people may even experience withdrawals. This is all due to the fact that when we eat sugar, an overstimulation of the reward centers causes us to become addicted to it.
When we eat foods high in sugar, the reward centers of the brain are activated. At the same time, a large amount of dopamine is released. This is what makes eating sugar feel so good. When we eat high-sugar foods often, we develop a tolerance which in turn requires us to eat more sugar to get that same level of reward. Over time and with an overstimulation of those reward centers, we develop an addiction to sugar because it simply makes us feel good when we eat it. Due to the powerful effects sugar has on the brain, it can be thought of like a drug in that it functions similar to how actual drugs like heroin and cocaine do.
Just like drugs, sugar is not good for us. Because it can be quite difficult for most of us to cut out sugar, it may be helpful to understand why sugar is so bad for us in order to make better choices in regards to our diets. This is especially important now because sugar consumption in the United States is on the rise. Over the past 30 years, adult consumption of added sugars in America has increased by more than 30 percent. On average, Americans consume about 100 pounds of sugar per year, or almost 30 teaspoons a day. According to the American Heart Association, women should have no more than six teaspoons of sugar per day, and men should have no more than nine teaspoons of sugar per day. Many Americans consume about double that amount. About half of that sugar comes from soda and fruit drinks, which also happen to be the number one source of calories in our diet.
It seemed as though the awareness about the dangers of sugar was gaining some traction, especially when Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on the sale of sweetened sodas or drinks larger than 16 ounces back when he was in office. However, as of last year the soda ban was rejected by New York's highest court. While this may be beneficial to the soft drink industry who fought the plan, this does nothing but continue the problem regarding soda as one of the major factors in the fight against obesity.
Added sugar is also a poison. It has no nutritional value and lacks any essential proteins, minerals and vitamins. There are two types of sugars in the American diet: naturally-occurring sugars and added sugars. Added sugar is one of the worst and most toxic ingredients in the Western diet. It can have harmful effects on our metabolism and contribute to the development of numerous serious health conditions and diseases. Too much sugar is harmful to the body and promotes inflammation and disease. A recent study shows evidence linking sugar consumption and breast cancer. Sugar consumption is also a major risk factor for the development of other health conditions such as obesity and heart disease.
Sugar is hidden in so many of the foods we consume every day. This is why it is important to look at food labels to know where sugar may be hidden. It may be found under many different names such as fructose, lactose, sucrose, maltose, glucose, and dextrose. One of the main culprits is high fructose corn syrup, which can be found in tons of foods you may not suspect, such as frozen dinners, some vegetables, peanut butter, pickles, salad dressing, soup, canned fruits.
Because it can be difficult to completely cut sugar out of our diets, the least we can do is eat the minimum amount and opt for natural alternatives. If you are going to eat sugar, make sure it is the natural kind found in fruit. It is better to get your sugar fix from naturally sweet fruits as opposed to processed foods. This way, you can satisfy your craving for sugar while still getting some of the nutrients your body needs to fight diseases like cancer. Fruits are still high in sugar, so don't overdo it.