Are You Addicted to Sugar?

We all know we can’t thrive off of donuts and bonbons, but is it true you can be addicted to sugar? As a registered dietitian at Indiana University Health, I work with bariatric patients to help them lose weight in preparation for surgery. In addition to being followed by a team, patients also receive individualized nutrition counseling post-operatively. We work together to identify barriers and solutions throughout their weight loss journey.

I also help people reach their health and fitness goals as a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. For me, it’s a personal win to see my patients discover that eating healthy can be easy. I love being able to help people integrate nutrition, fitness, and wellness to create long lasting lifestyle changes.

That said, from a science standpoint, there is currently no evidence in humans of true drug withdrawal-like symptoms when it comes to food—particularly sugar. Sugar is not just found in candy and baked goods – it can also be in sauces, baked goods, protein drinks, juice, cereals, and salad dressings (among many other things). With all these items, it can be easy to go overboard.

Find yourself craving the sweet stuff too often? Try these tips.

1) Look for Hidden Ingredients. Sugar may be disguised in our food labels as: dextrose, lactose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, agave, brown rice syrup, barley malt, maltodextrin, fructose, and sucrose. If these words are in the top 3 ingredients of a food, it’s probably best to avoid.

2) Be Your Own Experiment. See if you can go one day without any added sugar or consider keeping a food journal. This can help you identify any situations that influence you to reach for the sweet stuff. For example, you may learn that you always grab a piece of candy from the candy jar at work, even though you don’t necessarily want it. You may find that it has simply become a habit.

3) Eat Natural Sweets. You may have heard fruit referenced as ‘nature’s candy.’ Due to the naturally occurring sugar – fructose – fruit is sweet without any additives. Try adding berries to whipped yogurt or add mango to a fruit smoothie. Take time to truly taste your fruit and the beautiful bold flavors and textures.

4) Find a Sugar Swap. If you always put creamer in your coffee, try opting for unsweetened almond milk or skim milk with a dash of cinnamon. If cereal is your go-to, try mixing your favorite with something less sugar, like cheerios or bran flakes. This can help cut back on not just sugar, but also added calories.

5) Know Your Limit. The American Heart Association recommends less than 100 calories (or 6 teaspoons) of added sugar for women, and 150 calories (or 9 teaspoons) for men per day for optimal health.

— By Katie Hake, RD
   Indiana University Health