Sugar Rush: Combat Your Cravings

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Sugar cravings can be intense. In fact, studies show the sweet stuff may trigger some of the same changes in the brain as addictive substances like cocaine. And like the dangerous drug, the more you indulge, the more you crave.

While you need some sugar to fuel your body and brain, most Americans consume far more than the recommended daily maximum of 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men. In fact, the average American downs 22 teaspoons (about 350 calories) of added sugar each day.

Sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and other sweetened beverages are common culprits, but sugar also lurks in some unexpected places, including hot sauce, condiments and salad dressing. It’s easy to overindulge, and to miss out on needed nutrients when food is built around sugar. Even if you keep up with nutrients, you can still consume too many calories once a “sugar rush” grabs hold. It can also set the stage for cavities, weight gain and related risks such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Want to rein in your sugar intake? Try these five tips:

  • Check the label – Current food labels lump all sugar together, making it difficult for consumers to decipher whether a product contains naturally occurring sugar, manufacturer-introduced sweeteners, or a combination. While a Food and Drug Administration proposal would require manufacturers to list added sugars separately, for now consumers must scour the ingredient list.
  • Read the fine print – Unfortunately, sugar has many different names, including sucrose, maltose and glucose, along with high-fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses and honey. Definitely put a product back on the shelf if sugar — or one of its myriad monikers — is one of the top three ingredients. But dig deeper, too. Several different variations are often used in the same product, and together they can form the main ingredient — even if you don’t see the name “sugar” listed first.
  • Re-train your taste buds – Start by cutting out the highest-sugar foods in your diet (soda, candy, baked goods) and gradually scale back on less obvious offenders (granola, flavored yogurts and energy bars). The good news: Limiting sugar gets easier the longer you stick with it — your taste buds won’t be overwhelmed by sugar, so you can appreciate natural sweetness in foods that you probably didn’t notice before.
  • Keep a food journal – If you really want to know how much sugar you’re ingesting, keep a food diary for a few days. You’ll be surprised where sugar is creeping into your diet. Discovered your granola is jammed with 15 grams of sugar? Cut it with high-fiber cereal the next time you indulge. Realized your favorite flavor of yogurt is laden with the sweet stuff? Scoop out half your usual serving and supplement with the plain, unflavored variety.
  • Eat fruit – Not only does eating fruit help satisfy your sweet tooth, it’s also a great way to sneak in vitamins, minerals and important phytonutrients. A bonus: After a few weeks of nixing the sweet stuff, that Red Delicious apple will taste shockingly sweet.


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Categories: EatWell