Hiram College

Kick Your Sugar Addiction


Sugar is killing you. Or at least it is making you a lot less healthy. America’s love affair with sugar has been linked to increases in heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. It has been said to cause other ailments too, from acne to mental illnesses like depression and schizophrenia. Sugar consumption can even hinder your ability to learn and remember information.

And yet, Americans continue to consume far more than we should — and maybe more than we realize. The sweet stuff finds its way into our food even where we least expect it. That BBQ sauce you slather on grilled chicken? Sugar. Your favorite “whole grains” breakfast cereal? Sugar. Salad dressing? Protein bars? Almond milk? Even your “all natural” bottled green juice drink? You guessed it.

Studies show that sugar is also highly addictive, but still, there are no federal guidelines to limit consumption (though the government already offers such guidelines for fat and salt). A new report from the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) may explain why. According to the report, the companies behind the foods that fuel our sugar addictions have spent billions of dollars deceiving the public with fake science, misinformation, and elaborate PR campaigns. They have also lobbied both the government and international organizations to turn a blind eye.

No matter how health conscious you are, you’re bound to crave sweet things from time to time. But overloading on sugar can lead to lots of unwanted pounds and a wide range of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

In addition to sending your energy levels on a roller coaster ride, overdosing on sugar sends your hunger hormones into overdrive. The satiety hormones that tell your brain “I’m full!” aren’t properly triggered, which means you end up eating more than you need to. Not only that, but sugar triggers a rush of endorphins, the feel-good hormone. Nice as it feels in the short term, if you overdo the sugar too often, you’re likely to develop a craving for that sugar rush, which will lead to more extra calories and more disappointment when you step on the scale.

So it’s no wonder that experts recommend limiting sugar intake. If you’re a woman, limit your intake of added sugars to 25 grams per day. (That’s about 100 calories, or 6 teaspoons.) Most men should limit added sugars to 38 grams per day, which is about 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons.


Here’s how you can shake the sugar habit:

Know where to find it. You can find sugar by checking the ingredient list printed below the Nutrition Facts panel on most packaged foods. Added sugar goes by many names and often ends in “ose,” such as lactose or maltose or sucrose. Other names for sugar include:

  • brown sugar
  • cane sugar
  • corn syrup
  • corn sugar
  • dextrose
  • fruit juice concentrate
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • honey
  • maltodextrin
  • molasses sucrose
  • raw sugar
  • turbinado sugar

Scan the ingredients. If sugar (or a sugar from the list above) is one of the first three ingredients, think twice before choosing this food. Ingredients are listed by weight, so the ingredients that are listed first make up a greater percentage of the product.

Aim low. Choose products with the least amount of added sugar. On any product, aim for no more than 2.5 grams of added sugar per 100 calories.

Go natural. Choose fresh fruit to satisfy a sweet craving; it provides vitamins, minerals, and fiber in addition to some hydration, so it will keep you feeling fuller longer.

Time it right. If you absolutely need a sweet, have it in the 20 to 30 minutes after a hard workout. During that time, your body is hyper-efficient at digesting the sugar. Pair the sweet with protein, and this will kick-start muscle repair.

Choose an alternative. If you’re looking to add flavor to your food, reach for herbs and spices instead of sugar. Cinnamon and cloves add flavor to oatmeal, while oregano and rosemary add flavor to marinara sauce.

Know where it’s hidden. Foods like salad dressings and yogurt may not taste sweet, but sugar is often added to low-fat versions of products to make them tastier. Even foods like multigrain bread contain about 2 grams of added sugar per slice. Look for brands that have the label “no added sugar.”

Watch the substitutes. With all these dire warnings about sugar, it’s tempting to reach for calorie-free artificial sweeteners. Low-calorie sweeteners have led to the creation of a wide range of low-calorie products, which offer a healthier alternative for anyone watching their weight and those with diabetes, who must carefully monitor their carbohydrate and sugar intakes. Low-calorie sweeteners have been the subject of extensive scientific research and are generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While the research suggests that artificial sweeteners won’t make you eat more, many people report sugar cravings and a need for more food after consuming “diet” foods sweetened with sugar substitutes. In addition, many report that once they cut back on the artificial sweeteners, their cravings ebbed, and it was easier to resist sweet temptations and lose weight.

Eliminating sugar from your diet can be done. If you do decide to go sugar-free, one of the best ways is to go cold turkey. Cut out sugar completely with these simple steps and you could be craving-free in a week.