Sugar—especially in drinks—and obesity make for the best of bedfellows. While a widespread ban on soda and other sugary foods may seem like a drastic intervention, most people’s sugar consumption deserves some scrutiny.
“Processed sugar adds empty calories that cause tiredness, aches, sinus problems, extra weight and high cholesterol,” says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, medical director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers and author of Beat Sugar Addiction Now (Fair Winds Press, 2010).
“For the first time ever, we are seeing people be obese and malnourished at the same time,” he says. And it doesn’t end with weight. “Sugar is a key to many health problems,” Teitelbaum points out.
So how do you know whether you’re just a sweets fan or a bona fide sugar addict? Teitelbaum outlines four different kinds of sugar addicts. Read on to see if one of them sounds like you.
If you’re exhausted all the time and seek energy from your sugar and caffeine hits, you’re in a boost-then-crash cycle. But energy drinks, coffee and sodas ultimately leave you even more tired.
Short and snappy
If you get extremely irritable when you are hungry, feel like you’re always in crisis and reach for sugar when you bottom out, you may suffer from adrenal fatigue. Your adrenal glands and blood sugar levels are interconnected, so if you have adrenal exhaustion, you are more prone to rapid drops in blood sugar.
If you also have chronic sinusitis or irritable bowel syndrome/spastic colon, sugar craving might be a symptom of candida, or yeast overgrowth. The more sugar you eat, the more the yeast grows and multiplies, causing a vicious cycle.
Hormones gone haywire
Sugar cravings caused by your period, menopause or andropause relate to low hormone levels. Low hormones can lead to depression, which make you turn to a sugar to bring up your serotonin levels.
If you’ve seen a glimpse of yourself in any of these descriptions, it might be time to consider cutting back on sweets. Teitelbaum has plenty of suggestions for easing up—nobody says you need to go cold turkey. Knowing your sugar addiction type can also help you eliminate sugar cravings.
For everyone though, here are four ways to stave off sugar cravings:
- Don’t drink sugar. Sodas, juices and energy drinks have almost a teaspoon of sugar per ounce. Plus, sweetened drinks never fill you up, as they have no fiber or bulk.
- Make your sugar count. Make conscious choices about how you indulge in sweets. Cut out the sweets that give you the least pleasure, like flavored yogurt, cereal or granola bars. Teitelbaum recommends limiting sugar intake by getting it out of the main meal, but then rewarding yourself with a piece of dark chocolate or some other dessert you find delicious and satisfying. “Get the best-tasting cookie you can and savor it without guilt.”
- Substitute with Stevia. A pinch of stevia can make unsweetened tea and coffee go down easier. Stevia, basically a plant extract, is a natural, no-calorie sweetener available at most grocery stores.
Investigate labels. Look for the sugar grams on the label, and then divide by four to convert to teaspoons per serving. “One or two teaspoons of sugar per serving might be fine, but more than that you might want to track more carefully. Teitelbaum recommends limiting daily sugar consumption to about six teaspoons a day. Another thing to check on the label? “If any of the first three ingredients are sugar, put it back on the shelf.”