If you are like most people, you probably don’t really think much about how much added sugar you consume every day.
From that specialty flavored coffee from at your favorite coffee shop in the morning, to the dressing on your salad for lunch, to the sauce on your pasta for dinner, there’s all sorts of sugar lurking in unexpected foods that seem as though they should be sugar-free, but are actually the opposite.
Odds are also good that your patients are also consuming a great deal more sugar than they thought.
How can you identify those foods in which sugar might be hiding, and how can you cut them out of your diet, as well as that of your patients’?
Let’s start by looking at just how much sugar Americans consume.
According to an infographic in Forbes from OnlineNursingPrograms.com, Americans consumed an all-time high of 130 pounds of sugar per year, as of 2012.1 The biggest culprit is regular soda, of which Americans consume 53 gallons per year.
Furthermore, one-third of a standard, 12-ounce can of soda is sugar. A can of cola contains 10 teaspoons of sugar, which is more than what is found in two frosted Pop Tarts and a Twinkie, combined.1
In fact, thinking of it like an addiction actually may have some scientific merit. An article published in Current Opinions in Clinical Nutritional Metabolic Care pooled together the findings from several smaller studies to examine the differences between addiction to sugar and addiction to cocaine.2
In the process, the researchers found that sugar can induce cravings and reward behavior in humans that are comparable to those induced by addictive drugs, such as cocaine. Furthermore, studies using lab animals found that sugar induces reward and addiction behavior that can be stronger than cocaine.2
Breaking the sugar cycle
So how do you, and your patients, break this sugar addiction? The trick is to understand which types of sugar to avoid. As a general rule, you want to steer clear of refined sugar, which has been processed from sugar cane or sugar beets.3
Refined sugar is the white sugar you most likely use for baking. Even brown sugar can be just white sugar with molasses added for coloring. Here are some ways to reduce or eliminate sugar from your diet and that of your patients.3
Read labels: Food manufacturers go to great lengths to hide refined sugars, even in foods you would think don’t have sugar, such as soup, ketchup, and salad dressing. When you look at food labels at the market, be on the lookout for words such as corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, and fructose.
Sugar substitutes: Honey and molasses can be substituted for baking. In some cases, you may be able to get away with cutting down the amount of sugar the recipe calls for. Spices that are sweet, such as nutmeg or cinnamon, can also be substituted.3 However, don’t substitute artificial sweeteners, as their chemical properties do not behave like sugar at higher temperatures.
Sweet tooth substitutes
If you are used to having something sweet for dessert, you won’t necessarily have to cut them out entirely. You can substitute fresh fruit for sugar-laden treats. However, be aware of the sugar content of certain fruits such as pineapples, which have particularly high sugar content.3
Eliminating sugar from your diet is not easy, particularly with it being prevalent in so many foods. However, once you learn to be on the lookout for the places where sugar can hide in your diet, you can gradually break that sugar addiction for yourself and your patients.
- How much sugar are Americans eating? Forbes. Accessed 8/13/2017.
- Ahmed SH, Guillem K, Vandaele Y. (2013). Sugar addiction: Pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit. Current Opinions in Clinical Nutritional Metabolic Care, 16(4), 434-439.
- Eliminate refined sugars. Accessed 8/13/2017.
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