Sugar Addiction and How We Can Detoxify from Sugar
by Nirmala Raniga
As we approach Valentine’s Day, a holiday that is as synonymous with sweet treats as it is with romance, sugar consumption cannot be ignored. In the United States, statistics show that about half of the $17 billion spent to celebrate the Valentine’s holiday is spent on candy.
But it is not just candy that contains sugar. Carbonated drinks and processed foods, which fill our supermarket and restaurant menus, are also high in added sugar. Such hidden sugars lead us to ingest far more of this substance than we are aware, and at levels that are indeed unhealthy.
Sugar is a vehicle that helps the human body store fat. Therefore, sugar once played a vital role in human survival in prehistoric times – a time when food was not nearly as plentiful as it is today. However, human consumption of sugar is on the rise. According to cardiologist, Dr. Mehmet Oz, the average person consumes about 150 pounds of sugar each year, which can be compared to 7.5 pounds per year three centuries ago.
Excessive sugar consumption can have negative effects on the body. For instance, like alcohol and other substances, sugar can be toxic for the liver. The results of a study conducted with primates notes that fructose, one form of sugar, induced liver damage in the study’s subjects (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2013). Primates that were fed fructose also saw an increased occurrence of diabetes.
The ingestion of sugar can impact the brain as well. In a study conducted in 2012, researchers found that high sugar consumption interfered with cognitive abilities. Research also suggests that sugar contributes to many other human ailments, including obesity, increased belly fat, heart disease, and cancer.
If we want to reduce our sugar intake, we must become vigilant consumers and understand how sugar may be hidden in our food. By reading food labels, we can become familiar with the many names that food producers use to disguise added sugar. In addition to fructose, barley malt, cane juice, beet sugar, agave nectar, caramel, and corn sweetener, among other alternative names for sugar, can appear in the ingredient list of the processed foods we consume.
For many people who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction, without understanding its harmful effects, sugar at first may seem like a safe substitute because it helps address feelings they may experience as they move on with their lives. However, like alcohol and drugs, sugar is a highly addictive substance. In fact, studies have been conducted in which animal test subjects have become more addicted to refined sugar than cocaine.
Fortunately, there are ways in which we can detoxify from sugar. We must first examine what we are eating and drinking. Because many carbonated beverages, juices, and other processed drinks are full of refined sugar, replacing them with healthy drinks, like water and non-caffeinated teas, will play a large part in the detoxification process. Eating healthy carbohydrates, such as whole grains, and consuming proteins and full-fat foods will also help with sugar cravings. Foods like nuts, seeds, and fresh fruits and vegetables are all good alternatives to processed, high-sugar snacks.
We can also adopt lifestyle changes to support our efforts. Getting proper rest will help us to stave off sugar cravings. When we are tired, we tend to seek sugar as a way to give us that energy “lift.” But as we know, that initial burst of energy is short-lived, and soon we find ourselves searching for that next sugary snack to keep us going.
Pranayama, or breathing techniques, can also help us detoxify from sugar. When we find ourselves in stressful situations, we sometimes turn to food and, generally, the food we choose is unhealthy and full of sugar. By practicing conscious breathing, for instance, we can help reduce stress and curb our cravings for foods that harm us.
With a new understanding of sugar’s ill effects, when we consider what gifts we would like to share with our loved ones, we may want to explore healthier options—perhaps experiences or thoughtful mementos that will let them know how very dear they, and their good health, are to us.