Here is what a sugar addiction looks like and how to end it for good.

If you suspect that you may have a sugar addiction, you are not alone.

Although the American Heart Association recommends people consume no more than 9.5 teaspoons of sugar a day, the average American adult consumes 22 teaspoons a day, and the average child consumes 32. Yikes! That adds up to about 3 pounds of sugar each week.

All of that sugar is dangerous to our health. Some studies show that when it comes to heart disease – America’s number one killer – sugar may be more dangerous than salt.

In addition to craving sweet foods, there are many ways your body may be telling you that you have a sugar addiction. Here are the surprising ways your body may tell you it’s addicted to sugar and everything you need to know about how to overcome your addiction.

What does a sugar addiction look like?

If you’re addicted to sugar, it’s not just sweets that you’ll crave.

If you’re addicted to sugar, it’s not just sweets that you’ll crave.

Of course, if you crave sugary food all of the time, that is a telltale sign that you may have a sugar addiction. However, there are dozens of ways our body tells us that we are addicted to sugar, and many people miss the signs. Do you:

  • Suffer from anxiety, depression or fatigue? Sugar is a refined, addictive substance that causes highs, as well as lows.
  • Tend to overeat? When we are eating mostly refined carbohydrates, or “empty calories,” our bodies may send us signals to keep eating, as they are looking for the nutrition that the food has been stripped from.
  • Look to ice cream, cookies or wine at the end of the day as a reward? If you are relying on sugar to lift your emotions, you may be missing emotional nourishment, like companionship or fulfillment.

  • Crave salty foods? If you are eating primarily refined sugary food, you are likely missing out on important minerals and nutrients. When this happens, your body may start to crave foods that are high in salt and fat to compensate.

Why is sugar so addictive?

Sugar highs and lows can leave you feeling fatigued, sad - and wanting more sugar.

Sugar highs and lows can leave you feeling fatigued, sad – and wanting more sugar.

Here’s a scary study: One cardiovascular research scientist found that refined sugar can be even more addictive than cocaine. It is chemically very similar to the drug, in that it is a white crystal extracted from a natural plant – in sugar’s case, from sugar cane, rather than from cocoa leaves.

Other researchers say that sugar qualifies as an addictive substance for two main reasons: Eating small amounts creates a desire for more, and quitting suddenly causes withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, mood swings and fatigue.

Here’s how it works: As we eat sugar, our blood sugar levels spike and release dopamine. Then, they quickly fall and send signals to our body to store fat. Since our blood sugar level is falling, our bodies start to worry that they need to store up! Finally, low blood sugar levels cause us to become hungry and crave more sugar.

Why is a sugar addiction dangerous?

In addition to weight gain, eating too much refined sugar is linked to:

  • High blood pressure
  • Hypertension
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Diabetes
  • Anxiety, and
  • Depression

If you are suffering from mood swings, are having trouble sleeping or are struggling to reach your ideal weight, it’s high time to take a good look at how much sugar is in your diet.

Why are we so addicted to sugar?

Here’s the good news: Studies show that sugar addiction is not biological, meaning that we are not born predisposed to crave sugar, and are not any more likely to crave sugar if our parents do.

However, it is behavioral, in that we must achieve a certain consumption threshold in order for our bodies to alter our brain’s neurochemistry enough to create an addiction. And the more sugar we eat, the worse the addiction can get, causing dopamine depletion when we experience sugar withdraws.

But don’t kick yourself for your sugar habit! Because the government subsidizes corn, foods that contain high fructose corn syrup are often cheaper and more accessible than fresh produce. This, combined with America’s culture of eating and drinking sugar-laden foods, makes sugar hard to avoid both for adults and kids. It’s not your fault!

How to overcome a sugar addiction

Here are a few science-backed steps you can start taking today to kick your sugar habit to the curb for good:

Recognize triggers

Do you find that you crave sugar when you are tired? Sad? Bored? Today, make a mental note of when you find you are craving sugar. By understanding why – and when – you are craving sugar, you will be better able to get ahead of the craving and manage it.

Be prepared

Are you making a trip to the vending machine at work every day at 3 PM when you are tired? You can try to keep some fruit by your desk for when you need a pick me up, or better yet, set a goal to get more sleep tonight and see if your craving stops.

If you can anticipate your cravings before they hit you, you will be able to stop them before they start.

Drink more water

Just simply drinking more water can have a big impact on your ability to curb sugar cravings once and for all.

Just simply drinking more water can have a big impact on your ability to curb sugar cravings once and for all.

Sometimes our bodies mistakenly recognize dehydration as hunger. Most of us do not drink the recommended amount of water per day that we need – approximately 64 ounces.

Try carrying water with you throughout the day, and sprucing it up so you are likely to drink it. Here are some great ways to add flavor and nutrients to your water.

Make healthy swaps

Sugar may be sneaking into your drinks and food without you even knowing it. By making a few minor changes, you could easily exclude several teaspoons of sugar from your diet a week:

  • Use a natural creamer in your coffee that does not contain added sweeteners.
  • Swap strawberry ice cream at night for fresh strawberries dipped in unsweetened whipped cream.
  • Replace your afternoon soda with sparkling water with lemon.
  • Check food labels. Four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon. Make sure the packaged foods you are buying don’t include tons of added sugar. Some of the worst culprits that look healthy, but aren’t, include cereal and yogurt.

Eat more root vegetables

Satisfy your sweet tooth with meals that incorporate plenty of naturally sweet vegetables.

Satisfy your sweet tooth with meals that incorporate plenty of naturally sweet vegetables.

Pump up your diet with vegetables that are natural sources of sugar. Beets, parsnips, sweet potatoes and onions are all great sources of nutrients and vitamins, and will help you satisfy your sweet tooth.

Find other nourishment

If you find you are eating sugary foods when you are bored, it may be time to pick up a new hobby, or ask for a more challenging assignment at work. If you turn to them when you are sad, turn to a friend instead who can lift you up, and consider what is getting you down.

Are you ready to say goodbye to sugar highs and lows?

Dehydration often masks itself as hunger or sugar cravings. Start your sugar-free journey today by increasing your water intake. Grab some of our Healthy Human stainless steel water bottles in every color and make them your essential sugar-busting partner!

What do you think?

Are you suffering from a sugar addiction? Let us know, and if you’ve tried any of these hacks, in the comments below.