Food Confusion and Sugar Addiction

Do you wonder why there is so much confusion about food and why so many people have a sugar addiction? Is sugar your sweet food nemesis? Do you ever wonder how on earth you became so smitten with sugar and sweets? These are questions that many people are asking– including some health coaches (kind of like me)! In this article I will explore some of the reasons why so many people are under the mysterious, powerful spell of sugar, and how confusion about food is a definite factor in sugar addiction.

Child eating a donut that is covered with icing and coconut.

Sugar addiction starts young!

There is no doubt that sugar consumption is on the rise in North America. The average person in the USA consumes a whopping 156 lb of sugar / year. Statistics show that Canadians consume around one third less or about 104 lb of sugar / year.  Either way – it is a huge amount, and strongly suggests this is a serious addiction.

A number of years ago, medical professionals told us that too much fat in the diet was causing major health issues. Medical researchers are now finding that sugar is the true villain. The health issues linked to sugar include obesity, blood glucose (blood sugar) issues, pre-diabetes and diabetes, heart and stroke problems, inflammation and joint pain, circulatory issues, digestive problems, fatty liver, immune system issues and more.

Food and food product confusion

At first glance, it may not seem to make sense that confusion about food and food products can be one of the causes of addiction.  So let’s look a little closer at the confusion.

There are a number of reasons for confusion about food and food products, which all relate to the amount of sugar people consume:

Hidden sugars

  • Refined (processed) foods typically contain high amounts of hidden sugar, which are overlooked by the average consumer.
  • People consume so many processed foods because they are quick, convenient and easily available.
  • Most people really have no idea exactly how much added sugar they are consuming on a daily basis from highly processed foods.

‘Innocent’ products

  • Many refined food products seem very innocent when it comes to sugar.
  • Here are some examples of foods that have more sugar than people realize:
    • pasta and pizza sauce
    • flavored yogurt
    • milk
    • milk substitute beverages (rice, soy or almond milk)
    • fruit juices
    • salad dressings (including low fat varieties)
    • water flavorings
    • iced teas
    • soft drinks
  • Food manufacturers often use catch-words or phrases on their products such ‘healthy’ or ‘good for you’ or ‘all natural’.
  • Food labels convince consumers that the products are healthy and there isn’t much sugar.

The many names for sugar

  • There are so many confusing names for the different forms of sugar that it is almost an impossible task to learn them all.
  • Here are just a few examples:
    • dextran
    • galactose
    • glucose
    • fructose
    • barley malt
    • maltodextrin
    • sorghum
    • lactose
    • panela
    • diatase
  • Ingredients Lists can be long and confusing, and people do not know which ingredients are sugar.
  • Most people give up trying to understand the ingredients, and buy the product anyway.

Misleading terms on products 

  • The terms ‘free’, ‘zero’, ‘without’ are very misleading and are definitely a source of confusion for consumers.
  • Food manufacturers are allowed to use a labeling loophole that was created by the government. This allows manufacturers to label products as  ‘sugar free’, ‘zero sugar’ or ‘without sugar’, even though the product contains sugar.
  • Government regulations state that a food product can contain 0.5 grams of sugar and less than 5 calories/specified serving and still be labeled ‘zero’ ‘0’ ‘free’ or ‘without’ sugar.
  • Interestingly, this labeling loophole also applies to other food items such as fat, salt, and trans fats.

Consuming several refined foods and/or beverages in a day means that you could be getting a high amount of sugar in total per day without realizing it.  It all adds up! Refined food confusion (people not realizing how much sugar is in refined foods) results in a high amount of sugar being consumed.  Large amounts of sugar being consumed on a regular basis is a definite contributing factor to overall sugar addiction.

The power of sugar addiction

There is no doubt that sugar has a mysterious hold over so many of us, even to the point of control or outright addiction.  Why is that?  I suggest there are a few reasons:

Engineered foods – This is a whole topic all by itself, but let’s take a quick, snapshot view of it.

  • Food manufacturers use an addictive trinity that snares you and keeps you coming back for more.
  • Food engineers employed by those companies discovered and use the the addictive trinity: the perfect combination of sugar, fat and salt which makes manufactured (refined) foods irresistible.
  • In addition to the perfect combination of sugar, fat and salt,  they also use chemical flavor enhancers and chemical preservatives. These chemicals give the foods the burst of flavor and the crunch that you have come to love.
  • Your addiction to perfectly engineered, refined foods is not by accident – it is by design! Therefore, sugar addiction caused by engineered foods is also by design!

Highly attuned taste buds

  • When you consume many refined foods that contain large quantities of sugar and flavor enhancers, your taste buds become attuned to exaggerated sweetness and flavors.
  • This means you have been trained to like and want that level of sweetness all the time.
  • Anything with less sweetness than what you are used to from the refined foods will taste sour and you will reject it because it does not satisfy your taste.
  • In short – you have become addicted to that high amount of sugar and flavor and you end up craving it.
  • You and many others probably don’t know there is a natural and healthy amount of sweetness in whole vegetables as well as whole fruits because you have simply lost the taste for it.
  • In other words, the exaggerated sugar and flavors have hijacked your taste buds.
  • On a positive note – this is reversible.

Blood sugar rollercoaster

  • Sugar and refined foods cause spiking and crashing of blood sugar or blood glucose, which is known as the blood sugar roller coaster.
  • It goes like this:
    • you eat sugary foods,
    • your blood glucose suddenly goes very high (spikes),
    • the body produces large amounts of insulin to deal with the excessive blood glucose,
    • your blood glucose level suddenly goes too low (crashes) after the insulin has done its job,
    • physical repercussions of low blood glucose take over, including low energy, headache, brain fog, hunger and a very big craving for more sugar.
    • This cycle can continue all day long, every time you consume sugar and/or highly refined foods, with the cravings continuing all day long – perpetuating sugar addiction.

Sugar causes a real chemical addiction, because it

  • acts like a drug in your system
  • physically stimulates the addiction center of your brain
  • causes your brain to release massive amounts of dopamine (the natural feel good chemical), which gives you that ‘feel good’, comfort feeling.  When someone tells you that sugar addiction is all in your head – they are partly right!

Inspiration for this article came from a Sugar Talk and More Radio Program Episode which I recorded on Tenacious Living Online Radio. At the bottom of this article I am placing a link to the mp3 audio recording of that Episode, called Sugar – Public Enemy #1. You will be able to download this audio file, if desired.

If you are struggling with sugar addiction, with increasing your energy and balancing your blood sugar, or if you are pre-diabetic and want to reverse that trend – Health Coaching may be the answer you are looking for to reverse pre-diabetes or the nasty effects of sugar. You can contact me here.

If you are wrestling with sugar addiction, you probably feel frustrated and powerless. What you want most of all is to kick sugar and cravings, balance your blood sugar, and get off the fast track to diabetes. Yet, you may be feeling stuck. You might not be clear about how to move forward to positively improve your health and get rid of the sugar addiction.  If this sounds familiar to you, The Sugar Switch Quiz could be a great starting point. It would give you the clarity you need to move forward.  Sound interesting? Find out more about the Quiz here, or jump right in and take The Sugar Switch Quiz.


Download the mp3 Audio File


Copyright © 2016 Cathy Ormon – All Rights Reserved