Could sugar be as addictive as cocaine?
It just might be. A study from Connecticut College found that rats behave towards Oreos the same way they behave towards cocaine. Scary. Foods packed with sugar seem to stimulate the nucleus accumbens, or the brain’s “pleasure center” – the same part of the brain that drugs stimulate. Another study showed that foods with higher glycemic indexes – meaning that they raise your blood sugar more quickly – activate the pleasure center as well. While we want to deny it, we’ve got to face the facts: sugar is biologically addictive.
But sugar is also a college student’s best friend. When we’re stressed, frustrated or sad, sometimes nothing makes us feel better than digging through a box of chocolates or grabbing a handful of M&M’s. Since sugar is addictive, it’s no wonder that we find it so hard to resist our favorite treats. Unless your parents brought you up on a strict diet of fruits, veggies and protein, you – and the rest of us – have been bred to love sugar. See the conflict here? And the worst part is, when we eat sugar we just crave more and more of it. We’re trapped in a vicious sugar cycle.
I like sugar, but I don’t like addictions. Until last fall, I was a bona fide coffee drinker. When I felt like I had started to rely too heavily on my java, I weaned myself off of it. Now, I want to see if I can survive without sugar, too.
My parents have been going sugar-free for nearly three weeks, and they’ve noticed improvements in their lifestyle. They’re more energetic, less hungry and literally don’t crave sweets anymore. That got me thinking: Could a low-sugar regimen work wonders for a student? Imagine getting an extra jolt of energy to sustain you without having to worry about crashing later. I want to see whether I’ll feel different with very little sugar in my diet.
For a few weeks now, I’ve been eating foods with five grams of sugar or less. That means no cookies, no ice cream, no candy and no mac and cheese. It was hard at first, but my cravings are starting to disappear. I’ve mostly been eating fruits and veggies, with tofu, eggs and chickpeas for protein and millet for grain. I often add in hummus and olive oil for flavor. Plus, I’ve become more aware of certain deceiving foods that I didn’t know contained so much sugar, like my healthful-sounding Nature’s Path organic oatmeal, which contains six grams in a single packet.
I haven’t noticed a huge difference in how I feel yet, but stay posted over the next several weeks as I give updates about my progress. I’ll share photos of my food creations and even give tips for low-sugar dining.
For now, here are some of the high-sugar foods that I’ve swapped for more healthful options:
1. Swapping Nature’s Valley granola bars (12 grams of sugar) for millet (virtually no sugar)
2. Swapping Nature’s Path organic oatmeal (6 grams of sugar) for hard-boiled eggs (0.5 grams of sugar)
Keep checking in as I continue to in my quest to survive without sugar! I don’t plan on letting you, or myself, down.