Sugar is as addictive as cocaine – learn how to kick the habit and boost your health

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ON average, we now eat twice the recommended amount of sugar daily – and the sweet stuff is as addictive as cocaine.

No more than five per cent of our diet should be added sugars — meaning adults should have no more than 30g each day, children aged seven to ten should not exceed 24g and kids of four to six, 19g.

Many adults exceed the recommended allowance of sugar per day

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Many adults exceed the recommended allowance of sugar per day

It is easy to reach these limits, with one teaspoon of sugar equating to 4g.

Our sugar intake is leading to increases in type 2 diabetes, fatty liver and heart disease, tooth decay, high blood pressure and raised cholesterol — and could be behind our obesity epidemic, too.

Food addiction coach Dr Bunmi Aboaba told Sun on Sunday Health: “I help people who have food addictions and I see many who are addicted to sugar.

“I have no doubt in my mind that sugar is addictive and I have seen studies that prove this.

“Refined sugar and drugs trigger dopamine and other pleasure-inducing chemicals in the brain. Sugar and cocaine give a similar dopamine surge.

“That’s why we’ve got an obesity problem. People want to stop, but find it difficult as they are addicted.

Sugar is a difficult addiction to kick as people don't realise they are hooked

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Sugar is a difficult addiction to kick as people don’t realise they are hookedCredit: Alamy

“Even if they stop for a little while, the addictive pathway is still running and they return to sugar.

“When sufferers feel stressed or lonely, they reach for something sweet.

“The brain rewires to create pathways so sugar becomes the sole coping mechanism.

“Once that addiction is formed, it’s difficult to get out of it without education, strategies and support because of that huge dopamine surge that it causes in the body.

“When levels drop, cravings start and addicts need more sugar to feel happy.

Sugar addiction can affect work, relationships and your mental health.”

But not all sugar is equal. The natural sugar in fruits (fructose) and milk (lactose) does not count towards the daily intake.

Nutritionist Amanda Ursell said: “With these, the sugar is trapped in a cell within the food.

“They raise blood sugar levels much more slowly but are also delivering fibre and minerals and hundreds of plant super- nutrients which have untold ­benefits.

“But there are sugars in natural honey, unsweetened fruit juices and smoothies, for example, that are no different to table sugar because all the micronutrients are removed in processing.

“My advice is to stick to one sweet treat a day, such as a fruit juice, cereal or dessert. Anything above this and you will be going over your limits.”

How much sugar in…

  • Coca Cola Classic (150ml) – 15.9g
  • Yellow Tail Chardonnay wine (150ml) – 1.4g
  • Mars bar – 30.5g
  • Two finger KitKat – 10.2g
  • Hellman’s Real Mayo – 0.5g
  • Heinz Tomato Ketchup – 3.4g
  • Asda Rich Tea Biscuit (one) – 1.3g
  • McVities Chocolate Hob Nob (one) – 6.1g
  • Two Weetbix biscuits – 1.6g
  • Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut cereal (30g) – 11g
  • Hartley’s raspberry jam (15g) – 8.4g
  • Nutella (15g) – 8.4g

Sweet treats

Sugar is the first thing that we consume as babies from sweet breast milk.

Amanda says: “There are huge emotional ties. It carries on into sweet treats as children.

“But when you stop eating extra sugar you actually stop eating a huge swathe of processed and sweet foods, which are then replaced with more nutritious foods.

“This has an immediate impact in regards to blood sugar and gut health which feed back on serotonin levels and dopamine levels and all the things that help us to feel better.”

Doctor Aboaba believes that everyone can beat a sugar addiction with help.

She said: “To begin with, try to take out all the foods with refined sugar from the house.

“Work when cravings are worst and are down to stress, loneliness or boredom.

“If you usually come back from work and eat a pack of Oreos, have a plate of prepared food, such as carrot sticks, in the fridge instead.

“Keep busy, go for a walk, do some stretches or breathing exercises to calm down.

“Hydration sometimes gets confused with hunger so sip water throughout the day one to two litres a day.”

Tried and tested

WE marked World Chocolate Day this month. But can it ever be healthy?

Cocoa beans – the main ingredient in chocolate – contain naturally occurring polyphenols, micronutrients that may help to reduce blood pressure and have antioxidant properties.

But lots of fat and sugar is often mixed in.

Jane Atkinson tests out some of the latest chocolate products that claim to be better for your health.

Oatie biscuits

Prodigy's plant-based biscuits have half the sugar of regular alternatives

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Prodigy’s plant-based biscuits have half the sugar of regular alternatives

PRODIGY has a new range of plant-based biscuits with half the sugar of the regular equivalent alternatives.

I tried Phenomenoms Chocolate Oaties that aren’t TOO dissimilar to a chocolate Hobnob – although a lot smaller and less crumbly.

But when you are getting a vegan biscuit that is wheat-free and high in prebiotic fibre to support gut health, these really aren’t a bad alternative.

Plus they feel denser, more filling and satisfying.

The “real thing” has 92 calories and 6.2g sugar with 23 per cent fat, while these dinky biscuits have just 36 calories and 1.2g of sugar plus 22.6 per cent fat.

That’s not bad going. I like these and would buy again. From 71p for a pack of four biscuits. See prodigysnacks.com.

Choc corn

Chocolate sweetcorn sounds very strange but amazingly it works

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Chocolate sweetcorn sounds very strange but amazingly it works

YOU heard me right. Chocolate sweetcorn. Sounds very strange doesn’t it, but then I wonder who thought up chocolate raisins.

Chocolate Crunchy Corn from Love, Corn is an odd combination of crunchy dried corn, with a tiny bit of salt and milk chocolate.

Amazingly it works. They are moreish like pimped-up popcorn with a smooth exterior. I tried them watching a film and they vanished!

These have 176 calories per 35g serving, and 26 per cent fat because they are cooked in sunflower oil.

A 90g sharing bag, RRP £2.50. See lovecorn.co.uk.

Low-cal doughnut

Chocolate doughnuts will fill you up but not fatten you up

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Chocolate doughnuts will fill you up but not fatten you up

SNACK brand Fibre One 90 Calorie has launched a Chocolate flavour and Strawberry & Cream flavour doughnut.

These do what they say on the packet – with 22 per cent fibre, they will fill you up but not fatten you up.

They are dinky little doughnuts covered in a chocolate-flavoured coating and multicoloured crunchy sprinkles.

To compare, an average 25g chocolate doughnut has about 250kcal and 1g of fibre, so the comparison is brilliant.

They come individually wrapped in a box of four.

These are a decent snack, but I found them dense and the dark chocolate stuck to my teeth.

If you’re a chocolate doughnut nut and need an alternative to the sugar-rich treat then maybe they are worth a go. But not for me.

£2.89 for a box of four. See tesco.com.

Reading labels

WHEN looking at ingredients of a product, if sugar is near the top of the list it is likely to be high in free sugars.

Nutritional information must include the amount of sugar in a product, often under the carbohydrate heading with the words “of which sugars”.

Some products provide a traffic light system on the front of the pack showing the levels of sugar.

These are ranked as follows…

LOW/GREEN: Sugar in food is 5g or less per 100g. Sugar in liquids is 2.5mg or less in 100ml.

MEDIUM/AMBER: In food, between 5g and 22.5g per 100g. In liquid, 2.5g to 11.25g per 100ml.

HIGH/RED: In food, more than 22.5g per 100g. In liquid, 11.25g or more per 100ml.



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