As a source of rapid energy, simple sugars can provide our minds with a quick sense of reward. When you eat refined sugars, especially in the absence of other nutrients like fiber and protein, that slow the digestive process, your blood sugar levels spike and your brain receives a boost of energy. When you eat sugary foods, your brain releases dopamine, a chemical that causes you to feel pleasure. 
Like with any other behavior, stimulating this reward system frequently with sugary foods can create a sense of dependence. This effect can be reinforced because of the “sugar crash” feeling that can follow a large dose of sugar. Further, a tolerance may develop, leading your brain to require greater and greater amounts of sugar in order to release dopamine. 
Brain imaging studies have shown similarities between the brains of obese individuals and the brains of individuals addicted to drugs and alcohol. 
This dynamic can lead people to develop strong cravings for sugar. This can lead to a loss of control and over-consumption of sugar, reinforcing the cycle of addiction.
Americans as a whole have demonstrated this tolerance and addiction effect. For more than a century, sugar has made up an ever-increasing proportion of the American diet. The following table shows US per capita sugar consumption increasing steadily between 1822 to 2005.
Cutting Your Sugar Use
In order to cut your sugar intake, there are two strategies you should implement: awareness and adaptation.
First, you should get familiar with the sources of sugar in your own diet in order to become aware of your sugar intake. Then, armed with this new awareness, you should begin to consciously adapt your behaviors to reduce that sugar intake. Eventually, these conscious behaviors will become subconscious, and you will have adapted to a new, healthier, and more holistic diet.
The amount of added sugar in many common foods may surprise you. Sodas, sports drinks, candy bars and other foods we all know to contain sugar have far more of it than many of us realize.
Further, there are many sources of added sugar in our diets that are less obvious. Everything from breads to nut butters can be a source of added sugar. Even foods we think of as healthy can be packed with sugar. Single serve yogurts, meal replacement bars, protein drinks and fruit juices can all be significant sources of sugar. Remember that sugar can come from your plate as well. Many sauces, including ketchup and barbeque sauce, contain high levels of added sugar.
Check the labels on some of your favorite foods to understand your own sugar intake.
If you currently have a diet high in sugar, the best way to adapt is to take it slow. Ease your body and mind into reducing your sugar intake.
For instance, you can begin by eliminating one sugary food per day. You could switch a soda for a lightly sweetened or unsweetened iced tea. You can also slowly reduce the amount of sugar you add to your food and beverages each day. Trading your desserts for fruits can satisfy your sweet tooth with less sugar. Taking these and similar steps will allow you to make meaningful and sustainable lifestyle changes over time.
Eliminating all sugar from your diet is unsustainable and can be a burden to those around you. Eating whole foods is a holistic way to consume sugars in conjunction with other useful nutrients like proteins and vitamins. This slows the body’s absorption of sugar and limits the dopamine response.
Some may want to replace their added sugars with artificial sweeteners. Potential negative health effects of such products aside, the use of these replacements can leave you craving more sugar. Your chances of successfully cultivating long-term dietary change will better if you eliminate sugars rather than attempt to replace them with non-sugar substitutes.
Robert Lutz, L.Ac., LMT, Diplomate of Oriental Medicine
Healing Center for Body, Mind & Spirit
380 Park Avenue Huntington, NY 11743
Contact Robert Lutz to schedule an appointment:
Texts welcome (631) 232-7978.