Given how common it is to hear someone talk about their “sweet tooth” or claim they’re experiencing a sugar craving, have you ever wondered if it’s actually possible to become addicted to sugar?
“It is not physiologically possible to become addicted to sugar,” says Leigh Galasso, RDN, CDN, a dietitian at Sisters of Charity Hospital. “However, it is possible to feel like you are.”
Consuming sugar does trigger a release of dopamine in our bodies, which is sometimes called “the pleasure chemical.” Activities and products that release dopamine train our brain to recognize we enjoy these experiences, and we want to experience them again.
Sugar does indeed have addictive properties, and has been shown to cause some “withdrawal” symptoms. Still, there are significant differences between those who battle substance abuse disorders due to medical addiction, and sugar consumption.
All sugar is not created equal
When we talk about sugar, there’s actually two different types: Natural and artificial sugars.
“Sugar is found naturally in food such as fruit, whole grains, and dairy,” Leigh says. “Choosing whole or raw fruit options will be sure to satisfy your sugar craving while offering less added sugar than traditional sweets and desserts.”
Token examples of sugary products like desserts, candy, and juice are often made with artificial sugars.
Leigh Galasso, RDN, CDN
Dietitian, Sisters of Charity Hospital
Unlike a piece of fruit, artificially sweetened products don’t tend to carry any nutrition benefits. “Fruit and grains also tend to have fiber, protein, healthy fats… nutrients that help slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream,” Leigh shares.
Reduced sugar recipes for you to try at home
Healthy recipes reviewed by Catholic Health dietitians with all of the flavor and minimal added sugar: