Got a high from those M&Ms? Blame science. Nutritional researcher Dr. Joel Fuhrman says that sugar addiction is just as serious as being hooked on cocaine: “Low-nutrient foods rich in sugar, oils, white flour and salt have similar biochemical effects in the brain as addictive drugs,” he tells Metro. “Because they tend to be especially palatable, these foods activate reward pathways in the brain and produce toxic withdrawal symptoms often misinterpreted as hunger, driving us to eat even more.” But unlike drugs, sugar is legal and inexpensive, he warns. Take this quiz to find out if you’re running on a sugar high.
1. Breakfast is: A. Fruits, nuts, vegetables or a whole-grain product. B. Unsweetened cereal with soy or almond milk. C. Conventional, sweetened cereal with cow’s milk. D. Doughnuts and sweet coffee.
2. During the day you drink: A. Water or herbal tea. B. Coffee or tea, plain with no sweetener. C. Diet soda. D. Sugary soda, coffee or tea.
3. Mid-afternoon, you feel: A. Energetic, as always. B. A little sluggish, but you can still function productively. C. Slow. You reach for a cup of coffee or a diet soda in order to make it to the end of the day. D. Burned-out. You can’t focus until you’ve had chocolate and a can of Coke.
4. How do you feel when you eat dessert? A. That it’s just not worth eating such junk. B. Enjoyment. C. A little happier. D. Euphoric.
5. Fresh fruit is: A. Sweet and delicious. You eat five pieces a day. B. Tasty. You have at least one piece of fruit every day. C. OK, but you’d rather have apple pie than an apple. D. Completely unappealing. You’re more into cupcakes.
6. After a few bites of your favorite brownie, you: A. Do not eat sugary foods. B. Feel satisfied and move on with your day. C. Are tempted to eat more, but force yourself to stop. D. Completely lose control and whoops, there goes the whole tray.
7. A sugar craving hits. How do you cope? A. This rarely happens, but when it does, you get on with your day, knowing it’ll pass. B. Remind yourself that the food is not bringing you closer to your goal of good health and eat a piece of fruit instead. C. Find another sugary alternative to quell the craving. D. Get whatever it is you’re craving, because you can’t think about anything else.
8. It’s been a long, hard day, so you: A. Exercise and try to relax. B. Space out in front of the TV with a stiff drink. C. Allow yourself one slice of cake or one piece of candy. D. Binge on ice cream.
9. If you go without sugar for a few days, you feel: A. No different. You rarely eat sugar. B. Brighter and more energetic. C. Tired and your head hurts. D. Weak and anxious. You also have significant headaches and fatigue.
10. The idea of giving up sugar sounds: A. Easy, since you almost never eat it anyway. B. Like a healthy thing to do, but you want to have sugary foods occasionally. C. Good, but you don’t think it’s possible. D. Scary. Sugary foods are your comfort during times of emotional distress.
11. The feelings you perceive as hunger are: A. A drawing sensation in the throat, but it’s not very uncomfortable. B. A grumbling stomach. C. Light-headedness and headaches. D. Headaches accompanied with anxiety or irritability, and the inability to concentrate.
Now tally up the number of A’s, B’s, C’s and D’s you got.
Mostly A’s. You’re a health-conscious abstainer. You’re aware of the dangers and addictive nature of sugar, so you don’t include it in your diet. Instead, you choose to curb your cravings with things like fresh fruit.
Mostly B’s. There’s some room for improvement in the nutrient density of your diet, but you do limit your sugar intake. Because you try and avoid eating too sweet, you don’t often experience the addictive drives associated with these foods.
Mostly C’s. You’re not dangerously addicted yet, but probably on your way. You’re accustomed to excessively sweet tastes and frequently feel the drive to overconsume sugar-laden foods. You rely on your willpower to limit your portions, but even a little bit of sugar can cause your brain to demand more, and addictive drives usually overcome willpower.
Mostly D’s. Sorry, but you’re addicted and you’re probably aware that your need for sugar is harming your health. But you feel helpless and so far, have been unable to break the habit.
How to overcome your addiction to sugar
It sounds insurmountable, but Fuhrman says that abstaining from the junk is the only way you’ll kick the habit.
“Eating right is self-care, not deprivation. Lessen temptation by keeping your kitchen stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables and getting rid of any junk food you have at home. And don’t be afraid to ask for support. Let your friends and family know that you’re cutting back on the crap and eating for health.”