Is Sugar Addictive?
Many of my conversations through the day involve talk about sugar or sugar addiction. Many of us know we eat too much, but we don’t know what is a reasonable amount and we might struggle to truly change our habits. Sometimes, people tell me they are “addicted” to sugar. I am not convinced that this is a term we should use. Yes, sugar does have some addictive properties, but as with many pleasures in this world, sugar is a delightful gift from the Lord. Have you ever thought about it like that?
I am confident that the Lord has given us all we need to think logically about this. He has also given us His fruits of the Spirit to help us change our habits for good. This can be challenging for many of us, but trust me, it is worth it for your short-term (energy levels) and long-term (heart disease, diabetes, cancer, inflammation) health.
What happens in the body?
Our bodies have appetite centers in our brains that are triggered when we eat something delicious. It creates “feel good” (dopamine) chemicals that teach our bodies to desire more of that substance. Sugar creates this dopamine release in all of us, but in some of us more than others. So, yes, sugar has some addictive properties, but also, God gives us many gifts that can help us find victory even when it comes to eating too much sugar.
How much is too much sugar?
About 15% of the calories in the American adult diet come from added sugars.1 That equals about 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sweeteners to no more than 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men per day, on average. That recommendation includes all sweeteners: agave, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, raw sugar, etc. They all have similar effects on our body, and so choosing a “healthier” sugar isn’t really a thing. That means we are eating 2-4 times as much sugar as we should be!
What does God Say?
The Bible addresses addictions in multiple ways. It talks a lot about our attitudes related to many of the good gifts God has given us and exhorts us to keep God as our ultimate source of joy. It also talks about taking care of our bodies well for God’s glory.
The Bible also talks a lot about self-control and other fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). I hear people say, “I can’t follow that diet, I don’t have any willpower.” Or maybe, “after trying so many weight loss plans, I don’t have any willpower left.” Let’s look at self-control from a biblical perspective. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, and we know that we have this fruit as believers in Christ.
God commands for us to practice self-control behaviors regularly, and this includes with food.
Self-control applies to our relationships with all kinds of things on this earth. The enemy is constantly trying to entice us with things that we will love more than our God. One of these things can be food. We must guard against the temptation to make sugary foods too much a part of our day. Remember that including some treats is perfectly fine! If you are having trouble understanding how much is too much, send me a message and I can help!
The Bible warns us about what it looks like not to have self-control. Proverbs 25:28 tells us that “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” When we live in this world without self-control, this Proverb is telling us we will leave ourselves open for harm and further temptation. God calls us to fix our broken walls and guard against this so that we do not fall into temptation. 1 Peter 1:13 tells us that self-control begins in our minds. What floats around in our daily thoughts often determines what actions we take. Is our thinking disciplined? Do we understand the harm excess sugar can do to our bodies? Are we motivated to take care of our bodies in the best way we know how?
Strengthening your Muscle
Practicing self-control is like strengthening a muscle, the more you practice it, the stronger you will be. It is also like a muscle in that, when you use it too much, you can fatigue it and it will fail on you. There is a balance here. When your diet includes a list of too many “forbidden foods” you will likely fatigue your self-control muscle. There might be some high sugar foods you can completely cut out, or you may want to consider gradually reducing others.
You may want to start to strengthen your self-control muscle by saying no to added sugars. Cut out desserts and high sugar for this week to help your body “reset”. Make sure to include plenty of natural sugars like fruits. Remember to keep the balance of nourishment and pleasure in God’s purpose for food. Let us love God’s commands and know they are not only good for our souls, but for our bodies as well.
Want to know more about what God says about Nutrition? Check out My Food and Faith Program!
- Sweet Stuff: How Sugars and Sweeteners Affect Your Health https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/oct2014/feature1. October 2014.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.
Join the discussion 2 Comments
Hello Jennifer, I prayed this morning because I am struggling with knowing how to handle my sugar addiction. Being in recovery from drugs and alcohol for 38 years and follower of Jesus is led me to the question of whether or not I should be in recovery/complete abstinence from all sugar or not… What are your thoughts on this? I really appreciate your time and your thoughts. Your sister in Jesus and wanting to follow the Holy Spirit in this. The truth will set me free!
Thanks so much for your comment. I am praying for you today. It really depends on the person if the complete abstinence from sugar is the right goal for you. Have you tried fasting from sugar recently? What was the result? Knowing a bit more of a history about what you have tried can help me guide you further. I am happy to chat with you more about this. I love that your heart is in the right place and wanting to follow God. The right motivation really does make it easier. Blessings to you in your journey, and please let me know if I can help you further. Jenn