To avoid succumbing to a sugar craving this Halloween, keep gum on hand or reach for a piece of fruit instead.

Why we love sugar - and why we shouldn’t

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It is estimated that Americans purchase 600 million pounds of Halloween candy each year – that is an average of about two pounds of candy per person. Most people don’t realize how easy it is to gain weight from sugar because it seems to not have as many risks as saturated fat, trans fat or sodium.

Why We Love Sugar

So why is it so difficult to pass up these sweet treats? Part of it lies in the effect sugar has on the brain. According to neuroscientists, consuming sugar increases dopamine, which is the brain’s reward and pleasure center. Sugar consumption also releases opioids in the brain leading to a feeling of pleasure. Think of it this way: If sugar produces a feel good sensation and we want to feel good, then consumption of sugar can get out of control.

Candy can add calories to your diet without any beneficial nutrients, and it doesn’t even make you full. Plus, sugar is one of the biggest contributors to the nation’s obesity epidemic. One normal size candy bar can pack on extra 200-300 non-nutritional calories to your daily intake and these extra calories can make a person gain weight. A typical adult would have to walk briskly for about an hour to burn off the calories in one candy bar.

Why We Shouldn’t

The American Heart Association recommends a maximum intake of no more than 6 teaspoons (100 calories) of added sugars for women, and no more than 9 teaspoons (150 calories) of added sugars for men. It is okay to consume sugar in moderation, but when it becomes part of every meal or snack, diet and habits needs to be reconsidered.

However, it’s important to point out that sugars coming from fruit are less concerning given their high amounts of disease-fighting compounds and fiber. Also, simple sugars from low-fat milk (in the form of lactose) do not display the same negative health effects as seen in literature when reviewing sugar’s effects on the body.

We do not need added sugar in our diets at all. Sugar has no nutritional value except for providing calories – it does not fuel your body. This Halloween, try to avoid the candy all together. To avoid succumbing to a sugar craving, keep gum on hand or reach for a piece of fruit instead. It may be easier said than done, but your body will thank you later.