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Are you just cranky or addicted to sugar? A local expert explains the pernicious side of sweetness

Is your sweet tooth making you sour?

Feeling a little depressed, cranky, and unmotivated? It could be the post-holiday blues. But maybe it’s the sugar. Americans eat an average of 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, according to the American Heart Association. And not just from desserts.

Even if you’re a generally healthy eater, don’t add sugar to your coffee, and pass on the cupcakes circulating in the office, you still may be getting way more sugar than your body needs, says Connie Bennett, C.H.H.C., author of Sugar Shock! How Sweets and Simple Carbs can Derail Your Life—And How You Can Get Back On Track. That’s because of the sugar added to processed foods. “Whenever you eat refined foods from a can, jar, or package, there’s a very good chance that you’re consuming added sweeteners, especially high fructose corn syrup. We’re not just talking about sweets like candies, cookies, and cakes,” says Bennett. “Many people are surprised to learn that canned veggies, crackers, and frozen foods—even the diet ones—also contain high fructose corn syrup.” Sweet Jesus.

After kicking her sugar addiction almost a decade ago, and noticing a number of physical and emotional issues vanish with it—her book lists 44 in all, from mood swings and exhaustion to difficulty concentrating and severe PMS—the Upper West Side resident became obsessed with learning more about the pernicious side of sweetness. “I was skeptical that just giving up sugar could clear up all those ailments,” she said.

Now a holistic health counselor and life coach, Bennett uses her research to help others kick the sugar habit through workshops like the 4-week course at the New York Open Center starting next week. During the course, Bennett shares her 50-some tips and tactics that help combat sugar cravings, which is a huge concern for people, she says. Participants will create their own long-term sugar-banishing plans, and learn from NYC food experts like Vanessa Barg of Gnosis Chocolate and Jared Koch, author of Clean Plates.

So, what if you don’t necessarily have a sugar addiction, but still want to cut back? Bennett says, it’s all about bringing mindfulness and balance to your eating. “If I eat an apple, which is high in natural sugar, I always make sure to have some protein like almond butter with it,” she says. And at the great restaurants around the city? Bennett requests all sauces and dressings on the side. “You cut sugar, fat, and calories. Besides, what’s the point of being healthy and ordering a salad if they are going to drown it, and I mean DROWN it, with salty, sugary, fattening dressing?”

Sugar Shock! author Connie Bennett

And if you think you can get away with eating that cookie because it’s made with agave nectar, think again. “People who are health conscious think it’s okay to eat agave [because the body absorbs it more slowly]. But agave is high in fructose. All sugars are equal opportunity destroyers if you have too much of them,” says Bennett. By moving away from sugar, she says, “you’re moving towards a sweeter, more satisfying life.”

The “Sugar Shock! Breaking Free of Your Sugar Habit” workshop, New York Open Center. 4 sessions: Tuesdays, January 12- February 2, 6–7:30pm. Members, $120; Non-members, $130. For private counseling, contact Connie Bennett through www.sugarshock.com

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