Dr. Lisa and Dr. Toni are back talking about alternate forms of sugar (“natural” and artificial). They discuss how fructose and high fructose corn syrup can lead to fatty liver and metabolic syndrome; how and why you can still gain weight from drinking diet soda, and tangible ways to decrease your sugar cravings.

Check out our previous conversation about sugar at Episode 45 

2 categories of sugar:

  • Naturally occurring sugar: found in food, eg. fruit, milk
    • Fibre, protein and fat also found in that food will slow down release of sugar into bloodstream for better blood sugar balance
    • Nutrients needed to process sugar already included
  • Added sugar: refined sugar added to processed foods eg. pop, baked goods, yogurt, salad dressings, salsa and other sauces

What is Sugar?

  • Sucrose – table sugar from sugar cane or beets
  • Fructose, glucose, lactose and anything ending with -ose

Other Sweeteners Include:

Honey – minimally processed natural sweetener with some health benefits, such as for coughs, sore throats, antimicrobial action

  • Source of glucose and fructose
  • More dense than sugar with trace amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, especially if raw

Maple syrup

  • Source of sucrose
  • Contains small amounts of minerals like zinc
  • Beware of maple-flavoured syrup which is not pure maple syrup!

Agave nectar or syrup – highly refined

  • Source of fructose
    • Easily converts to fat in your liver, increasing your risk of heart disease and diabetes
    • Can cause you to experience gas, bloating, digestive upset

Brown rice syrup

  • Source of glucose
  • Higher levels of arsenic in rice may contaminate the syrup

Coconut sugar

  • Source of sucrose
  • Contains trace amounts of minerals like potassium and the prebiotic fibre inulin that feeds your microbiome

High fructose corn syrup aka glucose-fructose

  • 55% fructose and 45% glucose (compared to regular sugar that is 50:50)
  • Higher levels of fructose can increase your chances of developing fatty liver
  • Can cause you to experience gas, bloating, digestive upset

Artificial sweeteners:

  • Chemicals such as aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium
  • Don’t raise your blood sugar levels, but could still lead to weight gain, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and addictive behaviour
    • Research has shown that daily consumption of diet drinks was associated with 36% higher risk of metabolic syndrome and 67% increased risk for type 2 diabetes
    • Studies showed most rats who were exposed to cocaine would choose artificial sweetener saccharin over cocaine if given the choice


  • Extracted from plant
  • Can be 200-300 times sweeter than sugar
  • Research has shown possible positive impact on blood sugar and cholesterol balance, though different extracts are questionable
  • Likely best to use whole plant 

Sugar Alcohols

  • Creates less blood sugar and insulin response than other forms of sugar
  • Erythritol has less impact on gut than xylitol and sorbitol
  • Xylitol and erythritol has to shown to prevent dental cavities, though in high amounts

Monk fruit extract (Luo Han Guo)

  • Newer natural sweetener available with less impact on blood sugar

How do you know if a sweetener is increasing your blood sugar or insulin?

Consider testing your blood sugar at home with a glucometer or the following blood work at a lab through your medical or naturopathic doctor:

  • Fasting glucose
  • Fasting insulin
  • Hemoglobin A1c
  • Lipid panel (cholesterol, triglycerides)
  • Liver enzymes (GGT, ALT, AST)

Ask yourself why you are reaching for sugary or sweet foods:

  • Low energy?
  • Using it as a reward?
  • Out of habit or boredom?
  • Addicted or want to feel better?
    • Looking for a dopamine or serotonin boost from sugar
  • Not enough sleep?
    • Poor sleep can increase ghrelin hormone that increases sugar cravings

How you can change your taste buds:

  • Making the decision to shift your mindset and change your behaviour around sugar can be an important first step
  • Either go off sugar and alternatives cold turkey or slowly reduce the amount you take in
  • Mixing sugary foods with healthy fats so you feel more satisfied from your food
  • Using nutrients like L-glutamine, chromium, 5-HTP or the herb gymnema

Today’s Tip:

Make one small change at a time. Start slow and identify an area you can improve upon. Choose one type of food at a time, like bread, salad dressing or salsa, and pick an option that has less sugar in it.

Today’s Mama Must Have:

Dr. Toni is a big fan of having L-glutamine in combination with other gut healing nutrients like NAG on hand at home to help with decreasing sugar cravings and supporting digestive health (for more info on leaky gut and your microbiome see Episode 8)

Dr. Lisa likes using a light box in the morning when meditating for improving mood and energy as the days get shorter. 

Get on our SUGAR-FREE DETOX WAITLIST to be the first to hear when we launch our next Free 5-Day Sugar-Free Reset Challenge!

Thank you for joining us today! 

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Stay safe and healthy everyone!