Episode 147 – How Sweet It Is: Why We Are Wired For Sugar (and What To Do About It)

In this re-released episode from October 2020, Dr. Lisa and Dr. Toni discuss why we crave sugar and how it impacts your health negatively in more ways than you might realize. We also uncover some effective behavioural and replacement hacks to get those cravings under control (and possibly quit sugar!).

What’s the big deal about sugar?

Your sugar intake is likely much higher than the sugar intake of your ancestors – the average American intake of sugar (mostly from fruit and veggies) in the late 1800s and early 1900s was 15 grams a day. Now the average adult intake is 55 grams a day and 73 grams a day for adolescents.

Not long ago, Type 2 Diabetes used to be called Adult Onset Diabetes. They had to change the name because more and more kids were developing diabetes that wasn’t typical juvenile diabetes (now known as Type 1 Diabetes). 

In a study of 154 countries, scientists found that adding 150 calories a day to the diet barely raised the risk of diabetes in the population, but if those 150 calories came from regular soda, the risk of diabetes went up by 700 percent.

In this episode, Dr. Lisa and Dr. Toni cover:

  • What is sugar
  • How to find out how much added sugar is in your food
  • How much sugar is healthy for you
  • The impact of sugar on your health
  • Strategies to change your sugar habits

There are 2 categories of sugar:

  • Naturally occurring sugar: found in food, eg. fruit, milk, almonds!
    • 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: 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
  • Honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, agave nectar, evaporated cane juice
  • Concentrated juice
  • High fructose corn syrup AKA glucose-fructose

Sugar can impact your immune system function:

  • 1 tsp of sugar decreases certain kinds of immune function by 50%, recent research shows it’s even more important when you’re fighting off a bacterial infection, like urinary tract infection or strep throat.
  • Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF) can be carcinogenic and drive the cancerous process; recent research is looking at low carb ketogenic diet to treat cancer

High fructose corn syrup is known to cause bloating and gas!

How do you know how much sugar is in your food?

You can read the Nutrition Facts label of all processed food

  • Look at serving size first – 
  • Check protein and fat grams
  • Check carbohydrate and sugar grams
    • Subtract fibre grams from carbohydrate grams for net carbohydrate amount

Compare labels, read ingredients lists and choose one that has less or no added sugar. Avoid products that have a type of sugar listed in the first 3 ingredients.

Do you dare to know how much sugar is in a grande Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte?

How much sugar is healthy?

The World Health Organization recommendations for adults:

  • Less than 10% of total energy intake from free sugars, or 50 grams or less if you consume 2000 calories daily
  • Ideally less than 5% of total energy intake for additional health benefits
    • 2000 calories/day: 100 calories = 25 grams = about 6 tsp

The American Heart Association recommends that women get no more than 6 tsp per day (1 tsp equals 4 grams).

Sugar can increase your risk of:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Fatty liver
  • Inflammation
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Dental decay
  • Alzheimer’s and dementia (which is being called “Type 3 diabetes of the brain”)
  • Acne
  • Hormonal imbalances such as PCOS
  • Anxiety and mood swings
  • Early aging

Your brain is wired for sugar! The more you eat, the more you want. We have evolved to seek out sugar for survival, but we have access to an abundance of sugar now. It’s important to hack into your evolutionary instinct to reach for sugary foods by looking at your behaviours around sugar.

How do you use sugary foods?

  1. Routine, automatic or mindless intake
    • Instead, drink a glass of water or tea
  2. As a reward
    • Instead, try a non-food reward like reading a book, watching a movie or TV show, calling a friend
  3. For energy
    • Instead, look for root cause for low energy and address it – check out Episode 18

Tips to Change Your Sugar Habits:

  • Set a timer to distract yourself with another activity if you have a sugar craving
  • Drink a glass or water 
  • Brush your teeth and floss after dinner to prevent late night snacking
  • Drink something bitter or acidic like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to cleanse your palate
  • Eat or drink something healthy that is naturally sweet, like rooibos tea or an apple with almond or hazelnut butter

Today’s Mama Must Haves:

Dr. Toni is a big fan of documentary films for entertaining education around topics like sugar and recommends Fed Up Movie and That Sugar Film for more info and motivation to kick the sugar habit.

Dr. Lisa recommends this chocolate avocado pudding recipe as a healthy treat without added sugar.

What’s Else is Happening?

Dr. Toni’s next HypnoBirthing session for expecting parents looking to decrease fear and anxiety to support their natural instincts around labour and birth is happening this fall. Join her at https://www.hypnobirthingcalgary.com/register

Dr. Lisa’s Wild Collective Masterclasses are happening this week and enrollment is open till mid-October- find out more about this revolutionary and international program. Follow Lisa on instagram @drlisaweeksND – link to masterclass is in her BIO and we will share the registration link in the show notes.

Thank you for joining us today! 

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Please tell your perimenopausal mama friends about us, too!

Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Disclaimer: The information provided is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed health care practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed health care professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.