Break Free Of Your Sugar Addiction

December 24, 2022

In our show today, we are going to talk about a substance that many of our listeners have a love/hate relationship with. If you’ve tried to give up sugar in the past by white-knuckling it for awhile only to find yourself back at the store buying all of your sugary favorites, this show is for you! If you are hooked on sugar, please know that you are not alone and it’s not your fault. In this show, we’ll dive into the science and biochemistry of why sugar is so addictive – and we are going to give you solutions on how to finally break free of your sugar addiction. We’ll talk about the blood sugar component, the pleasurable reward pathway in the brain, and practical strategies you can take today that don’t relay only on willpower alone.

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TERESA: Hello, this is Teresa, one of the dietitians at Nutritional Weight and Wellness. Before we start the show, I have a question for you. This time of year, do you feel tired or sluggish, or wish you had more energy left at the end of the day? Or maybe you feel like weight gain and the holiday season go hand in hand? Well, guess what? You can regain control of your metabolism, reclaim your health, and enjoy fewer cravings, aches and pains, and so much more in 2023 with our Nutrition for Weight Loss program.

The Nutrition for Weight Loss program includes two class series: Foundations and Ongoing Support and Education to ensure that you have the support you need to be successful in achieving your health goals. If you are ready to enjoy more vibrant health in 2023, join us in January for Nutrition for Weight Loss class series. To reserve your spot, visit Again, that's We look forward to seeing you in class. Thanks for listening to Dishing Up Nutrition and enjoy the show.

Sign Up for Nutrition 4 Weight Loss

KARA: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition. Today's show is brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. We're a company that specializes in life-changing nutrition education and counseling. In our show today, we're going to talk about a substance that many of you have a love-hate relationship with. In fact, you might wake up thinking about it, wondering when you're going to get your next fix. If you don't have any in your house, you might even find yourself driving to the nearest gas station or grocery store to replenish the supply.

What is this addictive substance that Americans consume a half pound of every single day? All right, listeners, if you guessed sugar, you got it right. And if you do wake up thinking about sugar, fall asleep thinking about sugar, I just want you to know you're not alone. Dr. Robert Lustig, he's a pediatric doctor and he wrote The Truth About Sugar. He states that “Sugar is as harmful and addictive as substances like cocaine or tobacco.” He says that, “Trying to give up a sugar addiction by using sheer willpower, it's similar to trying to not drink a glass of water when you're extremely thirsty.”

My cohost and I today will dive into the science and the biochemistry of why sugar is so addictive. We're going to also, of course, give you solutions how you can break free finally once and for all of your sugar addiction. So I will briefly introduce myself. My name is Kara Carper. I'm a Licensed Nutritionist, Certified Nutrition Specialist. I have a master's in holistic health; very pleased to be here today with Melanie Beasley. Mel is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. She sees clients at the local Eagan office and like our other dietitians she does virtual appointments via Zoom and she teaches classes. She's a busy gal. Great to see you, Mel.

History on sugar consumption


MELANIE: I think the world is busy right now. Thanks Kara. This is fun always to see you in studio. Kara, you know, sugar has a hold on so many of my clients. I hear about it every day and you know, sugar was not always so readily available to us. In fact, in the 1700s, the average sugar consumption in one year was a total of four pounds, four pounds of added sugar spread out over a whole year. If you calculate how much sugar that is in one day, listen listeners, it was only a little over a teaspoon per day. Well picture putting a teaspoon of sugar in your coffee and that's it. That's all the sugar that you get in the entire day.

KARA: Yep. And then fast forward, let's fast forward a hundred years. We're in the 1800s now. The average American consumed 18 pounds of sugar in a year. So that was kind of a big leap. By the 1900s, that number increased to 90 pounds per year on average.

MELANIE: Not much, but still we have to look at those 90 pounds, and today we're averaging 160 pounds. So compared to then, we are really, really consuming sugar per year. All added sugars, and mostly in the form of table sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Of course, people are not spooning all that sugar into their coffee or their tea, but it's interesting that out of the 160 pounds in a year, about 30 pounds does come from the sugar bowl, the white table sugar.

KARA: Yeah. And that is actually kind of surprising, that 30 pounds out of the 160, that sounds like a lot coming from the sugar bowl, but most of it, the majority is coming from food, from beverages. Some of the obvious ones, you know, soda, candy, cupcakes, cookies, donuts, all the other treats and desserts. And we can't forget about the hidden sources though. Sugar is in all kinds of things. For example, sweetened yogurt. Did you ever think about that?

MELANIE: Yeah. And that's a health food. Right?

KARA: Right. We think like yogurt and granola, very high sugar. In fact, all cereal, cereal bars, they're ladened with sugar; muffins. Even things like ketchup, potato chips. In fact, sugar is on the ingredient list of 75% of the foods found in grocery stores. And there are a lot of names for sugar. Dr. Robert Lustig wrote a guide called Sugar Has 56 Names: A Shopper's Guide. And I looked at that online. It's actually really interesting. There's things like evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, and many, many more.

MELANIE: Yep. And just to circle back to the potato chips, I think that might be a sticking point for listeners that are not used to listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Potato chips are actually high sugar because how they convert to sugar in the bloodstream.

KARA: Exactly. Because potatoes by nature are very starchy; high carbohydrate convert into glucose quickly.

MELANIE: Yep. Like that, like bread. So Kara, if someone is listening and knows that sugary foods and beverages have a hold on them, maybe they feel like they don't have control and are unable to stop. They've tried to give up sugar in the past by white knuckling it for a while only to find themselves back at the store buying the M&M’s, the candy bars, the soda. There's often, often a cycle with white knuckling for a while, and then binging. One little temptation gets them off track. And that's the tipping point.

Is that resonating with anybody listening today? Maybe you're saying, “That's me.” Well, how effective do you think it would be if you stopped eating sugar and drinking soda because it's bad for your health? Well, I think probably a lot of people have tried that.

KARA: Exactly.

MELANIE: And it is really much more complicated than that.

KARA: Yeah, Mel. And although we know that people have the best of intentions, of course they want to stop eating sugar. Nobody wants to be addicted to sugar.

MELANIE: Or anything.

KARA: Exactly. If it were that simple, you know, nobody would be struggling. But you and I just simply over the airwaves telling them to stop, it's probably not the most effective solution.

MELANIE: Because I think most people have probably tried.

KARA: Of course, of course they have. We're we understand that. We want to spend the rest of today's show giving solutions on what's going to make that process easier to give up sugar. But I think it's important that we kind of do a deeper dive and look at the biochemistry of why it is so addictive in the first place. And the most important thing to know is if this does resonate with you, if you're hooked on sugar, you're not alone. It's not your fault. And it has nothing to do with willpower.

MELANIE: Yep. It's not character, it's chemistry. And there is so much more to the sugar story. Researchers surveyed almost 10,000 people and 82% reported that being addicted to or overeating sugar. So listeners, if this is you, you are definitely not alone. I had a video appointment with a client last week. She was really struggling with all the Christmas cookies, the candy being brought into her office. Coworkers leave them in the break room, and they were just calling her name all day long.

So she was doing great for a while and she was eating real foods, but the pull was really too strong. And she got back in the habit. I think she had a bad day, and said, I deserve a couple cookies. And I asked her, when you eat the cookies in the break room, how does that affect your body? How does that affect your mind? What would it take to let go of your relationship with sugar? And she told me, I felt physically ill for two weeks. You know what got me started? I kept forgetting to bring a healthy snack.

KARA: Okay. So that was a great question to ask her. Because she had to reflect on that.

MELANIE: Yeah. But these are all, you know, listeners, these are questions you have to ask yourself in order to problem solve the issue instead of doing, like we were talking, just power through.

KARA: Right.

MELANIE: And not have it.

What is your "why" to stop eating sugar?


KARA: White knuckle. Exactly. Because that usually that doesn't end up lasting very long. So Mel, it sounds like what you're saying is that paying attention to the mental effects of sugar, the physical effects of sugar, it's really important; problem solving. Why did this happen in the first place? So just getting in touch with that, and it, it sounds like also what you're saying is that people need to find their personal reason for stop to stop eating sugar.

MELANIE: Good. That's great.

KARA: They need to find those one or two really important reasons why life would be better on the other side of the sugar addiction.

MELANIE: I think a lot of people inherently know that they don't want to be addicted to sugar. It frustrates them. And that's what you said is exactly right, Kara. It turns out she was experiencing some short-term benefits, right? If she was feeling an energy slump in the afternoon, those Christmas cookies would instantly perk up her mood and energy in the short term. It gave her almost a sugar rush or high.

But when she really thought about it, the after effects were the opposite. Within an hour of eating the cookies, she was even more fatigued and feeling depressed and then ashamed having given into her cravings. She felt defeated like the Christmas cookies had control over her and she had lost control. And when we dig even deeper, it turns out that she would be bloating, really loose stools, a poor night's sleep, and would wake up the next morning and her hands would hurt, making it hard for her to use her computer at work. So all these negative symptoms occurred after indulging in the break room Christmas cookies. And as we worked together, we had some solutions. And we'll talk about that after break.

KARA: You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. For those listening to our live show, today is December 31st, New Year's Eve. That means tomorrow's the start of an entirely new year: 2023. For many people, this is an ideal time to start fresh. Start with a clean slate when it comes to creating new, healthier habits, decreasing sugar intake. Maybe even cutting out sugar is typically at the top of the list. Eating healthier and losing weight are also in the top five New Year's resolution goals. At Nutritional Weight and Wellness, we have a lot of resources to support you. I really love that we have online classes as one of our resources. It's a very flexible way to get this life-changing nutrition information. It's only $25. So Mel's going to share more about that right after break.


MELANIE: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. I'm Melanie Beasley, licensed dietitian here with Kara Carper, a licensed nutritionist. And we have several educational online classes and one is called Breaking the Sugar Habit. The instructors will go over how to curb your sugar cravings with balanced eating and supplements to support intestinal and brain health. And you'll learn how breaking the sugar habit can prevent serious health complications in the future.

KARA: For $25, you can watch the class at your convenience and you have four months to access the content, plus you get 10% off any supplements as a one-time offer just for registering for the class. You can go to for more information and to register. If you prefer to talk to a live person, call our office at (651) 699-3438. They can walk you through the process and answer any questions you have.

Sign Up for Breaking the Sugar Habit – Online Class

MELANIE: Yep. They're great. And before we went to break, I was telling you about a client of mine and how she indulged in some office treats that were being brought in. And the effect that she was having was her hands were hurting, her body was hurting. Her stools became very loose. Her sleep was disruptive. I think she even was having some hot flashing. It was making it difficult to work. And all of these negative symptoms occurred after indulging in too much sugar. And as we worked together, I wanted her to recognize how her body responded to the sugar. Then she can make an informed decision about her food choices.

KARA: So those are a, that's a lot of negative effects from indulging in Christmas cookies. I think a lot of people can relate to all of those things.

MELANIE: And I think there's a lot of people that just go through life thinking, well this is just how my body feels.

KARA: Yeah.

MELANIE: But it's not until you do that little experiment of removing and then sometimes adding it back to say, oh wow, I really did feel lousy.

KARA: Yeah, exactly. Well, Mel, what ended up being your client's let's call it her why; basically her main reason for being open to stopping the Christmas cookie habit or any sugar for that matter?

MELANIE: Well, I think, you know, like all of us, she wanted to feel good, but ultimately we talked about her family history, and her father had passed when he was in his seventies due to complications from type two diabetes. And that that was really scary for her because she knew there's a small genetic component to type two diabetes.

But I told her 90% of her health is actually in her control based on food choices and lifestyle habits. And we talked about how her fasting blood sugars had been creeping up towards 100 and the doctors were telling her she was headed for prediabetes. She certainly wanted to make some changes. That was just not a portion she wanted.

KARA: Yeah, I totally understand that. That's really powerful. So her main why was to avoid prediabetes or even type two diabetes down the road.

MELANIE: Exactly.

Sleep is critical to keep cravings at bay


KARA: But it sounds like breaking free of sugar would also provide other benefits, you know, better night's sleep, fewer hot flashes and night sweats, less pain in her hands, fewer trips to the bathroom. So the interesting thing about the poor night's sleep aspect is that a poor night's sleep actually interferes with the hormone that tells us we're full and satisfied. And on the flip side, the hormone that makes us feel more hungry and have cravings is increased from a poor night's sleep.

MELANIE: Not a situation we want. Right?


MELANIE: When we're trying to battle cravings.

KARA: Research done at the sleep center in Chicago found that when study participants slept less than six hours, the very next day they ate an average of 25% more calories.

MELANIE: 25% more.

KARA: Yeah. And I think, I can't remember the exact breakdown, but I think half of them were more of sugary.

MELANIE: You crave carbs and sugar.

KARA: Exactly. And lack of, so lack of sleep creates more sugar cravings. So for your client, I mean that was kind of a vicious cycle, right?

MELANIE: Really, really. And like we said, it's chemistry. If we get the chemistry breaking up that vicious cycle, you feel like, oh, finally I'm in control of the food and the food's not in control of me. And if you're listening and this is you saying, hey, this sounds like me, and you feel that sugar is controlling your life and has a hold on you, think about what your main reason is to break free from that hold. I mean that, that is very powerful if you put that before you. How about grabbing a piece of paper and a pen? You can write down your reason. Write down your why. Put it where you can see it. I have clients take a picture of it with their cell phone and put it as their screensaver. How many times do we check our cell phones a day? And then they put it before them that they don't forget this is my why.

KARA: Yeah. Yeah. People need that reminder all day long. Right?

MELANIE: We forget. We get frustrated. We're busy. Those visual reminders are so powerful. You have to be able to see this dozens of times per day. And most of us have our cell phones with us a good portion of the day, Kara. So I think that really works.

KARA: Yeah. And after our listeners, so hopefully everybody wrote down their why. What would be a good next step for our listeners?

Balanced blood sugar is key


MELANIE: Well, as a registered dietitian, I like to have my clients focus on what they can do and what they can eat. There's a lot of focus put on the big no of certain foods and beverages. I mean, we almost feel like they're naughty foods or bad foods that we shouldn't be eating. But I want people to have practical solutions on what they can eat. That helps to keep their blood sugar balanced or the glucose balanced throughout the day. Because low blood sugar levels cause cravings for anything sweet. Our brain is fueled by glucose.

So it starts getting low fuel messages. Certain signals are sent to raising that blood sugar as fast as possible. And it's, it's really survival mechanism. Things that raise your blood sugar levels fast are again, those high sugar foods and drinks. Alcohol's another one. People will say, I crave wine and processed carbs that converts rapidly into sugar into the bloodstream. It's like, like you said, Kara, it's a vicious cycle.

KARA: Yeah. And like a, a processed carb example, there's a lot of them, but like the potato chips, we talked about. Right? Or the bread.

MELANIE: I love when clients say, I don't have a sweet tooth, I just want those chips or crusty bread. And I'm like, it's a sweet tooth.

KARA: It is in a sense because it's also rapidly converting into glucose.


How to balance blood sugar


KARA: Just like eating a sugary treat. So low blood sugar can cause cravings not just for the Christmas cookies, cupcakes and candy, but muffins, chips, cereal, popcorn, bread. To keep blood sugar stable, most people are going to feel best when they eat four to five times per day. And the most important part of that is including a protein and a healthy fat at every meal and every snack. That is the absolute key to balancing blood sugar levels, which is going to reduce cravings.

MELANIE: Yeah, that's, that's exactly the chemistry we were talking about. That usually means you've got to be eating about every three hours. For some people just to manage those intense cravings, I would suggest not going longer than four hours without eating a protein from an animal source and a healthy fat. I like those. They anchor that blood sugar.

KARA: I like when you say that: the anchor.

MELANIE: The anchor.

KARA: It is such a great visual.

MELANIE: Keep us from going astray. Right? Those cravings start to creep back in if you wait too long. So maybe you start the day with a couple eggs, a turkey sausage link, cook those eggs up in some butter, which is a good healthy fat. Cause our brain is fueled by glucose. It's important to have some real food carbohydrate like vegetables with meals and snacks. But really focusing on the protein and healthy fat is what will stabilize the blood sugar.

KARA: Mm-Hmm.

MELANIE: And then the fiber from the vegetable provides fiber that adds to a sense of fullness and also is a blood sugar stabilizer.

KARA: And I just want to pipe in and say, even though the brain is fueled by glucose, and most people do feel better if they have some moderate carbohydrate, preferably like a vegetable, it is really easy to overdo that carbohydrate piece.

MELANIE: Get started on potatoes.

KARA: Right. Right, right, right.

MELANIE: Half a cup is really difficult.

KARA: It's a half a cup of anything starchy. Of course the non-starchy would be unlimited. You can have the biggest salad that you want.


KARA: But you could pair it, you know, here's an example. Pairing eggs cooked in butter. So that's our protein in a healthy fat and maybe a little turkey sausage. So the carbohydrate, the a proper amount for stabilizing blood sugar would be maybe half a cup of fruit. Somewhere along the lines of 25 grams of carbohydrates with a meal is what we typically recommend.

MELANIE: You know, sometimes I will have clients just even count the carbohydrates they're eating at a meal as an eye opener, you know? And they have that cup of potatoes or the cup and a half of oatmeal and they're like, oh my goodness, I had no idea.

KARA: Right. Because that's more along the lines of a 50, 60, 70. A cup and a half.

MELANIE: Yeah, absolutely. Well, we're getting ready for our, our second break.

KARA: You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. We've been offering our Nutrition for Weight Loss program for many years and are excited that a continuation to the series was launched a couple months ago. Our owner, Dar, created this addition that's designed to provide graduates with continued education and support. It's so that the graduates are able to take their goals to the next level. The classes are titled Ongoing Support and Education. So we're going to give more details on that after break.


TERESA: Hello, it's Teresa again. Before we get back to the show, I wanted to let you know about a special event we have coming up called “What to Expect From Nutrition for Weight Loss”. probably heard us talk about the Nutrition for Weight Loss program. And maybe you're thinking, is this program right for me? Can it really help me achieve my health goals? If so, I invite you to join me on January 5th at 1:00 PM Central Standard Time for a free virtual event.

During this free event, I will tell you more about our Nutrition for Weight Loss program and share with you what you can expect over the course of the 12 week program. And we'll reserve a few minutes at the end of the event to answer your questions. Can't join me live? Not a problem. After the event, every registered participant will receive a link to the recorded event in their inbox. If you are ready to take control of your health in 2023 and you're wondering if Nutrition for Weight Loss is the program to help you do that, register for this free event at That's I hope you'll join us on January 5th to learn more about what to expect from the Nutrition for Weight Loss program. Thanks for listening to Dishing Up Nutrition and let's get back to the show.

MELANIE: Welcome back. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Recently we launched our Ongoing Support and Education class series for graduates of Nutrition for Weight Loss. Kara and I, alongside several other knowledgeable dietitians and nutritionists and educators, taught eight weeks of mind shifting behavior changing classes. I loved these classes. The ladies really support each other through the classes. It was fun and Kara and I can both speak that we truly we truly both enjoyed this experience. We invite you to sign up for the next session, which starts the week of January 9th. And you can call us at (651) 699-3438. You can get your questions answered and walk you through the process of how to sign up for that class.

Sign Up for Ongoing Support and Education

KARA: Yeah, and there are a lot of options for signing up. I know there are in-person Ongoing Support and Education classes at our offices. There's also a couple that will be offered via Zoom and basically Monday through Thursday, you know, at 6:30 PM Central. So it's going to be really exciting.

MELANIE: It's a really fun class to teach. Well, before we went to break, we were talking about how to anchor your blood sugar. And you know, my favorite is, which really helps with cravings, really helps you anchor your blood sugar so that you don't have those cravings is three to four ounces of animal protein with meals, a tablespoon of healthy fat. This is the formula. This is the magic for balancing your blood sugar to prevent those cravings.

KARA: So by eating four to five times per day, for some folks it might even need to be six times per day. I know, I know people that feel better when they're eating three meals and three balanced snacks. So it's that formula that you said that will greatly reduce sugar cravings.


KARA: So again, the sugar cravings are not coming from, like you said, poor character. They're not coming from a lack of willpower. They're biochemical. And Mel, I know you want to share specifics as to how and why protein, that animal protein is so important for someone that feels they're addicted to sugar.

Protein reduces sugar cravings: the dopamine connection


MELANIE: Yeah. At each meal and snack. So when you're eating those should always be included because I like to explain the nerdy science behind it and it's truly, for me, it's fascinating. So let's just back up to what's going on biochemically with someone who eats sugar or drinks sugary beverage. Sugar actually lights up and stimulates the addictive centers of the brain, which is also known as the pleasure and reward center. Enough said right there.

If you're someone who can't stop with just one and that's me. You can't stop with one cookie. You can't stop with, with one brownie. A Girl Scout cookie leads to the whole sleeve. It feels like you don't have control once you get going.

KARA: Mm-Hmm.

MELANIE: Well that comes from dopamine that is released when we eat the first one. Dopamine is one of our key neurotransmitters. It is a happy feel-good chemical. Dopamine plays a large role in many body functions, including pleasure, reward, and motivation. When my client ate her first couple of Christmas cookies in the break room, she felt pretty good, briefly. That's what she was experiencing was that short term high or that bump of dopamine being released. Well, when she experienced a drop in dopamine, her mood and her energy and focus dropped to a lower level than it was before she ate the cookie because that type of dopamine hit from sugar is really short-lived.

So of course she felt terrible and wanted to feel good again. So back she trucked to the break room for that third or fourth cookie and that created another short-term dopamine rush. So it felt a little better. And there begins that vicious cycle that we find ourselves in when we get started. I personally can't get started. I don't know about you, Kara, but I am not a I can just have a bite.

KARA: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I do so much better when my blood sugar is balanced when I'm eating those regular balanced meals, getting the animal protein, the healthy fat, not too much carbohydrate. I naturally don't have the, you know, the pull. It's really low blood sugar for me that does it every time. And then it's like, I can't stop, like you said.

MELANIE: Oh, you're my people.

KARA: I'm definitely your people. I, I get it. The short-term rush of dopamine feels so good our bodies naturally chase to get that pleasurable reward feeling again. It's the same pleasurable reward pathway that happens when someone has an addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, even something like screen time or social media. Have you ever, if you know, if someone's listening and you're on social media, have you ever posted something and then you get a notification that you had a like or a heart or maybe a view on Instagram? It's just a slight bit of pleasure. That is that dopamine. So if your phone is dinging with notifications and you notice, oh, I have a hundred likes, that is the same pleasurable reward pathway that's activated when we consume sugar.

MELANIE: Yes. And I, I know they've done experiments with mice where they would tap a bell and then get a treat, tap a bell and get sugar. And it got to where, you know, it, it pretty much sounded like an alarm system.

KARA: Oh, they were just tapping away.

MELANIE: So addicted.

KARA: Yeah.

MELANIE: And they've also done research where they, they gave mice two different pathways and one led to cocaine and one led to sugar. And the mice actually preferred, once they realized what was at the, each one, they preferred the sugar.

KARA: Wow.

MELANIE: Isn't that amazing?

KARA: It’s that dopamine. Yeah, even in animal studies.

MELANIE: So over time it takes more and more of the thing that gives us pleasure and reward. And after years of eating sugar or drinking alcohol or gambling or being glued to the screen, the dopamine receptors have been blunted. And it takes more and more just to even feel normal, let alone feel pleasure. This is where the addiction comes in. And circles of chemical addiction, it's termed chasing the dragon.

KARA: Oh, yes, I have heard that term before.

MELANIE: Have you heard that term?

KARA: Yeah. And we started talking about the importance of protein. I know our conversation took a really interesting turn and we started diving into how dopamine affects the pleasure and the reward centers of the brain. But I want to just circle back and tie in what specifically about protein will help this?

MELANIE: Yeah. Protein to the rescue here.

KARA: Yeah.

MELANIE: So Kara, the good news about this dopamine cycle triggered from sugar is that there are a lot of healthy things that trigger a release of dopamine as well. All is not lost. We talked about some of the unhealthy ways to stimulate a dopamine release like sugar, alcohol, drugs, gambling, social media, but protein also creates a release of dopamine. Protein, specifically animal protein breaks down into amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks for our happy feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine.

KARA: When we eat animal protein, it's broken down into amino acids. And the specific amino acid that's a precursor to dopamine, you may have heard of it, it's called L-tyrosine. And protein also breaks down into something called L-tryptophan, which converts into serotonin. That's another really important neurotransmitter. So while dopamine tends to be more stimulating, you know, you had talked about how it gives energy, focus, concentration, and positive moods. Serotonin is more of a calming, happy feel-good neurotransmitter. Not a bad thing to have adequate levels of both of those.

MELANIE: No, those are my favorites. If you want to break free from your sugar addiction listeners, it's important to eat animal protein several times a day. Ideally four to five times per day. Like we mentioned, three to four ounces with meals, and that's cooked weight, one to two ounces with snacks. Some people just feel better even when they eat more. And sometimes I'll start a client out eating a lot more protein than that to get those neurotransmitters a boost.

KARA: I agree. In fact, I remember a colleague, she was a dietitian at Nutritional Weight and Wellness a while back. And she used to talk about if she was feeling depressed or anxious or having strong cravings, that she would actually increase the quantity of animal protein she consumed. So maybe instead of eating that four ounces of cooked protein with meals, she bumped that up, like you said, to five or six ounces with meals of, of the cooked. And I'm the same way. I just, I, I tend to kind of call it run low in neurotransmitters. I think they're just depleted easily.

So I have a tendency to be either depressed or anxious. So getting in enough protein for me is key. That's actually my personal why for avoiding sugar. It helps me to avoid those low moods. So that's my motivation to get in the protein, eat balanced meals and snacks and keep my glucose, my blood sugar level stable throughout the day.

MELANIE: That is great. And you know, of course as dietitians and nutritionists, our focus tends to be on how to stimulate neurotransmitter production from food. I mean, that's what we do. And we want to talk about that when we come back from break.

Signs and symptoms of low zinc


KARA: You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Sugar cravings can have many layers and often there are certain vitamin or mineral deficiencies that also play a role. Every little tool that we can add into our toolbox is going to be helpful, and it's estimated, here's just an example that three out of four people do not get enough of a mineral called zinc from their food sources.

So here's some signs of being low or deficient in zinc: sugar or sweet cravings, especially after a meal. You know, you have a nice balanced meal and you, you say, I just want a little something sweet. Low immune function is another one. Are you somebody who tends to catch anything that's going around? Loss of smell or loss of taste. And of course that goes along with poor appetite, which is another sign. Depression, diarrhea, hair loss, slow to heal wounds or cuts, poor nail growth or hair growth and even intestinal or gut issues. Zinc deficiency is very common in the elderly. And that actually can be a result of that poor taste and smell and poor appetite.

So if you have an older relative or a loved one, they're not eating very much, probably not eating enough protein. Or maybe they talk about, you know, I just even don't even feel like eating. Food doesn't taste good. That is a telltale sign that they are low in zinc. Zinc is important for so many things. So we'll talk more about that right after our break.


MELANIE: Welcome back. This is Dishing Up Nutrition. I'm Melanie Beasley here with Kara Carper. We're talking about sugar addiction and tips to break free from this harmful habit. Three out of four Americans are low in a mineral called zinc, and one sign of being deficient in zinc is having sugar cravings, especially after a meal. Food sources of zinc are meat and poultry and seafood. And like many minerals, it is not always easy to obtain optimal levels from food sources, especially when the American diet consists of mostly processed foods that don't contain vitamins and minerals.

If you tend to crave something sweet after a meal or in general have sugar cravings, adding in a zinc supplement could help you. Nutritional Weight and Wellness has reacted zinc, which is about 50 milligrams per capsule. Taking one capsule per day for several months could replenish your zinc level. And it's very safe. If you're interested in long-term daily use of zinc year round, like me for immune system and gut health, you can switch to a lower dose of zinc. But to correct zinc levels, you really need to start with higher doses of 50 milligrams for the first few months. And sometimes when my clients are sick, I might even have them do two with, you know, spread out throughout the day and then go back to their 50 milligrams.

KARA: Yeah, that's great. It's so important for immune system. I know some people will bump it up just in those winter months when there tends to be more stuff, more bugs going around.

MELANIE: And personally I always have to take it with food.

KARA: I do as well. Yeah. I mean I think that's, that's kind of a good rule of thumb just to prevent, it is possible to feel a little bit nauseous taking it on an empty stomach.

MELANIE: Yeah. Yeah, for sure.

Positive dopamine triggers


KARA: Yeah. So before break we were talking about, we've talked a lot about the dopamine, which is, you know, that pleasure reward pathway and there's, there's negative dopamine triggers like sugar, alcohol, gambling, things like that. But there's also positive dopamine triggers and we know animal protein is a huge one that really helps to naturally increase dopamine levels.

MELANIE: You know, and I, I think that's like when people exercise, they get that, you know, that “high” or they feel really good and that that's your dopamine.

KARA: Mm-Hmm.

MELANIE: Well of course as dietitians and nutritionists, we really focus on what tends to be how to stimulate neurotransmitters with the food. But other healthy activities like we were discussing good, good ideas anyway to move your body with exercise, but also getting some sunlight, being outside in the fresh air with nature. A good night's sleep, stress reducing activities. For some people, this might be meditation or prayer or yoga, being with friends and loved ones. Maybe a massage.

You know, one of the things I have my clients do during a stressful time in their life is put their hand on their belly several times a day, close their eyes and take a deep breath in and a deep breath out. Three times has been shown in research to raise your dopamine level.

KARA: Interesting. I love it. Just simple.

MELANIE: You can do it.

KARA: You can do that anywhere. Anywhere in your car, in your office.

MELANIE: Yeah. And what I have them do listeners, is every time they use the bathroom before they get up, I tell to do that because it becomes part of the rhythm in their day. Otherwise their day's busy and they forget.

KARA: Yeah.

MELANIE: But that has been shown in research to raise your dopamine and lower your cortisol, your stress hormone.

KARA: I love it. I love it. So that's a lot of positive dopamine producing triggers.


KARA: Yeah. Or practices I should say. And our body really thrives on the feel-good neurotransmitters. We're going to get that we're going to achieve that state no matter what. So I want you to think for a moment, where are you getting your dopamine from? Where are you choosing to get your dopamine? Is it from sugar or maybe it's from eggs, chicken, beef, or fish.

MELANIE: And remember that sugar rush for dopamine is short. It's a very short term. And the meat is long term. You're going to get a long term sustained feeling of that dopamine hit. So let's sum this up, Kara. If you want to break free from the sugar addiction, the first step is to know how is it negatively affecting you? You want to listen to your body. Write it down. How are you feeling? And find your why. Your motivation in that why is going to help you.

So write it down, take a screenshot with your phone, like we talked about. Maybe sticky notes you place around the house, but that might help you all day long. And this will be your reminder that how you feel matters and your quality of life.

KARA: So the client example that you gave earlier during the show, her why was that her father, did he have prediabetes or diabetes?

MELANIE: Diabetes.

KARA: Diabetes.

MELANIE: She watched all the side effects.

KARA: Yeah. And so she was kind of headed towards prediabetes. I think you said her glucose was getting up a little bit too close to a hundred.


KARA: So she found her why in that situation. And I shared what mine is, is that I really want stable moods. And so I eat animal protein and balanced healthy fats and meals and snacks all throughout the day for my moods. So including animal protein, four to five times per day is a natural way to achieve optimal dopamine levels.

MELANIE: Yeah. And, and keep your blood sugar levels balanced all day long by eating every three to four hours, including that protein, that healthy fat, lots and lots of vegetables. Maybe a small amount of fruit or starchy carb. But you know, my why has always been keeping my blood sugars for longevity health. But also I don't like to be hungry. And if I don't get enough protein, I am hungry. I am not happy.

KARA: Hangry?

MELANIE: …two hours later. Yeah. I just am, I'm, I just do a lot better with that animal protein: four to five ounces for me.

Getting over the sugar detox phase


KARA: Yes, exactly. But, and we do suggest four ounces of cooked with meals. But you may feel better like Mel and I do with that five or six ounces. And if you've been in a pattern of eating sugary foods, maybe drinking sugary beverages for a while and you follow the three steps that we just discussed, we encourage you to remember to be patient, be gentle with yourself, and you might actually feel kind of yucky for a few days. That's totally normal.

MELANIE: Don't be scared. It gets better.

KARA: It does. Yeah. But if you wake up and you're kind of groggy or you know, we call it almost like a detox from sugar. So don't throw in the towel because you're going to break free and get through on the other side.

MELANIE: I remember a client telling me when she was detoxing from sugar, she said, I felt like the first week my body was at war with itself. And then she said, all of a sudden I broke free, had this clarity. She said, I felt like standing in the streets and yelling because I felt so good. And that's, that's what we want for you listeners. During that sugar detox phase, you want to also be sure you're drinking lots of water. A minimum of eight ounce glasses of filtered water per day is better. I like to say take half your body weight, divide it in half. That's the minimum amount of filtered water you should be drinking. Because our bodies also confuse dehydration with a sweet tooth. So water, water, water. That's key.

KARA: Yeah.

MELANIE: Always key.

KARA: It really is. And it, you know, we everybody knows that, but it's especially important when your body is trying to get rid of toxins of any kind.

MELANIE: And keeping track of that water, Kara, I think is so important. So get a water bottle you love, you like the way it fits in your car. You like the way it washes up. Put the number of rubber bands at the top that you need to fill your water bottle to get the amount of ounces you need. And every time you fill it up, roll a rubber band down. See how much you're actually really getting in.

KARA: Yeah. Because, and I like to have several water bottles because sometimes I forget. So one at the office. I have one in my car. Of course in the winter I don't want it frozen. But you get the idea. I'm always just carrying water with me.


KARA: When I was holiday shopping this year at a mall, I always had a water in my bag.

MELANIE: Oh wow. You hauled it around while you're shopping.

KARA: I do.

MELANIE: I'm so impressed.

KARA: And so that, I like that equation that you said: eight, eight-ounce glasses is good, but even better. Like if you're, if you weigh 160 pounds as an example, you want to be striving for about 80 ounces of water.

MELANIE: Yes. And if you sweat or you talk all day, you burn through water. So more is key.

KARA: And make sleep and rest a priority. You might feel fatigued at first during this sugar detox. I always think it's important to not plan too many things. Certainly not a lot of social plans, right, revolved around eating or drinking.

MELANIE: Especially if it's sugar.

KARA: Yep. Just really give yourself that time. Give yourself that week or so. Focus on getting in your balanced meals and snacks. Focus on drinking water, getting a good night's sleep and just resting, maybe a moderate paced walk either indoors or outdoors would be great. But this is not the ideal time to be hardcore exercising. If you do like to exercise, if that's part of your routine, that'll come later. So for now, just focus on one thing at a time. Eat real food. And that's probably going to consume most of your energy for a few days. That's okay. You'll, you'll turn a corner and start feeling better.

MELANIE: You know, Kara, I sometimes recommend that my clients add in a supplement for extra neurotransmitter support. It helps them break free of the sugar habit or the wine habit. It's called Crave Control. I love this formula. It has a nice combination of all those neurotransmitter boosting chemicals that we need. Like L-tryptophan we talked about, L-tyrosine, a few others. It also has some key vitamins and minerals that also help support neurotransmitter production. For some people this added support is just what they need. My daughter actually uses it for those sugar cravings when she's premenstrual. So when she has PMS she uses Crave Control, helps her mood. But yeah, I really like that.

KARA: It's very supportive, especially for someone that is trying to break free from sugar addiction.

MELANIE: Yeah. And we really hope that you've gotten some great ideas about how to break free from a sugar addiction, how to take care of yourself and like Kara said, find your why so that you can move forward and be healthier, happier, and free from the food being the boss of you.

KARA: And you know, our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. And it's a simple, but it's a powerful message. Eating real food is life changing. So thank you all for listening and we hope you have a wonderful day.

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