How to End Your Sugar Addiction

January 2, 2021

Ready to start the new year off fresh free of sugar? Join two nutritionists as they discuss the effects sugar has on your body and how you can break free of your sugar habits.

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TERESA: Welcome to the very first Dishing Up Nutrition show of 2021.

BRITNI: How exciting!

TERESA: Yes, 2021: a new year, and a great time to make a commitment to your health. Our show today, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness, is all about breaking the sugar habit. Why do you want to break the sugar habit? My name is Teresa Wagner. I am a Registered Dietitian and I see clients three to four days a week. I am also a mother of three young children who think sugar should be a major food group. So I'm constantly working on preventing the development of their sugar habit. I tell my kids it's perfectly normal to like the taste of sugar. I just wanted to teach them how to have it be a part of their lives, but not take over their lives and then lead to problems in the future. And that sugar, while it's a great thing and it's fun to have, that it's not necessarily an everyday thing. Eating and wanting sugar is a habit and it can start at a very young age. Okay. So before we dig into our topic today, I would like our co-host, Britni, to introduce herself.

BRITNI: Good morning, everybody. I am Britni Vincent. I'm also a Registered Dietitian. And I work individually with clients and teach many of our different nutrition classes. But one of my favorite classes to teach is Breaking the Sugar Habit. So if eating sugar is a difficult habit for you to break, I really recommend taking this online class for only $25. You can go to, click on nutrition classes at the top of our website. And I really think the most important reason nowadays to kick the sugar habit is because controlling your blood sugar plays a key role in the risk you may have contracting, and then the ultimate outcome, if you get COVID or if you get coronavirus infection. Because studies have found that the way people eat in the U.S. often result in a weakened immune system. Because sugar/processed carbs will actually slow down how your blood, how your white blood cells work.

TERESA: And that's a serious problem.


The Danger of Coffee Chains

TERESA: And it makes it so important for us to kick that sugar habit. Research has found that 16 teaspoons of sugar a day reduces the ability of a special kind of white blood cell called neutrophils to help your body fight off infections, particularly those caused by certain bacterias and viruses.

BRITNI: So I know you listeners are saying, “I never eat 16 teaspoons of sugar. That is an obscene amount.” Well, let's take a look at where you might be getting all this hidden sugar. And you're going to find out it's pretty darn easy to get 16 teaspoons. So here's a pretty common scenario. You make your daily drive-through at your favorite coffee house for your morning vanilla latte. And then a muffin just sounds delicious, especially with the latte. So you grab one of those as well. Your vanilla latte has seven teaspoons of sugar and the muffin contains eight and a half teaspoons. So you're starting your day off with 15 and a half teaspoons of sugar. With just one quick trip through the drive-through you're already at your sugar limit for the entire day. And starting your day like that, I can almost guarantee you're going to eat more sugar.

TERESA: Right. Because as we know, the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you want.


TERESA: As I was introducing myself earlier, I mentioned that I am trying to prevent my children from developing a sugar habit. So here's some interesting news from Food Business newsletter: In the fall, pumpkin spice lattes are very popular, but they typically do not attract new customers, but rather they appeal to the former and existing customers who purchase them more frequently. Pumpkin spice latte lovers tend to be women who are 45 years or older. So what does that say? That sounds like my demographic. Well, not quite, but it says that basically once you have that pumpkin spice latte, those are the people that are going to continue to buy that particular item. And they're going to keep coming back for more. So I don't want my kids to even taste a pumpkin spice latte or one of the peppermint flavored or the chocolate mocha or any of those types of sweet drinks with, you know, 50 grams of carbs or more per cup.

I mean, shoot, my kids have enough energy. I certainly don't need to give them that much sugar, much less a caffeinated sugary drink. So remember, just 16 teaspoons of sugar a day: that can slow your immune function. If you have one pumpkin spice latte with 12 and a half teaspoons of sugar, and then say, like Britni was saying, it sounds really good to have something with it. Say you decided to buy a slice of that coffee house banana nut bread, which has 13 teaspoons of sugar. You have taken in 25 and a half teaspoons of sugar all before 10:00 AM in the morning.


TERESA: And like we said, once you start the day that way…

BRITNI: It's going to keep going.

TERESA: That's right. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your sugar intake to only six teaspoons of sugar per day; just six.

BRTINI: That is not much at all.


BRITNI: And today we know that over a third of all calories come from sugar and white flour. And our bodies do have great resilience, but frankly, our bodies are not able to cope with that amount of sugar and flour on a regular basis. And I do think, you know, most of you know the story about sugar and what it does to us, but sometimes you have to hear it many, many times for it to actually sink in. So I'm going to repeat what you may have heard before…

Why We Keep Reaching for Sugar

TERESA: This just reminds me, just cause I've been talking about my kids, you know, we as adults, we're just like kids, right?

BRITNI: Oh, yes!

TERESA: We have to hear the same things over and over and over again before they start sinking in.

BRITNI: 100%; especially if you love sugar because you don't want to accept the truth.

TERESA: We do what we do cause we like it.

BRITNI: Yeah. Yeah. So, but we know sugar gives you that initial high, then you crash, then you crave more because you want that high again and again; over and over it happens. You're on that roller coaster. And sugar stresses your adrenal glands, so you get more anxious, moody; fatigue sets in; your brain, your body just starts to not function as well.

However, the long-term side effects are really the real troublemakers that wreak havoc on your health. And oftentimes people don't even know that that's happening inside their body. So before you grab one of those sugary treats that you received from a friend during the holidays, Teresa and I want to share some of the health problems you're inviting to come in. The first one is decreased immunity, which makes you more susceptible to infectious bacteria and viral infections.

TERESA: Right. And research suggests that that susceptibility happens because that sugar, well, it inhibits vitamin C entering into your white blood cells. So the more sugar you eat, the less productive your white blood cells are. And the more likely you are to get sick.

BRITNI: Sugar also directly affects your triglyceride number. It's sugar and processed carbs, not fat, that stimulate your liver's production of triglycerides. So many people really don't realize that triglycerides are linked to strokes, to heart disease, and of course, obesity. I usually suggest to my clients they look at their triglyceride number on their blood chemistry panel. Don't just look at the total cholesterol number. Look at that whole breakdown. You'll find the triglycerides and your triglyceride level is the fat in your bloodstream. And many experts believe that your triglyceride number is really the best predictor of heart disease and stroke. So the number we recommend: the optimal number is 75 or less. And we've had clients with numbers over 2,000.

TERESA: Right.

BRITNI: It's crazy. But at the same time, I've had clients that in a matter of a couple months, it drastically reduces. So that's possible. We, I just read an email from a listener who eats the Weight and Wellness way. And she also exercises daily. She just received her blood chemistry panel and her triglycerides were 23.



TERESA: That is, that's a number to strive for. As you've just heard, and as we all know, we have these intellectual reasons in our head based on science for why we should eliminate sugar and processed carbs from our diet. But it's hard because sugar is sneaky and it finds its way into foods that we wouldn't even consider to be high in sugar. For example, pizza. Would you consider it to be a high sugar food?

BRITNI: Absolutely not.

TERESA: No, cause it's savory, right? It's not sweet. The stock prices of Domino's pizza have risen 99% in the last three years.

BRITNI: Oh my gosh.

TERESA: And you know, I wonder how much of that was in 2020.


TERESA: But we will talk a little bit more about that when we come back. You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. The holidays are over. So perhaps it's time to break your sugar habit because eating excess sugar is certainly worse for you while we are all experiencing the ongoing COVID-19 stress. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that people with underlying health conditions such as type-two diabetes, heart disease, high blood sugar, and obesity are at an increased risk for complications if you become infected with COVID-19. We will share ways that we help clients reduce their sugar consumption with the hope that it will reduce their risk of serious health complications.

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BRITNI: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Here's the first way to cut sugar cravings: get enough sleep. When people are tired, the first thing they usually reach for is sugar because they want that boost of energy. But then the problem is sugar gives you that boost, but then you crash and then you want another boost. And like we've been talking about, it just becomes this vicious cycle. So most people who sleep eight to nine hours experience fewer sugar cravings. And then the added bonus is those people who like to lose a few extra pounds, they do that while they're sleeping. Sleeping eight to nine hours helps you lose weight.

TERESA: That should be the magic diet pill; right?

BRITNI: Totally. And we have many podcasts that we talk about sleep and, and get into more detail about that. And that is something we help people on, I would say a daily basis.

TERESA: Right.

BRITNI: Get more sleep. And our clients find that sleep medication no longer necessary, even during high stress times. So if you are somebody that struggles with your sleep, set up an appointment with one of our dietitians or nutritionists, and we'll help you to find a solution. Call (651) 699-3438 to find a time that's convenient for you.

TERESA: Okay. So before we went to break, we were talking about how successful Domino's pizza has been for the last three years and how their stock prices have risen significantly. So when we think about pizza, you know, oftentimes, well we think about it as a high sugar food, but most of my clients think about it as something that's high in fat because there's lots of cheese and maybe the fattier meats are on it. But really it's a pretty high sugar food. One slice of Domino's pepperoni pizza…. and I'm just talking about one slice here, has 39 grams of carb plus one teaspoon of added sugar. So two slices have 78 grams plus another two teaspoons of added sugar. Three slices have 117 grams of carbs plus another teaspoon of added sugar. So it really just adds up that that amount of pizza is just, like I said, we think of it as a high sugar food because of the carbs it contains. You know, the next time you're craving pizza, maybe check out our website and look for some of the pizza-inspired recipes.

BRITNI: Yes, great idea.

TERESA: Britni, you just put in an awesome recipe that is a sheet pan pizza idea. And we also have this Pizza Pocket Mini Muffin recipe that's really good as well, as well as, more of a deep dish, kind of a casserole type pizza dish. So, so if you're craving pizza, rather than going for that high-carb, high-sugar option, maybe try something that still tastes, you know, with the tomatoes and the Italian seasoning and the meats…

BRITNI: You still get all the flavors of pizza.

TERESA: Yep. Give that, give that a shot instead. It'll save you a bunch of sugar.

BRITNI: And, how many people are really limiting to three slices?

TERESA: Right! I know my 11 year-old can take down three slices himself, so a grown adult…

Pandemic-era Weight Loss Success Stories

BRITNI: Yeah, exactly; exactly. You know, no doubt 2020 was just packed with stress and then more stress. So many people have turned to sugar as a way to cope, but not everybody. Some people have really used this time to focus on their health. Some of you may remember two weeks ago, Joann and Carolyn shared Donna's weight loss success. So today I want to share another big reason she achieved her weight loss success. When Donna started cooking and eating at home, she lowered her carb consumption. Eating fewer carbs played a huge role in Donna’s 71 and a half pound loss since the beginning of the pandemic. She said, “This is the best I've ever felt and I never want to go back to eating sugar and processed carbs.”


BRITNI: And it became a family affair, which I think is part of the success for many people.

TERESA: Yes, your support system is crucial.

BRITNI: So because Donna's two sisters followed her lead, each of them has lost over 50 pounds. That is so amazing.

TERESA: That is amazing.

BRITNI: And, and like Teresa said, they supported each other. They had that support system throughout the journey. And when they take their family vacation to Mexico, they will truly appreciate how much more energy they have. You know, last week I have a client who also, you know, took this time to focus on her health and she's lost 25 pounds in just a few months. It's amazing.

TERESA: It's so, it's so exciting. And it's so fun to hear from those people. I also had one. Actually, I hadn't met with her for quite a while, but she started this, this real food journey a year ago and she's down 60 pounds. And it was funny. The first time I met with her was via Zoom. And this is before Zoom was a thing. And even with Zoom, with that significant of a weight loss, you can absolutely see it in their face and you can see it in their eyes; just, I mean the glow and the light is back and the… she was always a delightful person, but I mean, just, it's just so much fun.

BRITNI: Yeah. Those stories really, they make my day.

TERESA: Yeah. And you know, one thing that she said to me is that she's like the thing that she has to do the most is stay away from sugar because she knows for her that as soon as she has it, it's just, it's, it's a, it's a vicious cycle for her because sugar is addicting. And like we've said before, the more you eat, the more you want. I realize one of the reasons it's so hard to get off of sugar and stay off of sugar is because our brains actually become addicted to sugar. Like for her, she's she knows that addiction is there. And so she's staying far away from it. Perhaps one of the reasons I'm thought of as the “mean mom” is because I limit how much sugar my kids can eat. And I will never forget because it was so funny to me. But one of, I said no to something; some sort of sugary food. And my daughter says to me, “Why, because you're a dumb dietitian?”

BRITNI: Oh gosh.

TERESA: And I said, well, no, it's because I love you. Just like I don't let you ride a bicycle without your helmet. Just like when it's 30 below, I don't let you go outside in your swimsuit. These are things that I, that I put in place. These restrictions, if that's what we want to call them, are put in place for your wellbeing, not because I'm trying to be mean.

BRITNI: Those are some great comparisons. Yeah. I really like that.

The Science Behind Sugar Addiction

TERESA: In any case, sugar is addicting and this might sound unbelievable, but sugar, much like cocaine, alcohol and nicotine, it can create excessive reward signals in the brain, which can override one’s self-control and lead to addiction. As I researched for the show, I found this to be rather startling, that rats, who like sugar just as much as humans, when they were given a choice between water sweetened with saccharin or cocaine infusions, 94% of the rats chose the sweetened water. When the rats were offered water sweetened with sugar, they were overwhelmingly likely to choose the sugar-sweetened water.

BRITNI: Wow. That is shocking.

TERESA: I don't know. I just, I picture these rats running around in these cages and having the opportunity to have cocaine or have sugar. And in my mind it just seems logical that they would go for the cocaine because you would think that that would be so much more addictive.

BRITNI: Yeah. Yeah. I think that speaks volumes as how powerful sugar addiction can really be. And you know, certainly the stress of the pandemic has affected our brain and feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. However, we really must be careful not to condition ourselves to need something sweet to feel content or satisfied. You know, a lot of my clients, it is that habit. They've just gotten used to a little something sweet after dinner. And then every day their body expects it. And a lot of clients have told me, “I need to feel, or I need to have sugar to feel normal, or I need sugar to just get through the day or I need sugar to handle my stress.” But you know, everything's relative. And they don't realize how much better that they will feel once they get out of their life.

TERESA: Yeah. It, you know, many parents, including myself, have seen teachers or other adults in their children's lives, give out sugar as a treat or a reward for good behavior or for good work or good grades. And kids become conditioned to need a treat of some kind, or some other kind of reward maybe, to feel complete or satisfied. And that line of thinking continues into adulthood. I call it the, “I deserve it” attitude. You know, “I had a hard day at work, so I deserve that glass of wine” or “I'm feeling sad. So I deserve a treat in order to feel better.” And, and it really, it becomes a part of, you know, of who we are and, and how we cope with things and sugar, like many other things, are not great coping mechanisms. So instead of sugar rewards, my kids get high fives.

BRITNI: Love it.

TERESA: But research really shows that using rewards actually lowers intrinsic motivation, which is that internal ability to do things without an obvious reward. So I want my kids to want to do things because that's what they're supposed to do, not because I'm going to give them something in exchange for them doing what they're supposed to do.

BRITNI: Yeah, that's great. And you know, this information may also surprise you. Sugar work the addiction path and reward pathway in the brain, just like many illegal drugs. Like Teresa gave the example of the rats and sugar versus cocaine. And, you know, a very wise director of a local addiction treatment center said that she believes Mountain Dew is the gateway substance to alcohol and drug addiction. I mean, that's a very strong statement.

TERESA: It is.

BRITNI: But on a daily basis, we see what excess sugar consumption does to clients. And I think, you know, I've seen it the opposite too, where people get drugs and alcohol out of their life and then they replace it with sugar.


BRITNI: I have a lot of clients where that's the case because they're still wanting something to light up their brain.

TERESA: Yes. I have seen that as well. It's almost like you're taking one addiction and replacing it with another one. Well, you are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. A trick I personally use to control my sugar and carb cravings is to keep those treats and snacks out of my house. You know, the saying, “out of sight, out of mind.” This trick works for my kids too. It's difficult to snack on something that isn't there.

BRITNI: So true.

TERESA: And right now my kids are not old enough to drive. So I've got a few more years before this will be the case, but have you noticed when you buy a bag of chips, there is just that little voice that comes from the pantry or the cupboard that says, “Just have one more.” And the next thing you know, that whole bag of chips is gone. When I don't buy these foods, I don't eat them, so I don't miss them.


Make an appointment with one of our nutritionists or dietitians for a customized meal plan designed to shut down your cravings and improve health!

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BRITNI: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. You know, my solution to control my sugar cravings is to eat real food, you know, about four times a day. And this may sound crazy because it's a wild time of year, but I moved a couple of weeks ago into a new house.

TERESA: Britni, you need some, you need some coaching in life planning.

BRITNI: Ah, I'll just say, I'm glad the last couple of weeks are done. But you know, as many of you know, moving, it's a dangerous sugary situation because you know, you need quick things. I'm not going to pause and cook.

TERESA: That's right. You're already working hard enough.

BRITNI: Yeah, exactly. So to be sure that didn't happen, I ordered several gluten-free meals from Sassy Spoon in South Minneapolis. I stocked up on these healthy gluten-free meals so I would not be tempted to eat junk food or just grab something quick from takeout. And I love Sassy Spoon because the owner, Tamara, cooks real food. It's all gluten-free. She never uses refined oils. And that means you will never have to have foods cooked in soybean, canola, cottonseed oil, any of those processed oils. And Tamara and her staff, they cook with butter, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil. And besides all of that, the food really truly is delicious.

TERESA: Yes, they are really good. And this would be a great time to support small businesses like the Sassy Spoon. I know that they have, like you were saying those frozen meals that you can just buy and reheat. So if you really need something to be easy over the holiday season, it would be a great time and a great thing to support a local, a local business.

BRITNI: Yeah. I'm sure they, they would greatly appreciate it. So if you don't want the sugar and processed foods around and like Teresa said, you want those easy things to just grab out of the freezer, go to to check out their menu and order some amazing food for curbside pickup. So before the break we were talking about sugar and how addictive it can be. And now Teresa and I are going to share some other health conditions linked to excess sugar consumption and why these conditions even happen. And I think every one of you listeners is probably going to resonate with at least one of these symptoms or conditions that we talk about.

How Excess Sugar Can Lead to High Cholesterol

TERESA: Well, okay. So the first one we're going to talk about is how excess sugar consumption can lead to high cholesterol. I think many people find it interesting that most of the cholesterol circulating around the body isn't actually made inside the body; not from the food we eat. So if we have high cholesterol, we need to ask, why is our body making too much cholesterol? What we know and it's confirmed by the 2015 nutrition guidelines, that cholesterol is no longer a nutrient of concern, meaning we don't need to be concerned about the cholesterol in high-cholesterol foods like eggs and shrimp. For the majority of people, when you eat high cholesterol foods, the body just slows the internal production of cholesterol. So if it's not the cholesterol in the food, well what's causing it? There's got to be a reason.

And that reason is sugar. All carbohydrates are broken down into sugar. When blood sugar levels go up, like they do after eating a big bowl of ramen noodles, and what happens then is that the body responds by releasing insulin. Insulin is the hormone that takes sugar out of our bloodstream to be used immediately. What isn’t used is stored in our bodies to be used between meals, but insulin doesn't just cause sugar to be stored. It shifts our body into storage mode in general. And the storage form of cholesterol is LDL cholesterol, the quote unquote, “bad cholesterol”. And Britni, as we know, LDL cholesterol actually does some wonderful things in our body, but that's a topic for another show. But in any case, if insulin levels go up, LDL levels go up. And if you stored all the sugar you can, and there's still more sugar circulating in your blood, insulin helps to turn that sugar into fat.

So the result is like Britni had talked about earlier, your triglyceride levels go up. So those triglycerides are the sugar fats floating around in the bloodstream. So that was kind of a lot. Just remember: sugar causes the release of insulin. Insulin is our storage hormone, which causes more storage of cholesterol in the form of LDL cholesterol. As your LDL number rises, your total cholesterol number will rise as well. And then the triglycerides will inevitably go up as well.

BRITNI: That was a great explanation.

TERESA: Well, thanks.

BRITNI: Yeah. And I'm so glad you pointed out that we do not need to worry about cholesterol in foods because I still get that question on a regular basis.


Sugar and Cardiovascular Disease

BRITNI: Or people are still getting that information somewhere. So eat eggs every day and you'll be just fine. And you know, excess sugar can also lead to heart disease. So Teresa just talked about the cholesterol part of it. And you know, a lot of people in regards to heart disease, they're used to worrying about saturated fat, but we're here to tell you it is sugar you really need to be worried about.

You know, a study published in 2014 in JAMA Internal Medicine found an association between a high sugar diet and a greater risk of dying from heart disease was found. So over the course of a 15 year study, which is a really long study, people who got 17 to 20% of their calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. So let's put this into perspective to what, what do those percentages even equate to? So if somebody was eating 2,000 calories per day, this would equate to about a hundred grams of sugar or 25 teaspoons of sugar a day. So as we've been talking about throughout the show and other shows, all of the hidden sugars, it's really not that difficult to get a hundred grams a day.

TERESA: Well right. That example I gave with the banana bread and the, and the pumpkin spice latte: that was 25 teaspoons of sugar.

BRTINI: Exactly. And you know, sugar increases the risk of heart disease in a variety of different ways. So sugar causes weight gain, which we're going to talk about in more detail later. And we know that obesity is a large risk factor for heart disease. And obese adults are more likely to have elevated levels of an enzyme linked to injured heart muscles. Sugar also causes high blood pressure, which we'll talk in more detail later, but high blood pressure is also a risk factor for heart disease. Sugar, specifically fructose, can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver. And the association between non-alcoholic fatty liver and heart disease is stronger than the link between heart disease and smoking, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, or metabolic syndrome.

TERESA: That’s so interesting. And it's so interesting that that's not the thing that we hear most often.

BRITNI: No. And a lot of people don't even know they have fatty liver.

TERESA: That's true. Yeah. And you can't feel fatty liver.

BRITNI: No, no.

TERESA: So that's yep.

BRITNI: So fructose: that is what is made up of 50% of table sugar; also found in high fructose corn syrup, which is in everything. It's even in your pickles. So consuming processed foods, excess fruit juice, fruit also has fructose, can provide you large amounts of fructose. You know, sugar can also lead to type-two diabetes, which is another risk factor for heart disease. So Teresa, explain to us how exactly does excess sugar lead to type-two diabetes?

TERESA: Well, I, and you know, this one I think a lot of times people are more familiar with, right, that excess sugar can lead to type-two diabetes. When we eat sugar and processed carbohydrates, our blood sugar levels go up and they can go up and beyond the healthy range. The higher our blood sugar levels go, and the more often it happens, the more insulin is needed to get those blood sugars back down into the healthy range. When we don't do this very often, you know, popping your blood sugars up out of the healthy ranges, our pancreas, the insulin, our cells, they all work together pretty well in order to keep us healthy.

But if we are consistently eating processed carbs all day, every day, it taxes that system, leading to insulin resistance. And this is where your cells are unable to use insulin to let sugar into the cell.

We often use this example of a door on a house and a key to unlock the door, to explain insulin resistance. Our cells are the house. And the cell receptor is the door. The key is insulin. In order for sugar to get into the cell, we need insulin to unlock the cell door. When we have high levels of sugar and insulin every day over time, it's like the door locks up and the key doesn't work anymore. And it's pretty easy to do as far as having blood sugars, high blood sugars over the course of the day. Grab a Pop-Tart and a banana for breakfast, have a sub for lunch, lasagna and breadsticks and wine for dinner, sprinkle in a few Christmas cookies and an energy drink, maybe a soda, and like in between the meals. And you've got elevated blood sugars all day long. Eat like this for years, and it can lead to type-two diabetes.


Have you tried to give up sugar in the past without success? Curb sugar cravings and improve health with our online class Breaking the Sugar Habit!

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TERESA: You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. Well, here is a well-researched solution to control your sugar cravings. I have my clients who have intense cravings for sugar take the supplement, L-glutamine several times a day when they are experiencing sugar and cravings. Well, if they're experiencing sugar. Aren't we all? When they're experiencing sugar cravings: 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams of L-glutamine taken every two to three hours will typically relieve those sugar cravings. And for people who are having serious sugar cravings, opening up one of those capsules and putting that powder underneath your tongue and letting it sort of just dissolve and then absorb into the, into the bloodstream, it seems to work within minutes and those blood sugar or those cravings, they just, they just seem to clear up.

BRITNI: Yep. It works really well. Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Today we shared just a few tricks that we taught each of our clients to help control their sugar cravings. These simple solutions and many, many more are packed into our Nutrition for Weight Loss program. It's a 12-week program. It's available online in either Zoom format or as a pre-recorded format. So think about what format you might prefer, then make the decision to sign up, so you can breathe a sigh of relief because you're going to have a plan in place and support to break the sugar habit. So you can sign up at or call our office: (651) 699-3438. And we'll help you choose a 12-week program that works best with your schedule. And, you know, I've taught the Zoom format. I think it works great.

TERESA: I do too. Yeah, I've enjoyed it.

Sugar - Not Salt - and High Blood Pressure

BRITNI: Me too. So, before break, we were talking ,Teresa, you described how excess sugar can increase the risk of type-two diabetes and excess sugar can also increase high blood pressure. So sugar really is arguably worse than salt for our blood sugar, which…

TERESA: And I wonder how many people are surprised at that.

BRITNI: I think a lot. Yeah, most people are still limiting their salt intake if they have high blood pressure or trying to. So we know that sugar can cause an increase in heart rate and blood vessel constriction, which in turn increases blood pressure. You know, in a review article published online in 2015 in the journal, Open Heart, researchers found that a high sugar diet after just a few weeks isn't enough to increase blood pressure. They also found that beverages specifically sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup raised blood pressure more than other sugary beverages and other sugary foods. So pop undoubtedly is, you know, the most common sweetened beverage. And that's also sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.

TERESA: But I would say, you know, if we go down the grocery store aisles and you look at any of the sugar-sweetened beverages, I would say the vast majority are, it's going to be a high-fructose corn syrup.

BRITNI: Like sports drinks; high-fructose corn syrup energy drinks.

TERESA: I heard something interesting about high-fructose corn syrup. Someone had asked somebody that was the head of one of the major soda companies why they don't use sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. And they said, “It's just too cheap not to use high-fructose corn syrup.” So it's cheaper than sugar.

BRITNI: Yeah. Yeah. I believe it. And that is why it's in everything. Yeah.


BRITNI: Read the ingredient list on all the foods you buy and you truly will be shocked what you find in there.

TERESA: Yes, you will.

BRITNI: Yeah. And as far as blood pressure goes, you know, I've had clients and I'm sure you have too, Teresa, that just simply by eating more real food, reducing the sugar, their blood pressure slowly starts to come down. They can reduce their blood pressure medication; sometimes get off of them completely. So it is truly possible to lower your blood pressure just by changing your food.

TERESA: You know, and even this might sound like I'm going back on what you were saying about sodium in the diet and high blood pressure. But when you switch to a real foods diet, it is so low in sodium naturally. You know, there is some naturally occurring sodium in foods, but I don't really have to ask my clients to watch your sodium levels because it's naturally low. In fact, I tell them if you like to have, you know, if you're going to eat more broccoli, if you sprinkle a little salt on it, then you can do that because our foods are so low naturally. But it really does go back to the sugar for high blood pressure.

BRITNI: So what about joint pain? You know, I have so many clients that complain about joint pain.

TERESA: Right. And excess sugar consumption can also lead to joint pain. Sugar increases inflammation around our body, which in turn increases pain, especially for those that are suffering from inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis, gout, and fibromyalgia. I had a client explain her joint pain to me like this: “After I eat sugar, it's as though shards of glass are flowing through my bloodstream, getting caught in my knees and hips.” And I tell people too, with inflammation, it's interesting because everybody's an individual. So if, you know, for me, sugar probably won't bother my hips, but I have an injury in my shoulder that if I have too much sugar, that's where I'm going to feel it. For other people where inflammation might, it might be in their feet, or it might be in other parts of their bodies. That's where they're going to feel it.

So if you have any sort of inflammatory condition, it doesn't even necessarily have to be your joints, but when you have sugar in your diet and it creates that inflammation, that's where you're going to feel that pain. And sometimes what I find is that people don't even realize it’s sugar because we're eating so much sugar consistently. And when I'm talking about sugar, I'm not thinking somebody’s sitting down with a bowl of, of table sugar and just eating it by the spoonful. It's just those foods that we've been, you know, talking about that are just so common in, in the everyday meal plan for most people, you know? And, and it just tends to be high in sugar, creating inflammation around the body. And we don't realize that the aches and pains in our body are from these foods that we're eating over and over and over again. Once we pull them out, we start to realize, “Oh yeah, it is the food.” You know, we have the people that they get out of bed in the morning and they realize that their feet don't hurt once they hit the floor. And they're like, “Whoa, what just happened here? I can actually get up out of bed without it hurting?” This is fantastic.

BRITNI: Well, and I think it's such a good point. People do not connect what foods are causing them pain or inflammation if you're always eating it. You really do have to pull it out and see how differently you feel. And then most people find after that period of time where they eliminate sugar or, you know, in some cases, gluten, then they don't even want to go back because they feel so much better.

TERESA: Or inevitably, like everybody has to do, we always have to test it, right? We at least have to see, “Well, surely this piece of cake is not going to hurt.” You know? And then the next morning, like I said, you get out of bed and your knees are cracking and painful or your feet are hurting or your shoulder or wherever. Like I said, it's an individual thing. Wherever that pain lives in your body, that's where it's going to show up. And then what we find, right, it's fewer and fewer times that they have the things or longer periods of time without eating those types of foods, because it's just not worth it.

BRITNI: Not worth it. And that's, you know, if you made that connection, that's what you should think about before you're thinking of eating the cookie or the muffin or pizza or whatever. Is that worth having knee pain tomorrow or having a headache? Or whatever it is for you. And often, you know, if you think about that, the answer will probably be no.

TERESA: Right.

BRITNI: No surprise, you know, excess sugar causes weight gain.


All About Leptin, Also Known as the Satiety Hormone

BRITNI: But you know, we're, I'm going to talk about it in a little bit different way. You know, one way that sugar can lead to weight gain is through our hormone, leptin, which is also known as our satiety hormone. So basically leptin regulates your metabolism and the rate of fat breakdown. So as leptin levels rise, your metabolic rate increases and you're satiated. As leptin levels fall, your metabolism slows down. Dr. Lustig: he's a professor of pediatrics in the division of endocrinology at the University of California. So he says, “It's like a thermostat. The thermostat reads temperature in the house. If it's too cold, it turns on the heat. If it's not hot enough, it turns off the heat.” And you know, like insulin, you talked about insulin resistance earlier. We can develop leptin resistance. So then your body's not telling you that you're full, so you eat more and more. But the cause of this goes back to insulin. So basically it's too much insulin that can prevent leptin from doing its job and making you more hungry. And Dr. Lustig, he says, “The problem is everybody's insulin is two to four times higher today than 40 years ago.”

TERESA: Really?

BRITNI: That's significant. That is huge. And as Teresa talked about, insulin itself stores body fat. So we have that happening and then there's the trickle-down effect of it affecting your leptin. So we're storing body fat from insulin, and then we're hungrier and then we're storing more body fat because we're eating more. So the answer to fixing this problem; guess what? It's reversing that insulin resistance by getting rid of those processed carbs, or at least reducing them; getting rid of the sugar. So, you know, instead of having cereal or bagel for breakfast, you know, I often just have leftovers for breakfast. I know that's a strange thought for a lot of people, but some people get sick of eggs every day.


BRITNI: So thinking outside of the box, have a salad for breakfast for that matter.

TERESA: Yeah. I mean, I think that that's a great idea just because, especially in this time now where we're just so tired of all of our different foods, use them in different ways to create a little bit of excitement in the kitchen.


TERESA: Most importantly, at this time in our history, excess sugar consumption can lead to a weakened immune system. And it is often linked to a negative outcome from the COVID-19 virus.

BRITNI: Our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. It's a simple yet powerful message. Eating real food truly is life changing. Thank you for joining us today and have a Happy New Year.

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