The Truth About Sugar
& Your Body
Is it bad? Should I cut it all out?
It seems like all we ever see are the EXTREMES. One camp says cut out all sugar, another says cut all sugar AND all carbs, still another says eat it all whenever you want, you only live once. I'm here to give you a more balanced, and honestly sane look at nutrition, wellness and life. And life INCLUDES sugar.
Biologically speaking, sugar is a crucial element for your body to be able to function. Sugar makes up the backbone of your DNA, it helps power your cells and helps store energy for later, our body converts sugar into energy. Sugar, in and of itself is not BAD. The problems come when we eat more of certain types of sugars than our body can handle.
In this episode I'll break down:
- the different types of sugars and carbohydrates and how they effect your body in different ways
- sugars to keep and sugars to watch out for
- the problems with ADDED sugars, their biological effects, and contribution to disease processes
- the effect of certain sugars on your gut and brain
- how to start being aware of and cutting down on some excess sugars without going crazy or having to go cold turkey
The bottom line is: not all sugars and carbs are created equal and they certainly aren't all bad, too much of anything can be problematic, and if you truly want to be healthy you can't be in denial about the foods and beverages you choose.
If you're READY to take back control of your food, body, mind, and life, including kicking a sugar addiction, then take a look at the Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Program. Registration is open May 16th!!
Full transcription available at the bottom of this post
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If you struggle with yo-yo dieting then you know how hard it is to make any real lasting change. Unfortunately most women get stuck in the belief that being on a diet is the only way to lose weight and get healthy, and when they inevitably fail they’ve destroyed their self esteem, destroyed their relationship with food, and get stuck in a guilt/shame spiral that starts the whole process over again.
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Welcome back, my friends. Today we're talking about sugar. What's the truth? Is it okay to have sugar? Or is it really bad? Should I quit sugar altogether? Is it making me fat? Is it making me sick? Today, I want to just break this down for you so that you have a clearer understanding of what sugar is, how it works in your body, and what you should be doing about it. We get so many mixed messages about this topic, that I want to just give you some definitive ideas and science so that you have an understanding so that you can make informed decisions for yourself. Let's go.
Welcome back to the no nonsense wellness podcast, the place for women who are trying to do all the things and stay healthy, sane and actually enjoy life in the process. Hey, I'm Tara, a trained therapist, a life coach, a nutrition coach and a fitness instructor. And I'm on a mission to help you take back control of your mind, health and life. Each week, I'll be cutting through the nonsense and getting real with you. I'll bring you the insight and information you need to take control of your weight and health. Find food freedom, and finally break free from the thoughts that are sabotaging you and holding you back. You, my friend, are powerful, and the world needs you to start showing up in a bigger way. It's time to get unstuck and start moving forward. So let's pop in those earbuds, tie up those shoes, let's walk and talk.
Sugar is often demonized, but biologically speaking, it's a crucial element for your body to be able to function. Sugar makes up the backbone of your DNA, it helps power your cells and helps store energy for later, our body converts sugar into fuel. Too often we are hearing people talk about sugar being bad. And then we decide that all sugars are bad and need to be cut out. And what they're really suggesting is that all carbohydrates are bad and need to be cut out. And so I want to tell you, unequivocally, this is not true. You do not need to cut out all carbohydrates and all sugars, they are not all bad. I want to draw a distinction here when I'm talking today about what sugar is doing in your body. I'm talking about added sugars. I am not talking about sugars today that naturally occur in things like fruits or vegetables or Whole Foods, I am talking about added sugars and artificial sweeteners to an extent artificial sweeteners deserve their very own podcast episodes of that will come later. But I'm talking about the obvious stuff where added sugar lives like cakes, cookies, sodas, but I'm also talking about the less obvious places that added sugar lives like bread, pasta, ketchup, salad dressing, things like that things you might not think about their sugar content necessarily, but they do definitely have added sugars. I also want to be super clear that the things I'm talking about today are not just about the sugar. Excess added sugar is a contributing factor to a lot of bad processes in your body. But we always have to consider the person as a whole, right? It's never just the case where you can say, Oh, I'm just gonna cut out sugar, and then suddenly everything magically gets better in your body. That's not how your body works. You have to look at the entire system. How is sugar affecting the entire system? How are all these other factors affecting the entire system, you have to think about yourself as a whole. But keeping an eye on added sugar is a good starting point. So we're going to talk about that specifically today.
Sugars are a type of carbohydrate. Not all carbohydrates are sugars. Some carbohydrates break down really quickly and easily into sugars and others do not. This is really important to understand, because it's telling us that not all carbohydrates do exactly the same thing in our bodies. So when people say I'm cutting all carbs, I unequivocally will tell them, please do not do that. It's a bad idea. You don't ever need to cut all carbohydrates. There are many kinds of carbohydrates and you need to have a distinction about what you are actually talking about. Sugars are the most simple types of carbohydrates. They digest very quickly. They enter your liver and your bloodstream very quickly carbohydrates that contain lots of fiber and starches, like your whole fruits and your whole vegetables, they are much bigger, more complicated molecules they does they digest much more slowly, sometimes not at all, some fiber doesn't digest at all, it just feeds your good bacteria in your gut and comes right back out. So you need to be able to, to draw a distinction between the types of carbs. So the types of carbs that I'm talking about today are the added sugars, the ones that digest very quickly.
You also need to know that different bodies handle carbs differently. So now I'm talking about all types of carbohydrates. Some people handle carbohydrates really well, they can eat more carbohydrates, some people don't handle them as well, they need to eat a little less carbohydrates. I don't know which one of those type of people you are that takes some experimentation on your part, you have to start understanding that for yourself. So again, when someone tells you cut all carbs, or eat only carbs, whatever it is, there is no such thing as one size fits all when it comes to how much carbohydrate you can eat. So let's talk about how much sugar we're actually eating. The average American eats about three pounds of added sugar per week. 200 years ago, your great great grandparents, they ate about two pounds of added sugar per year. That is a huge difference. Why the big difference? Well think about 200 years ago, what were they eating? They lived on a farm. They didn't have processed foods, they didn't have juices and sodas and all these kind of gross things that we have now. They just ate Whole Foods from their farm. And sugar was like a luxury right? Anything sweet was a luxury.
The American Heart Association says that the average ish woman on a 2000 Calorie ish diet should be having about 25 grams of added sugar. Again, this is not including your whole foods, your fruits and vegetables. 25 grams of added sugar for a woman per day and 38 grams of added sugar per day for a man give or take right 25 grams of added sugar for a woman 38 grams of added sugar for a man. Let's just put that in perspective. 1 can of Coke has about 39 grams of added sugar. That's more than my entire day's worth of sugar in 1 - 12 ounce can of Coke. And remember, I'm talking about the added sugar that's in things like processed foods, breads, deli, meat, salad, dressing, beverages, Diet Coke, etc. Right? Think about how many of those types of things you're eating in a day, you're probably getting well over that recommended 25 grams of sugar, of added sugar, in a day.
Let's talk about your kids. The average kid according to the American Heart Association should have anywhere from about 12 to 20 grams of sugar per day. Of course, depending on their size and age and everything else. The average bowl of kids cereal has about 50 grams of sugar, that can be up to like four times the amount of sugar that our kids should be having in an entire day in just one bowl of cereal. And we give them that cereal and then we send them to school and we're like yay, have a great day. How can they have a great day? We are setting them up for failure. Obesity is one of the highest rising epidemics in children right now. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see a correlation between tons of added sugar and rising obesity rates and children. We need to set them up for success. Not only do we need to set ourselves up for success, but we need to set our children up for success. And this is where this tough love comes in.
I am a proponent of fitting foods you love into your life and not cutting those things. Can you be healthy and eat ice cream sometimes and eat cake sometimes? And eat your pizza and have some pasta? Yes, absolutely, unequivocally, yes, you can eat things that you love and still be totally healthy and at a healthy weight. However, you need to be aware that if you are eating that bowl of cereal every single day, or your breakfast consists of orange juice and a bagel, or you're eating a pint of ice cream every single night or you're eating drinking two cokes a day. Let's be intellectually honest with ourselves, those things are going to keep us from getting to our goals, those things are going to keep us from getting healthy. So if you truly want to get there, you have to get honest with yourself, you know what's healthy and not healthy. You know what are better choices and not as good choices.
I also want to talk about juice really fast because since we're talking about kids juice is something that we give our kids I gave my kids juice in their sippy cups. I diluted it right it was half water, half juice, but I did. I just want to point this out because 12 ounces of apple juice has 39 grams of sugar that is the same amount of sugar as a 12 ounce can of Coke. That is a lot of added sugar. How many sippy cups of juice did your toddler get? Or is your toddler getting in a day. And I want to point this out, because so many of us were like it's juice, it's healthy, it's fine. Okay, it might have more vitamins than a can of Coke and less toxins and chemicals than a can of Coke. But that added sugar is a major problem. By comparison, an apple like a whole apple has 19 grams of sugar. And you might be like, Oh, that's still a lot of sugar. Except, remember, there's a distinction here. When you drink the juice, that sugar is digested really fast, it goes right to your liver and right to your bloodstream, and your pancreas and your insulin immediately have to deal with it. When you eat the apple even though it has 19 grams of sugar, it has a lot of fiber and that fiber is slowing down the digestive process. So you're not getting those 19 grams all in one hit. You are getting them slowly over time. And your liver and your pancreas can say yes, I can deal with this. 39 grams of sugar in one hit your liver and your pancreas are like holy crap, what just happened? Okay, do that over and over again. And we've got a lot of problems. So what are those problems?
What is happening in your body, the biggest problem with this added sugar is inflammation. And, again, I want to point out that sugar is not the only contributor to chronic inflammation, but it is one of the contributors. What researchers have found is that there is a definite correlation between those who eat more excess sugar added sugar, and those who have chronic inflammation. And there's a couple processes that they are speculating are the cause. The first reason is that sugar stimulates the production of free fatty acids in the liver. And when your body digests those free fatty acids, the resulting compounds trigger an inflammatory process, the more often that happens, the more inflammatory process is happening. The other problem is that this excess sugar is contributing to leaky gut and gut dysbiosis. Okay, remember, if you listen to the gut episode, and I'll link it in the show notes, all this excess sugar is feeding the bad bacteria in your gut. When you have more bad bacteria than good bacteria, you get gut dysbiosis. So this just means there's an imbalance. That imbalance leads to leaky guts, which are literally holes in the linings of your intestines that are allowing things to leak into your bloodstream. Leaky gut is one of the major contributors to chronic inflammation. So what's happening on both ends, right? Excess added sugar is messing with my liver and the free fatty acids that it has to create to deal with the sugar that's contributing to inflammation. And then it's also contributing to leaky gut, which is contributing to inflammation.
Now again, let me repeat for the 100th time, it's not just sugars that are doing these things, but sugar is one of the things that are causing these problems. So common signs and symptoms of chronic inflammation, depression, anxiety or other mood disorders, body pains, constant fatigue, chronic fatigue, insomnia, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, or basically any other digestive issue, weight gain frequent infections. Remember, if you listened to the gut health episodes, we know that your immune system resides largely in your gut. So you're causing immune issues with excess sugar, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, autoimmune disorders, all related to chronic inflammation, chronic inflammation related to excess sugar, among other things. Are we seeing all the correlations here are we seeing how this kind of breaks down and again, added sugar is not the only thing that is causing this chronic inflammation, other things that cause it things like trans fats like in fast food, so fast food, and highly processed foods like that, it's like extra whammy because not only does it have the added sugars, but it also has the trans fats. And it also has excess Omega sixes like vegetable oils, corn oil, sunflower oils, excess Omega six leads to chronic lung inflammation. Alcohol also can cause chronic inflammation, anything again, that contributes to leaky gut, so not just excess sugar, but also celiac disease, parasites, toxin exposure, like tons of other things, even stress. So again, excess added sugar is one part of the whole problem. We have to look at you as a whole person and all of these contributing factors that could be leading to this inflammation. Monitoring excess sugar is one thing you can do. There's clearly lots of other things that you can look at as well. I don't want to just demonize sugar until you can never have it again. That's not true. And that's not what I'm saying.
So let's talk about what's actually happening in your body. All of this added sugar, again, is affecting Your system as a whole. And without going into all the details, what eventually starts happening is insulin resistance. When you have lots of excess added of that fast sugar that fast digested sugar eventually leads to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is how you eventually get type two diabetes, type two diabetes and insulin resistance results. Most often in hardening of the arteries, hardening of the arteries raises your blood pressure contributes to atherosclerosis sclerosis, and those are the contributors, the main contributors of heart attacks. So I just want you to see that kind of long correlation there, the excess sugars, those fats, sugars, and then we start getting into insulin problems and insulin problems, create diabetes problems, and those insulin problems also create heart problems and heart attack problems. Okay? It's all related. We can't just take these little pieces out and say, I'm going to give you a drug for this little piece. And I'm going to do this for this little piece, we have to look at the whole system and how it all works together.
Now, here's something you probably didn't think about when we're talking about excess sugar in your diet, collagen. Now, lots of you are probably taking a collagen supplement, and I have opinions about that, take it if you like it, or don't I really nothing bad will happen if you take it. But I also don't think anything amazing is happening either. I digress. collagen, you know, is what is helping you have smooth skin, it's what helps keep your joints healthy sugar is breaking down your collagen. So instead of spending all that money on a wrinkle creams and Botox and all the things, what if you could just cut back on the excess added sugar, and your joints would feel better and your skin would be healthy and plump and glowing. Your skin is a reflection of what's happening inside your body. What if instead of spending all that money on that collagen supplement, you could just pay attention to the added sugar that you're eating. That seems like a more cost effective thing to do.
I also want to talk about your brain and sugar because this is really important for us to understand. Food manufacturers in this country spend millions and millions of dollars creating foods that they know will be highly addictive for you. They do this on purpose so that you will buy their food again and again. And again. This is a conscious effort that they are making to get you addicted to their food, please understand this. And the way they're doing that is largely through the added sugars. Why does that work? I read they did a study and they said they determined that Oreos were the most highly addictive food. And the reason that it was was because of the combination that they had come up with with hydrogenated fats and the added sugars and the effect that it had on your brain. So those two things together, they found like the perfect ratio in an Oreo. To make it the most highly addictive food sugar on your brain is causing the same chemical reaction as alcohol and heroin. It affects the same dopamine receptors as alcohol and heroin do. So you legit might be addicted to added sugar, like for real for real addicted to it. So please understand that this is not going to be an easy process of kind of getting rid of these added sugars. Let me also draw a distinction here. You are not addicted to fruits, you are not addicted to vegetables. Why? Because that sugar acts differently. The sugar in the processed foods and beverages that you are eating acts directly on your brain on purpose. They designed it that way. Okay. So I really want you to see that there's a difference there.
So if you feel like it's hard to quit sugar, it's because it is a if you feel like you are hesitant to take sugar from your kids, because you know it's going to be a fight. It's because they're probably also addicted to it. It's hard for them to have it's hard for you, it's hard for them. So I just want you to kind of be aware of that, that it's not just about what excess sugar is doing in your body. It's also what excess sugar is doing on your brain and how that is affecting your eating habits.
So what do we do about all of this? It seems so overwhelming because there's so much extra sugar in almost every kind of processed food that we buy. I am not someone again who will ever tell you to quit sugar outright. I just will never tell you to do that. I think it's crazy honestly, trying to cold turkey quit all sugar. It's going to be a horrible experience for you. You're not going to enjoy it. I'm not going to tell you to do that. What I will tell you is to start being more aware. We all are going to eat processed foods. We are all going to eat sweets and cookies and cakes and donuts and we're all going to have a beverages with some sugar in them. We're all going to eat some ice cream like we're all going to do these things in our life. And we should be able to do these things. And we can do all of those things, and still be healthy. But we also have to be honest with ourselves and look at it in totality in a day, how much of that we're actually having, right? There's a huge difference between I just had some ice cream last night, there's a difference between that and saying, like, well, I'm going to have cereal for breakfast, and I'm going to have a bagel and juice for lunch. And then I'm going to have, like, you need to look at your day in totality, not just like each thing that you're choosing. Does that make sense? So when you're thinking about reducing overall added sugar, think about it as your day as a whole, what is one tiny thing you could do throughout your day as a whole, one tiny choice you could make, that would be an easy choice to make, that would reduce your overall added sugar intake in that day as a whole. So can I, instead of drinking a glass of juice, can I have a glass of water instead, it's one tiny thing you could do one simple change you could make. That's what I'm talking about. When I say be aware.
And when I say make changes, I'm talking about one small simple thing that you could change, okay, the obvious thing that you can start doing is cutting out the beverages. The beverages are always the easiest thing, in my opinion, to get rid of first. So the juices, the sodas, that kind of stuff, then you're going to think about okay, processed foods. What kind of processed foods? Can I switch out? Instead of pasta tonight? Could I have, you know, zucchini noodles? Instead of that bagel? Could I even have a sandwich? Right? A sandwich with some protein and some fat would be a better choice than just the bagel with which is like a pure sugar hit? Does that make sense? Like what are the small things? What are the processed foods that I can cut out? Instead of McDonald's? Can I go home and make a hamburger? Right? These are the small changes over time that you're going to think about making. And now if you're in the healthy mind, Healthy Body program, there's a whole system for this. There's a whole progression and a whole system. I teach you how to do all of these things. But for right now, in this podcast, I just want to kind of lay that out for you. Those are the things that you're thinking about. You're not thinking about how do I cut all this stuff out immediately clean up my pantry, clean out my fridge? Get rid of all of it? No, you're thinking about, could I buy a low sugar ketchup instead of the regular ketchup. That's one small thing that you could do over time, that would make a big difference. That's what we're talking about.
Okay. I also want you to really start making the connection between what you eat and how you feel, and what's happening in your mind and how that food that you're choosing is directly affecting your body, especially your gut, which affects your mind. I read a study about people who were depressed and on antidepressants, and how there's a common correlation between being on antidepressants and gaining weight. And the theory was that because you're on the antidepressants, that you had more sugar and carb cravings, which caused you to eat more sugars and carbs, and you gained weight. But in the study, what they actually found was the opposite, that those that were addicted to sugar had changed their gut, which changed their brain chemistry, which was then part a cause of the Depression, a major contributing factor for them being depressed in the first place was that they were addicted to sugar. So sugar, bad gut, depression, all connected. So what I'm asking you, again, is just to be aware, start connecting the dots, Get real, get honest with yourself, if you want to be healthy. If you truly want to be healthy, you start, you have to start having honest conversations with yourself about like, yeah, this Coke with my dinner is probably not a great choice. I could replace it with something else. That's one small thing that I could do. But you got to get honest with yourself first, about how that Coke is probably not a healthy choice for you. Well, let me rephrase that. It's definitely not a healthy choice for you. I don't want to mix my words here. It's definitely not a healthy choice for you. And we just need to get honest about that.
So how do you get rid of it, you start replacing things slowly, one tiny thing over time, we need to start connecting the dots we need to start raising our own awareness about the things that we're eating and drinking and how it's affecting us how it's making our body feel. So I hope overall, you got the idea. What I really want you to take home from this is that eating fruits and sugars and fruits and eating vegetables and eating sugars and Whole Foods are not the problem. Do not stop eating carbohydrates. Carbohydrates in and of themselves are not the problem. The problem is these fast digesting simple added sugars in things like processed foods and beverages. Okay, I need you to draw the distinction, then you can understand that those added fast digesting sugars are what is contributing to things like chronic inflammation, which is contributing to things like chronic disease make sense. So then in order to address this, what you're doing is thinking about small, simple ways that you can cut some of the added sugars and replace them with something else. Again, super small, just replaced the high sugar ketchup with a low sugar ketchup,
can you use slightly less syrup? Can you eat ice cream every other night instead of every night, like little changes over time, do not just decide that you're going to clean out your pantry and clean out your fridge and you're going to quit sugar forever, I promise you, it's not going to work, you're gonna crave it, it's gonna kill you, you're gonna hate it, you're gonna feel terrible, you're gonna probably have some emotional and physical withdrawals, like it's not going to go well, over time. Think about small ways that you can just cut the excess sugar. Okay, and keep in mind that is one small part of your body as a whole, and all the choices that you're making healthier, not as a whole.
Okay, I know I got a little bit on my soapbox today. But I just really want to clear this up for everyone. Because there's so much misinformation and there's so many gurus and experts out there that are telling you like cut all the sugar and cut all the carbs and do all these things. And I am telling you, you do not have to nor should you. Okay, we can be healthy. And we can have our ice cream too. That's true. But you have to understand how much when and why. Okay, okay, if you need help with this, I also want to remind you that the Healthy Mind Healthy Body program is opening up for registration on May 16. So if you're like, This is awesome, Tara, this is good information, but how in practice to actually do these things. That's where that comes in. That's what I teach you there how to not have to cut everything out how to not have to diet, how to not have to count and track and weigh and measure and monitor. I will teach you how to live a healthy lifestyle, how to make healthy decisions for yourself, how to go through that entire process. And it is a process. And I will coach you and hold your hand through that entire process until you get to the place where you just don't think about the stuff anymore. And isn't that what we really want, where we just are healthy and happy and we feel great and we eat food. And we don't have to think about food all day. That's the end goal. That's where I want to get you. So if you're interested in that, if that seems like something you want, then on May 16 get yourself registered, you can go to tarafualmann.com/join and get yourself on the pre registration list right now because spots will be limited. And so if you get yourself on the free list, then you're guaranteed a spot in when we open it back up. Okay my friends. I hope this was super helpful and informative. If you enjoyed this, share it with a friend if you have a friend who decides they want to cut out all sugar before they do send them this episode. Okay, until we talk again my friends, be well.
Friends thanks so much for being here. If you found value in today's episode, will you do me a favor and head over to iTunes? Find the no nonsense wellness podcast and subscribe and leave me a review. It would mean the world to me and help other people find the show. And I'd love to connect with you more. So find me on Instagram. I'm @tarafaulmann. Take a screenshot of this episode and share it in your stories and tag me. I'll see you over there.