In honor of Halloween and the upcoming holidays, today’s show is all about sugar. We’re going to talk about why you crave sugar — spoiler alert, this has nothing to do with willpower. We’ll also cover what blood work can give you information about your current intake, how much sugar to have, how to cut back and what to eat instead. Plus supplements and extras that really work for cutting cravings, how to work treats into your healthy routine, and our favorite Halloween candies.
What’s wrong with sugar?
One thing that gets thrown around about sugar is that it’s like crack. And that’s legit. In studies rats will actually choose sugar water over cocaine. Sugar does similar things in terms of the pleasure centers in your brain that cocaine, morphine and nicotine do.
Sugar also changes our microbiome, which is kind of like a control tower in your gut, and affects everything from your cravings to your mood. So to help with sugar cravings, we need to focus on gut health.
If you’re someone who gets sick all the time, or feel like you can’t really kick a bug, often sugar is the culprit. Bacteria and viruses thrive on sugar and eating white carbs or too much sugar can make you stay sicker longer. On a more serious note, cancer cells love sugar and when we have clients going through treatments such as radiation or chemo, they’re far more successful in the absence of sugar. So eating less sugar really makes a difference in your overall wellness and also in your longevity.
Blood work can be super eye-opening, and we have a bunch of things we ask clients to get tested for. In terms of sugar, there’s a test called A1C, and that is a snapshot of your blood sugar over the past three months. Doctors like you to be under 5.6, but for optimal health, it’s better to be under 5.2. We also look at your fasting blood sugar, and that should ideally be between 70 and 85.
So how much sugar should you eat?
The recommended maximum per day is 38g (about nine teaspoons) for men, 25g (about six teaspoons for women) and three to six teaspoons for kids. We actually think these numbers are a little bit high but if you are somebody who’s eating a little too much sugar, first get yourself here. Try to pick one or two times that you’re having something sweet in the day.
Watch out for sugar in breads and salad dressing and even in healthy foods and drinks like:
- Dark chocolate
- Protein bars
- Drinks with sweetened almond milk
What are the best sweeteners to use instead of sugar?
We get asked a lot of questions about what are the best sweeteners, and while the truth is that we need to eat less of all of it, some are better than others. Honey, for example has some B vitamins and some great minerals. Maple syrup has some calcium, iron and magnesium. If you want something in your pantry when a recipe calls for white sugar, there are some good alternatives.
We’re not fans of agave because it’s very high in fructose, which is probably the sugar most easily be stored as fat.
We’re also not fans of artificial sweeteners for so many reasons, including the way they affect your microbiome and increase your desire for sweetness. They’re also carcinogens. So that means sucralose, saccharin, aspartame. If you’re a yellow or blue packet person or a diet soda person, please break up because these are not OK in any quantity.
We do stock stevia (check out the NuStevia Liquid Sweetener in our shop) and we also are fine with monk fruit. These are both zero calorie sweeteners. Even healthier sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit can be problematic in huge quantities. The more sweet you eat, the more sweet you will crave, and that is still true with the zero calorie sweeteners.
Things to add into your diet when you’re cutting back on sugar
Bitter foods like:
- Dandelion greens (we love the dandelion bitters in our shop)
- Citrus peel or zest
- Brussel sprouts
- Bitter melon
- Black coffee or tea
- Green tea
Fermented foods like:
- Raw apple cider vinegar (we stock Vermont Apple Cider Vinegar)
- Mother-In-Law’s Kimchi (their Daikon Radish Kimchi is excellent)
- Farmhouse Culture
- Bubbies Pickles
- Low-sugar kombucha (we love Bear’s Fruit)
We also recommend adding in:
- Collagen protein
- MCT oil
- Ceylon cinnamon (like this one from Ila)
- Vanilla beans (like cinnamon, this is great for sweetening coffee)
- A probiotic (we have a great one from Advanced Naturals in our shop
- Four cups of vegetables per day
How much fruit should you eat?
A banana is is better than a cookie but you shouldn’t be eating a bunch of bananas a day unless that’s really a first step for you. Ideally have some fruit once or twice a day. The best fruits are berries, Asian pears and papaya. The higher sugar fruits are mangoes, bananas, cherries and grapes. We do eat these fruits, but not in large quantities.
Do we recommend anything for occasional treats?
Yes, in reasonable portions. We love:
- Blissfully Better Mint Thins
- Chocolate from Hu Kitchen
- Caramels from Cocomels
- Coconut Bliss Ice Cream
- Candy from Surf Sweets
- Eating Evolved Paleo Chocolate Cups
- Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
- Justin’s Nut Butter Cups
- Organic candy from Torie & Howard
Happy Halloween! Please pass this along to the sweetest people in your life and show us how you’re slashing sugar or eating better for your treats, and what your favorite ones are.
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