How Much Sugar is too Much?

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate found naturally in many foods, including fruits and grains. If the only sugar we consumed were in natural, whole foods, we’d all be okay. Unfortunately, the average American diet is full of refined, nutrient-depleted foods and contains an average of 20 teaspoons of added, refined sugar every day. Refined sugar overworks the pancreas and adrenal glands to keep the blood sugar levels in balance. When you eat sugar, it is quickly absorbed into your blood stream in the form of glucose. This puts your pancreas into overdrive, making insulin (which carries glucose to your cells to be used for energy) to normalize blood sugar levels. But this rapid release of insulin causes a sudden drop in blood sugar. In reaction to the falling blood sugar, excess adrenal cortisone is stimulated to raise blood sugar back to normal. A constantly high intake of simple dietary sugar keeps this roller coaster going and eventually overworks or “burns out” normal pancreas and adrenal function leading to adult-onset diabetes, hypoglycemia, and chronic fatigue. I hear all the time from patients that they do not eat junk food. They wonder why they should be concerned about sugar consumption. Unless you’re eating a diet entirely made of whole, unprocessed foods (such as fruits, vegetables, and grains), you’re probably eating more sugar than you think. Usually, much  more. Sugar, in its many forms, is added to virtually every packaged food product you’ll find at the supermarket – not just the sweet stuff.  Don’t be fooled by the ingredients list. Sugar has hundreds of pseudonyms and manufacturers have gotten very good at hiding them from consumers. (See below for list.) Because ingredients are listed from most to least amount, often several different types of sugars will be in the middle of the list. If all sugars were required to be listed together, sugar would be the first ingredient. To find out how much sugar you’re actually taking in, check the labels of the foods you eat. Make sure you look at serving sizes and multiply appropriately. 4 grams of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of sugar for women a day and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of sugar a day for men.Many people ask about “natural” sweeteners. Don’t be fooled, these “natural” sweeteners are only marginally better than plain white table sugar and dietary intake of them should be limited. I have enclosed below a list of names that sugar goes by on labels. Look for these names when looking at labels. Manufacturers try to be tricky. Do not be fooled. Take control of your weight and health!


Agave nectar
Barbados Sugar
Barley malt
Beet sugar
Blackstrap molasses
Brown sugar
Buttered syrup
Cane crystals
Cane juice crystals
Cane sugar
Carob syrup
Castor sugar
Confectioner’s sugar
Corn syrup
Corn sweetener
Corn syrup solids
Crystalline fructose
Date sugar
Demerara Sugar
Diastatic malt
Evaporated cane juice
Ethyl maltol
Florida Chrystals
Free Flowing
Fruit juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Glucose solids
Golden sugar
Golden syrup
Granulated sugar
Grape sugar
Grape juice concentrate
High-fructose corn Syrup
Icing sugar
Invert sugar
Malt syrup
Maple syrup
Muscovado sugar
Organic raw sugar
Powdered sugar
Raw sugar
Refiner’s syrup
Rice Syrup
Sorghum syrup
Syrup Syrup
Table sugar
Turbinado sugar
Yellow sugar

Sugar – As Addicting as Drugs

Sugar is highly addictive. It can be as addictive as illegal drugs for many people. The average American has 140 to 150 pounds of sugar per person of sugar added to their diets each year. Another 20 percent of our calories come from white flour, a simple carbohydrate, which acts a lot like sugar in our bodies. Eating almost twice our weight in sugar and white flour each year, it’s not surprising that we have become a nation of sugar addicts. Like many other addictive substances, sugar may leave you feeling a bit better for a few hours, but then wreaks havoc on your body. For thousands of years, humans ate sugar found naturally in their food. Sugar was not a problem; it was a treat. But now many of the calories we consume come from sugar and white flour added by food processing. Our bodies simply were not designed to handle this massive load. The more food is processed, the less healthy it becomes. Processing food removes nutrients, minerals, and fiber. Sugar gives you an initial high and then you crash several hours later, leaving you wanting more sugar. In fact, sugar acts as an energy loan shark, taking away more energy than it gives. Eventually, your “credit line” runs out and you find yourself exhausted, anxious, and moody.In addition to the immediate fatigue and emotional problems, sugar also causes many long-term health problems.  Our consumption of high-fructose corn syrup has risen 250 percent in the past fifteen years, and our rate of diabetes has increased approximately 45 percent during the same time period. Although the sugar industry sometimes tries to confuse the public by claiming that corn syrup is not sugar, it is a form of sugar as far as your body is concerned, and more toxic. There are several chronic medical problems associated with excess sugar in our diet including: weight gain, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, chronic sinusitis, irritable bowel syndrome and spastic colon, cancer, metabolic syndrome with high cholesterol and hypertension, heart disease and stroke, ADHD, and anxiety/depression.  Sugar is a mood-altering substance, which is no surprise to anyone with a sweet tooth. But the fact is that sugar is everywhere in our diet, and it is dumped into what we eat and drink during food processing. With one-third of our calories coming from sugar and white flour, and the stress of modern life increasing, we are seeing the makings of the perfect storm of medical problems. Eating sugar causes blood sugar to surge, insulin levels to spike, and fat to get deposited throughout your body. Obesity, often accompanied by diabetes and heart disease, is just one more consequence of our high-sugar diet. Your long-term goal should be to slowly decrease the sugar and simple carbohydrates (white flour, white rice, ect.) in your diet. Do not try to stop cold turkey as you may get withdrawal symptoms, just like stopping other drugs. Replace simple sugars with whole grains. You know a whole grain because it will contain a fair amount of fiber. The more fiber the better. Eat more fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth. Artificial sweeteners are just as bad and can have many side effects. Try Stevia instead. Stevia is a South American herb which has been used as a natural sweetener for centuries. The leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant have a refreshing taste, zero glycemic index, zerocalories and zerocarbs. It is 25-30 times sweeter than sugar, and far more healthy. There have not been any reports of toxicity with Stevia, which is consumed by millions of people daily.



Start Today!

Start today. Do not procrastinate any longer. You know who you are. Take a small step today. All journeys begin with a single step. Eat some more fruits or vegetables. Reduce your soft drink intake. Cut down on your calories. Go for a walk. Set a quit date for quitting smoking. Do something. Remember, your goals should be long term. Change should be gradual over time. Make sure you make a small change every day, including today. Seize the day! Multiple small changes over time add up to big changes over the long run. Weight loss should be slow and gradual. Quick weight loss never lasts. Increase you exercise time. Exercise endurance will begin to increase slowly over time. Exercise will become easier and easier. You will begin to notice that you have more energy, improved moods, and greater endurance as you continue. The key though, is to begin today. Do not delay! Start to develop new habits that will last a lifetime and will lead to lasting change. Do not put this off until tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes. Do it for yourself. Do it for your family or friends. Just do it! Never give up!

Eat Whole Foods

I get asked all the time what people should eat. The basis of all diets should be whole, unprocessed and unrefined food. The more any food is processed or refined the more unhealthy it becomes. Try to eat more food in their natural states. Try to eat as many fresh fruit and vegetables as possible. Your goal should be 8-10 servings a day. Fresh is better than frozen or canned. If fresh is not available, frozen is better than canned. Try to eat more whole grains, beans, lentils, peas, seeds and nuts. Avoid white flour, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, white rice, and white pasta. Look for products that are high in fiber. Avoid products with unbleached flour. As foods are processed and refined they loose many of their nutrients such as fiber and vitamins. The goal is to get as many nutrients per calorie from the food you eat. Processed and highly refined foods are the exact opposite of that goal. They tend to have a lot of calories with little nutritional value. Make your choices wisely. Always eat mindfully. Look at labels. Ask questions. It is your long-term health at stake.

Think Progress and Not Perfection

Your thinking and goals when improving your health should be long term. You should look at the process as a marathon and not a sprint. Unfortunately, our society tends to be very short term focused. We want results today. We want to lose 50lbs in 1 week by taking magic pills. Unfortunately, this way of thinking will ultimately lead to failure and frustration. Think consistent progress. Start by making small, but consistent changes. For example, start by slowly reducing the amount of red meat you eat, or slowly reduce the amount of cheese you eat. Add fiber slowly into your diet. Eat more fruits and vegetables each and every day. Your thinking should be the same for exercise. Start by walking a few days a week for 10-15 minutes. Slowly increase your duration to 30-45 minutes. You can then slowly increase your frequency – your goal should be every other day, if possible. Start lifting light weights to build muscle mass and to strengthen your bones. Over time these small changes will start to build on each other and lead to big changes. Your weight will slowly start to decrease. Your blood pressure will drop. Your cholesterol will drop. Your blood sugar will drop. You may even begin to require less medication. You will feel better and have increased energy. Remember though, perfection is not the goal. If you have a bad meal or a bad day, just restart the next day. Do not become frustrated. Never give up! Continue to make small, but consistent changes. Make sure you focus on the long term and consistency. Small, but consistent changes will lead to large changes over time. Over the long term you will succeed.

I Have Prediabetes – Should I Be Worried?

Yes! Prediabetes is NOT a benign condition.

First, prediabetes is an elevated fasting blood sugar level that does meet the full definition of diabetes mellitus. A normal fasting blood sugar should be below 100mg/dL. Prediabetes is a fasting blood sugar between 100-124mg/dL. Full diabetes by definition is a blood suagar of 125mg/dL or higher. A hemoglobin A1C test can also help. Prediabetes is by definition a hemoglobin A1C between 6 and 6.5 percent. A level of 6.5 percent or higher on two separate tests indicates you have diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends blood glucose screening if you have any risk factors for prediabetes including: being overweight (a body mass index above 25), being inactive, age 45 or older, have a family history of type 2 diabetes, are African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian-American or a Pacific Islander, have a history of gestational diabetes or have given birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds, have a history of polycystic ovary syndrome, have high blood pressure, have abnormal cholesterol levels, including a  HDL)cholesterol below 35 mg/dL or triglyceride level above 250 mg/dL.

Unfortunately, those with prediabetes are already at risk for complications. This is a very important point. Complications/damage are already developing. An elevated blood sugar in the blood directly damages the lining of all arteries including those in the heart, brain, eyes, kidneys. It can directly damage nerves. An elevated blood sugar leads to increased insulin levels (hyperinsulinemia). High levels of insulin lead to increased levels of inflammation (which leads to many other adverse conditions), weight gain, dyslipidemia, and eventually full diabetes.

The good news is that prediabetes is completely reversible, naturally. Drugs can be avoided if the appropriate steps are taken. (The goal should be to avoid/reduce medication if possible) Here are several ways to naturally lower your blood sugar and prevent/treat prediabetes:

– lose weight (goal BMI < 25)

– get regular aerobic exercise (20-30 minutes, at least every other day)

– increase soluble fiber intake (see prior article on fiber – goal is greater than 30 grams total fiber per day)

– eat more fruits and vegetables (goal is at least 7-9 servings a day)

– get enough sleep

– reduce saturated and trans fat intake (completely avoid trans fat!)

– avoid excessive alcohol

If you have prediabetes or diabetes make sure you discuss your condition/medications with your own personal physician before making any changes.

Ten Great Reasons to Exercise Today!

1. Exercise makes your heart stronger.

2. Exercise helps you to lose weight and to maintain a healthy weight.

3. Exercise decreases your inflammation levels (C reactive protein levels).

4. Exercise helps to reduce your blood sugar and prevent diabetes.

5. Exercise decreases your blood pressure naturally.

6. Exercise boosts the immune system and helps you to stay healthy.

7. Exercise helps relieve arthritis.

8. Exercise increases your cognitive abilities and memory.

9. Exercise helps to stengthen your bones and prevent osteoporosis.

10. Exercise leads to the release of endorphins in your brain, which improves your mood and helps to fight depression.

With all these great benefits from regular exercise, there is no reason not to start today. Go for a walk, ride a bicycle, swim, or play tennis. Do what ever you enjoy. Have fun! Get active and reap all these great benefits!