PeerWell has been drilling in to the truth about sugar. Here is a roundup of the best advice from 6 top sugar experts including:
- Dr. Robert Lustig, MD, pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF & founder of the Institute for Responsible Nutrition
- Dr. Cyrus Khambatta, PhD in nutritional biochemistry & type 1 diabetic
- Dr. Ann Childers, MD, psychiatrist focused on regaining mental health through nutrition
- Dr. Annette Tobia, PhD in molecular biology, JD, serial health entreprenuer
- Brooke Alpert MS, RD, CDN and acclaimed author of The Sugar Detox
- Courtney Cronk MA in behavioral science and counseling, NTP
Dr. Robert Lustig
Where do you work? UCSF in San Francisco, CA
What is the biggest misconception people have about sugar? That it is just empty calories.
How should people go about dealing with sugar? Gradually reduce intake to 1/3 of their current consumption.
What is your most helpful tip to those trying to reduce sugar consumption? Get rid of all sugar-sweetened beverages, including juice.
What is your favorite sugar free meal? Soup.
Any parting thoughts? If a food lists any form of sugar as one of the first three ingredients, it’s a dessert.
Dr. Cyrus Khambatta
Where do you work? Mangoman Nutrition and Fitness in San Francisco, CA.
What is the biggest misconception people have about sugar? Many people misunderstand the difference between table sugar and “sugar” from fruits. I hear people say that they don’t eat fruit because they contain “sugar,” even though the human body processes the carbohydrates from table sugar and fruits in a completely different manner. Simply stated, refined sweeteners do not contain 5 crucial nutrients: (1) vitamins (2) minerals (3) fiber (4) water and (5) antioxidants.
The human GI tract has a difficult time processing foods that do not contain these nutrients, leading to inflammatory conditions. These 5 nutrients are required for optimal digestion, absorption, transport and uptake of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat and protein), and their presence promotes normal metabolic function.
Refined sugars do not contain these 5 nutrients, fruits contain all 5.
How should people go about dealing with sugar? I believe that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and that it differs from individual to individual. Some people can handle the “cold turkey” approach, while others require a ramp-down. I err on the conservative side with sugar due to it’s addictive nature, so in the same way that addiction to either alcohol or nicotine can be achieved with a ram-down approach, I advise my clients to do the same, over the course of 3-4 weeks.
What is your most helpful tip to those trying to reduce sugar consumption? Eat fruits! I have found time and time again that when an individual increases their intake of sweet fruits (mangoes, bananas, figs, dates, raisins, persimmons etc.), then their craving for refined sugars go away almost entirely.
The truth is, your brain is not asking for table sugar, rather it is asking for glucose from real carbohydrates. Make no mistake about it, your brain runs on glucose for 99% of your waking life. Therefore, it is very important to ensure a consistent intake of carbohydrates throughout the day in order to provide your brain with the energy that it requires for cognition.
What is your favorite sugar free meal? 4 bananas, 2 mangoes, 1 handful of dates and a sprinkle of cardamom.
Any parting thoughts? Many people think that they have “addictive personalities” that predispose them to sugar addictions. I have found that this is rarely the case, and that more often people are merely creatures of habit that repeat behavioral patterns based off of emotional cues – particularly loneliness and stress.
If you consider yourself a “sugar addict,” consider reflecting on your emotional state when your craving for sugar is high. Are you feeling stressed? Are you upset? Are you lonely?
Often times simply being aware of your emotional state prior to grabbing a sugary food can short-circuit your unconscious behavioral pattern and start to create new behavioral patterns that foster a long-term and sustainable approach to health.
Simply reacting to emotions can leave you feeling helpless. Awareness is power.
Dr. Ann Childers
Where do you work? Life Balance Northwest in Portland, Oregon.
What is the biggest misconception people have about sugar? The largest public misconception from my point of view is that, because it is fat-free, sugar does not contribute to heart attacks or strokes.
How should people go about dealing with sugar? A gradual reduction in sugar intake is something most people can do comfortably. Gradually replacing sugars and refined starches (which convert to glucose, aka “blood sugar”, when digested) with well-sourced fats and high quality protein is an important step to fortify the diet and dampen sugar cravings.
What is your most helpful tip to those trying to reduce sugar consumption? After a period of clean eating nearly everyone lapses into eating sugar and refined starch (which turns to glucose, aka “blood sugar”) at some point. If you do, be conscious about it; take note of how much you ate and how you feel physically and mentally that day and over the next several days. For example, notice your skin: do you break out? Are your eyes puffy? Do you feel bloated? Depressed? Anxious? Irritable? You may experience enough uncomfortable symptoms you’ll want to return to clean eating as soon as possible. Then the next time you consider “breaking bad” from clean eating you will know what to expect and can make a conscious, informed decision based on your experience. Another tip: Join others with like dietary goals, on line or, better yet, in person. If your family is on board, even better! Social support is important when changing lifelong bad habits and maintaining healthy new ones.
What is your favorite sugar free meal? Hands down, chopped chicken liver, deli-style, with fresh sweet onion slices and steamed broccoli soaked in pasture butter with lemon. Second favorite is a breakfast of poached eggs with hollandaise sauce with a side of steamed spinach with pasture butter. Interesting, since quitting sugar, things I did not consider sweet taste very sweet. Even water tastes sweet. Chicken liver with sweet onions is so sweet to my palate it tastes like dessert, even though there is no added sugar.
Any parting thoughts? Tooth decay or a history of cavities, gum disease, a plump belly, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, sleep disorders and more result from exposure to sugars and refined starches. People who eliminate these from their diet report improved health, clearer thinking and added mental and physical energy. Learn to cook in order to reduce your consumption of processed foods. Your body and mind with thank you.
Dr. Annette Tobia
Where do you work? Dynamis Theraputics in Philadephia, PA
What is the biggest misconception people have about sugar? Most of us know that excessive sugar consumption can cause diabetes, heart disease, obesity, tooth decay, liver problems, and on and on. But it doesn’t stop there: sugar can turn a baby-smooth complexion into a sandpaper-rough, inflamed and wrinkled surface. In addition to poor diet producing toxic sugar, less well known is the fact that toxic sugar is also produced by our body’s normal metabolic process. A team of research scientists at Fox Chase Cancer Center (FCCC) in Philadelphia discovered that there is an enzyme, FN3K, in the body that converts sugar-bound protein to toxic sugar in skin. Sugar fasts are fine, but eat bread, pasta, rice and other starches and carbohydrates and your body converts these to sugar, which then becomes bound to protein and triggers the forming of toxic sugars. This in turn causes inflammation, oxidative stress, and glycation. Wrinkles, wrinkles, wrinkles!
How should people go about dealing with sugar? If you want to be kind to your body, skin, and your appearance avoid glycated protein, starches and carbohydrates.
What is your most helpful tip to those trying to reduce sugar consumption? Knowledge is power. Sugar is everywhere. Cruise down almost any aisle in a supermarket and you’d think you’re sailing on the Good Ship Lollypop. Three out of four packaged goods contain sugar. Never mind the usual suspects like soda, cookies and candy. Crackers, mustard, peanut butter and cereal—the list goes on and on—all are chock-a-block with sugar. Be aware of where companies sneak in sugar, and limit your intake.
What is your favorite sugar free meal? Lobster and a crisp salad with hearts of palm.
Any parting thoughts? Combating sugar is not merely a matter of exercising Spartan willpower. It is an addiction, literally, in the same way as drugs. Just as troublesome, while breaking the sugar addiction is a necessary condition for dealing with the effects of sugar on health and skin, it is not a sufficient condition for doing so. Our bodies continue to produce toxic sugar byproducts as part of the normal metabolic process, even in the face of restricted sugar intake.
Where do you work? B Nutritious in NYC, New York.
What is the biggest misconception people have about sugar? That if they don’t crave sweets that they don’t eat a lot of sugar.
How should people go about dealing with sugar? I obviously recommend The Sugar Detox as a great structured way to break your sugar addiction. In this book, I recommend quitting sugar cold turkey!
What is your most helpful tip to those trying to reduce sugar consumption? Stop using artificial sweeteners. They only increase your need for more sugar!
What is your favorite sugar free meal? Eggs and avocado for breakfast.
Any parting thoughts? It’s easy to break your sugar addiction if you follow my guidelines in The Sugar Detox. It will change your life. You’ll sleep better, lose weight and even your skin will have an improved appearance.
Where do you work? Nourish Portland in Portland, OR.
What is the biggest misconception people have about sugar? That it’s not as harmful as it truly is. People generally think fat is bad for you while they gobble up sugar, when sugar is the culprit an many of our “modern day” diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease.
How should people go about dealing with sugar? First, a person has to want to stop eating sugar (or at least have some awareness that they should). Whatever method works best for the individual is the one they should do. Not everyone is up for a detox, though I’ve led many people through a sugar detox very successfully. However, just because someone does a detox doesn’t mean they’ll eat that way long-term. If you consider the amount of sugar in today’s standard American diet (SAD) where per capita we eat upwards of 180 lbs. of sugar per year (some studies say closer to 200 lbs.), reducing sugar intake gradually would make a huge difference.
What is your most helpful tip to those trying to reduce sugar consumption? Do not eat or drink anything packaged or processed.
What is your favorite sugar free meal? I love a large colorful salad, tossed with olive oil and lemon, with a grass-fed burger patty on top!
Any parting thoughts? Sugar is a toxin and is more addicting than cocaine. Drastically reducing your sugar intake may be the very best thing you can do for your health and longevity.