Shaking the sugar habit. - Rancho La Puerta

Shaking the sugar habit.

By Yvonne Nienstadt, Nutrition Director at Rancho La Puerta

Happy New Resolution Time!

SugarCubesIt’s that time of year when many of us make resolutions to improve our lifestyles and leave self-defeating habits behind. Sadly, some of us don’t bother making resolutions for fear of failure. Take heart and make those resolutions! According to researchers, 46% of the ‘Auld Lang Syne’ resolvers, or the people who made resolutions, kept their resolutions, compared to just 4% of the non-resolvers. That is a sizable advantage, so take it!

One resolution to consider is shaking the sugar habit. This is a hard one after all the holiday fare (aptly called ‘Christmas Crack’ by the wife of one of our fitness instructors!). Sugar excites dopamine and beta endorphin production in the brain….pleasure and calm. And it is fine as an occasional treat, but there is a price to pay when we consistently eat it in large quantities daily. It is addictive and can cause a host of problems and not just with teeth. Blood sugar, insulin, and brain chemistry can be profoundly disturbed, and it can potentially lead to obesity and diabetes.

The main sweeteners used in our culture are primarily derived from sugar cane, corn, and beets. These foods in their natural state are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but processing and refinement strip them of all of their health properties. What is left is a fast-digesting, high calorie, low nutrient drug like substance which is highly addictive.  Some of sugar’s familiar names are sucrose, maltodextrin, glucose, fructose, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), malt syrup, dextrose, and levulose.

Need some proof that sugar is addictive? In an interview with CBS News’ 60 Minutes, Dr. Robert Lustig (a California-based endocrinologist) stated that numerous studies confirm “sugar is as addictive as cocaine.”

His lecture, “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” was posted on YouTube in 2009 and went viral. Another great piece by Dr. Lustig is in the Huffington Post, “Still Believe ‘A Calorie Is a Calorie‘?”

Consider, too, Dr. David Kessler’s book The End of Overeating. He is the former US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner who took on the tobacco industry and is now wresting with food manufacturers.  He notes research showing that sugar, fat, and salt (called the hedonic triangle) lead to conditioned hyper-eating. You start and can’t stop!

Here are links to short articles on the dangers of refined sugar and fructose by Dr. David Williams:

If you have a sweet tooth, you are not alone. Americans consume between 75 – 160 pounds (lbs.) of added sugar per year. That is 5 – 12 tablespoons (tbsp.) per day. My teeth hurt just writing that! is a revealing website that shows how much sugar is hidden in the things we consume. Note: please ignore naturally occurring sugars in fruit on this site. Packed with fiber and nutrients, these natural sugars behave very differently than white refined sugars.

Michael Greger M.D., author of New York Times recent instant best seller How Not to Die, discusses added sugar consumption in this video. He notes that historically in the US we consumed the following amounts of added sugar per person per year: in 1776 – 4 lbs.; in 1850 – 20 lbs.; in 1994 – 120 lbs.; and sadly, now a whopping 160 lbs. – half of which is fructose! That’s a whopping 280,869 calories per year!

How much added sugar is okay?

The World Health Organization (WHO) sets a maximum of 5% of total daily calories – 6 teaspoons (tsp.) per day. The American Heart Association says no more than 100 calories for women (about 6 tsp.) and 150 calories (about 9.3 tsp.) for men per day.

If you think you have a sugar problem, a great whole foods program is The Sugar Addicts Total Recovery Program by Dr. Kathleen Des Maisons, Ph.D. It is designed to balance blood sugar, insulin and brain chemistry so cravings disappear. Run, don’t walk to her site.

And if you or anyone you know likes fermented sugary drinks (alcohol) too much, check out the Vitamin Cure for Alcoholism, which features the pioneering nutritional work of the late greats Dr. Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D. and Dr. Roger Williams, M.D. This program also works for sugar and nicotine issues.  Visit for more details.

Cut empty ‘stripped’ carbs and eat more whole ‘slow’ carbs.  Fruits, veggies, whole grain cereals (oatmeal, seven grain, amaranth, quinoa, brown rice), legumes (all dried beans), winter squash, sweet potatoes and even the much maligned white potato are high fiber, high nutrient foods that stabilize blood sugar when eaten as a part of a balanced meal with lean proteins and heart healthy fats.

As I write this, a PBS article notes that current food trends are including more veggies and the WHO proclaimed 2016 the International Year of the Pulse (beans)!   Sounds like Ranch food, no? Visit  and for more details.

Satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh or dried fruits. Fruits are nature’s sweets – full of nutrients and fiber that satisfy. Eat with a few nuts for a balanced treat. Date sugar (dried whole dates) and blackstrap molasses actually have high nutrient value, so use these in your treats in place of refined sugars. Dr. Michael Greger’s comparison of sweeteners can be found here: . He also defends the fructose that is in fruit which acts very differently than industrialized fructose.

Don’t settle for fakes. Non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) may not help you lose weight and there is much concern about their health risks. Artificial sweeteners are suspected of being a cause of insulin resistance and may increase diabetes risk. Research has shown that NAS induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota.

Read more evidence at physician Patricia Hull-Starr’s site

Better Sugar Alternatives

Stevia is an herb, also called sweet leaf, and has been grown by the Meso American Natives for centuries. We grow our own stevia at Tres Estrellas Farm.  Stevia can be found in its refined form in grocery stores. It is also available in health food stores in ground, herbal, and liquid extract form (unrefined stevia tastes somewhat like licorice). Dr. Michael Greger M.D. has suggested guidelines for stevia in this video.

Luo Han Guo is a Chinese gourd known here as Lo Han or Monk fruit. It available online and in health food stores.

Erythritol is a polyol that has antioxidant properties. Visit for more details.

I wish you luck taming your sweet tooth. I did it decades ago and know you can, too.

Please note: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. For advice, please consult your physician. The recommendation of a particular practitioner should not be construed as an endorsement. As always consult your health care provider before using any new herb, supplement or protocol.  Statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. We expressly disclaim all and any liability and responsibility to any person in respect of anything contained in this paper.

Prepared by Yvonne Nienstadt for Rancho La Puerta Fitness Resort  © All Rights Reserved,