How Much Sugar is Too Much?

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how much sugar is too much



About the Show
On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Grace Derocha, a registered dietitian and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Together, they discuss the dangers of added sugar and how it can affect your long-term health.
“If you’re ever looking at a package and you’re reading the ingredient list, there is over 50 different names for added sugar in foods. Honey, molasses, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup… I saw this on a package the other day and it said ‘organic raw cane sugar juice dehydrated.’ – Grace Derocha
In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:
  • What are added sugars?
  • The two types of natural sugar
  • How much sugar can children consume?
  • How does sugar affect the body?
  • The importance of reading food labels
  • Healthy sugar alternatives

Listen on

Chuck Gaidica: This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast episode 51. Coming up, we discuss sugar and its effects on our body.
Chuck Gaidica: Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. This is a podcast dedicated to navigating how we can all improve our health and well-being through small healthy habits we can start right now. I’m your host Chuck Gaidica. Every other week we sit down with a certified health expert from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and we dive into topics that cover nutrition and fitness and wellness and mindfulness and so much more. On this episode, we discuss sugar and its effects on our body. With us today is registered dietitian and certified health coach Grace Derocha. Welcome back.
Grace Derocha: Thanks for having me.
Chuck Gaidica: Always good to have you here. You’re a self admitted food lover and a lover of life and you’re a wife and a mom, and then you’ve got all these credentials and letters behind your name. But the idea that we’re talking about something like sugar is really interesting especially since, I’m not exaggerating or saying it just, I did grab a few MIKE AND IKEs last night and as I’m eating those because my grandson has been over at the house, I’m thinking, “Oh, I’ve got to talk to Grace about sugar tomorrow.” I guess I just better admit it straight up. I did have six or eight MIKE AND IKEs, but it’s all balanced, right, Grace?
Grace Derocha: You know I’m not the food police, but we just want to help people learn a little bit more about how they can cut back especially on the added sugars.
Chuck Gaidica: When you talk about the word sugar, we tend to think of what’s so obvious. It’s the white stuff in the bowl or the stuff that we make cookies with or something. But it’s called other things, right? It’s kind of hidden really on purpose in so many foods.
Grace Derocha: Yes. So if you’re ever looking at a package and you’re reading the ingredient list, there is over 50 different names for added sugar in foods that we have.
Chuck Gaidica: Like?
Grace Derocha: Honey, molasses, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup. This is one of my favorite ones, ready? I saw this on a package the other day and it said organic raw cane sugar juice dehydrated. I had to read that a couple of times. First of all, there was a lot of words and I was like, “You didn’t fool me. That is sugar.” And I realize though, if people see organic raw sugar cane juice dehydrated, they might not realize that that’s actually just a fancy way to say added sugar.
Chuck Gaidica: But let’s be fair. If I see raw honey as an ingredient in even some kind of a nutty bar, my brain immediately thinks, “Oh, it’s made by bees. It must be better for me.”
Grace Derocha: Okay, so I will tell you this. Natural sources like honey or agave, they are still an added sugar, but those two happened to not bring up your blood sugar as high as fast, so the glycemic index is not as high. And that just basically means it doesn’t raise your blood sugar as high as fast. But it still counts as added sugar and gives you those added sugar calories.
Chuck Gaidica: But if you’re going to grab a piece of fruit and you talked about this a couple episodes ago, you grab a banana or you grab that apple and add a little peanut butter or you grab an orange, you’re getting natural sugar in those foods, but you’re getting other stuff as well. Does that help the package? Does that help the idea of how that’s going into your body and how it metabolizes?
Grace Derocha: Absolutely. So here’s the thing. There are only two natural sugars in the world. It’s fructose, which is found in fruit, and lactose, which is dairy sugar naturally found in dairy products. Those are the only two naturally sugars that are innately in food.
Chuck Gaidica: And so when I was talking about all your credentials, seriously, you’re a certified diabetes educator, you’re a certified health coach, when you’re coaching some of your patients and you’re seeing this idea and you can get hooked on sugar. I mean, you can literally just be always be craving sugary foods.
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: How do you start to talk about this topic, from which direction do you come so it really makes the point, and I’ll include myself in this, what should I be thinking about?
Grace Derocha: So obviously depending on the patient or the person. I like to hear where they’re at at that time and how much sugar or added sugar and natural sugar they’re enjoying daily and we kind of dial that back. And then I tell them where they should be and that’s… This is impactful and people don’t get mad at me. So for children, if you have a child and they’re under two years old, they should be having no added sugar. And so I want to be very clear about the natural sugar that we talked about, that’s fructose or lactose, naturally innately in the fruit or the dairy products versus added sugars. So a two year old child or younger should not have any added sugar in their diet.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay. If you were paying attention to this, I’m trying to think in formula in in whatever under two, how would under two year olds be getting added sugar because you’re not really, they’re not eating, waking up and having some kind of wild cereal in the morning?
Grace Derocha: Candy.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow, under two, yeah.
Grace Derocha: I see parents sometimes give soda or pop. Please don’t.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: So things like that. Treat-type foods.
Chuck Gaidica: And even in milk, regular milk. I mean, if you’re not careful.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, if you give chocolate milk then there’s the added sugar. Or strawberry milk or banan-, there’s all those different flavors now that could add added sugar into a two year olds or youngers’ diet.
Chuck Gaidica: And it blows my mind when you think of, not a two year old, but an average person because I know you want to work your way up the ladder of age here, but the average person in America is consuming how much sugar?
Grace Derocha: In a day, they’re consuming about 17 teaspoons of added sugar a day. And in a year, that’s upwards of 60 pounds of added sugar in a year.
Chuck Gaidica: That blows my mind. But wait a minute, dial that back to a day, 17, did you say teaspoons a day?
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: So that could be hidden. I’m not putting real sugar in my coffee. I’m not sprinkling sugar on anything, although I may sprinkle some salt. You’re telling me that the stuff that’s baked in literally into my salad dressing and anything else I’m using in the day totals on average 17 teaspoons a day?
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh.
Grace Derocha: So we talked about kids under two. For children from two to 18, they should ideally have no more than four to six teaspoons of added sugar a day. Women, no more than six teaspoons of added sugar. And then men, this is not fair, you guys get nine teaspoons max of added sugar a day. So at 17, that’s almost double for a man definitely more than a woman should have in added sugars a day.
Chuck Gaidica: And why do we need to have sugar? When you’re saying I should add on average nine teaspoons a day into my diet, why do I even need it?
Grace Derocha: No. That is just the maximum to give people an allowance of what they’re allowed to have. You do not need added sugars. You can get everything you need from natural sugars.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. And if you’re drinking real pop, if you’re drinking the real stuff, you’re getting… And even fruit juice to be fair, if you’re going to drink orange juice in the morning, aren’t you getting… How many oranges… Somebody had to squeeze to get that juice into a cup. That’s a lot of sugar in one place.
Grace Derocha: And I would tell people, I would always rather have you eat the orange and have some water than to drink fruit juice for a couple reasons. One, even though fruit has natural fructose, but in juice form, and oftentimes they actually add extra sugar in depending on the fruit drink or fruit juice product. And then keeping an eye out for all of that. I would rather have someone to have the orange with all the fiber and all the nutrition as opposed to having it just the juice of it squeezed out. You’re not going to get the fiber. Oftentimes, like I said, there’s added sugar and it’s just more processed.
Chuck Gaidica: Two episodes ago we had a great discussion about healthy snacking, but when you look at snacking as the main sources for sugar, there are so many of these things that pop up immediately as red flags in your day if you’re not offering some balance in your life. You’re having too many regular pops, candy, cookies, all that stuff makes perfect sense. But you talked about something which has always been a very strange relationship for me having five kids, real fruit juice, which I know is still high in, I guess it’s fructose, right? Is that what I’m learning and that’s what it is…
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: … versus the fruit drink. It’s not really fruit juice. It’s just flavored sugar water that kind of tastes like an orange drink.
Grace Derocha: Exactly. Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: It doesn’t make sense.
Grace Derocha: Kool-Aid, SunnyD, all of those fruit type fruit punch, all of those fruit type drinks, even the juice boxes, and I’m guilty of sometimes putting them in Tommy’s, Kahlea doesn’t drink juice, but in Tommy’s lunch. But here’s what I tell people when it comes to those fruit drinks or cereals that on the front of the package now say one third less sugar than before. Well, and I’ve used this analogy before I know, but if you go into a store to purchase the expensive coat and it says it’s half off now, it’s still expensive.
Chuck Gaidica: It’s a relative discussion.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, same thing with the sugar in cereals or in something that has a lot of added sugar to begin with, and then they’re proud of themselves for cutting back on that, which is good. However, there’s still a lot of sugar added into that product.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay, so this is a tough one for so many people because I think a lot of people can actually get addicted to sugar. It may just be an emotional, psychological thing and I want to come back to that, but why does it matter at all? Why does sugar matter at all to us in terms of our diets? Good or bad, give us some bullet points.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. So added sugar can be dangerous to the body for a variety of reasons. One, added sugar is empty calories which can lead to weight gain and obesity, but also can make our bodies develop a variety of chronic conditions. And it’s usually not just on its own, but it definitely plays an impact on your overall health, whether it be Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, which can lead to stroke or high blood pressure, tooth decay, which I don’t think we talk about this enough, but your teeth and your mouth and your mouth health is very important to your overall health. We’ve talked about this too and you’ve mentioned a coupl- but there really is research studies that show people that have a lot of added sugar in their diet often fall into craving more added sugar. And it’s this kind of this domino effect of bad health practice. So we want to be careful. I mean, there are so many things that we don’t even realize have so much added sugar in them.
Chuck Gaidica: So as a certified diabetes educator, can I literally dial back my sugar if I’m pre diabetic or diabetic and see by a lifestyle change of cutting back on sugar? Can you honest to goodness say that will make a direct impact on my health when you’re focused completely on diabetes?
Grace Derocha: The quick answer is yes. It’s a little bit trickier because we’re looking at carbohydrates as well, but oftentimes if someone is falling into a pre diabetic stage or in the beginning stages of Type 2 diabetes, and this is my experience with my patients, is that they often have a lot of added sugar in their diet.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, I have to tell you, I have known people in my life who are diabetic, full fledged diabetic who walk around with one of the biggie Cokes from a convenience store. And I don’t mean a diet Coke. I’m talking about a regular pop with, I don’t even know how many ounces in one of those giant cups, 50 ounces or something. And I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh, it’s like putting a needle in your arm and straight lining sugar.”
Grace Derocha: Yeah. With that, there’s so many different things that come into play. There is the habit. How did that start, and then how do we try to figure out how to come off some of those not great health habits like drinking regular pop. What can we do to replace it? What would be a better option? How do we fulfill some of your cravings with some natural sugars that have the vitamins, minerals, fiber, all the other good things that we want as opposed to drinking those added empty sugar calories?
Chuck Gaidica: I’ve seen this in pictures and Susan talked about this when she was growing up, my wife Susan, that a lot of people would use a baby bottle for their kids when you’re talking about kids under two and how much sugar they should have, would use the baby bottle with milk in it, likely cows milk in the day, and just use that bottle as the babysitter. Here’s your bottle. You’ve already had two, three, four kids and you prop that up and let little Chuckie have this so it just takes care of him for the next half hour. And what’s going on is that milk is bathing your baby teeth and then of course you develop issues. That’s part of what you’re talking about when it comes to the relationship with your mouth health, right? With your teeth?
Grace Derocha: Yeah, absolutely. So I thought you were going to say juice, which I see more so…
Chuck Gaidica: Well, it could be that. Yeah.
Grace Derocha: So obviously milk, we know the lactose in milk, which is the natural dairy sugar is a thing. But we definitely do not want any kind of sugar sitting on our teeth, on our gums, in our mouth. Please don’t put juice in a baby bottle. I worked as a pediatric dietitian for a while and the number of times… I used to even see people put soda in baby bottles and give it to their children.
Chuck Gaidica: Come on.
Grace Derocha: It’s real. And they would tell me, “Well, I cut it with some water.” I was like, “That is Coca Cola.”
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: “In your child. That your child is 18 months old.” So please don’t do that.
Chuck Gaidica: So there are other things that we have to think about. So we talked, did we get off of diabetes? Is there something else we should really dig into here because there’s the whole idea of getting off your sugary pop and things, but any other thing we should talk about?
Grace Derocha: Yeah, I would say those are the very obvious things like knowing that you need to cut out regular soda or don’t have too much candy. I think more elaborate or getting more into that discussion would be when you’re looking at your added sugars or even just your carbohydrates when we’re talking about not getting a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis is doing your best. And this is actually for all people for good health, to try to spread out your carbohydrates throughout the day. So instead of having a very large pasta dinner at night and not having any carbohydrates or sugar at all, whether it be in the actual or added throughout the day and just having it all at night, people sometimes overbank their carbohydrates and sugar at one time of the day. And I would recommend to try to spread that out a little bit more and keep it a little bit more even so that your blood sugar is able to not be so high at one time.
Chuck Gaidica: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Blood sugar and consuming sugar, talk about this. I’ve heard someone, and maybe it’s you, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, I’ve actually heard the word corrosive attached to sugar when it comes to your cardiovascular health. Now that sounds really dramatic, but I know that there are other correlations relative to heart disease, et cetera. Can you unpack that for a minute about how sugar affects our circulatory system?
Grace Derocha: Absolutely. If you picture white table sugar, if you’re baking, it’s sugar crystals, right?
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: This is like my most simple way to visually try to explain this. So it has its crystals that can crystallize when your blood sugar is too high in your arteries and veins. So because they’re crystallized, if there’s too much bad fat along with too much sugar, if you picture your artery wall, those things will then start to stick in there. And because of that, it can increase blood pressure, it can increase your risk for stroke, heart attack, arthrosclerosis, which is the hardening of the artery walls. And then even furthermore, if your blood sugars are running too high for too long, your smallest arteries and veins that are in your feet or hands where people will get neuropathy which is basically pain in those areas because the sugar crystals have deposited there.
Grace Derocha: In your kidneys, a lot of times when people have diabetes and go a long time with it being uncontrolled, will also have issues of having to eventually go to dialysis because their kidneys are no longer working effectively. Your eyes, I’ve had a few patients who have gone blind from their diabetes. So I say all this, well, one to scare people a little bit.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, it’s kind of an epidemic in America, right? Diabetes?
Grace Derocha: Yeah, absolutely. Two, in the long run, empower people to make better choices, especially when it comes to added sugars.
Chuck Gaidica: This whole list that you just went through and I know you’re trying to scare us in a good way, but when you’re talking about heart disease and stroke and chronic inflammation, some of what you said maybe half of that list or more, I think the average person maybe would have related in their minds to eating too much salt than eating too much sugar. But it’s fascinates me that sugar has similar effects even in different ways or maybe affecting similar systems I should say by eating too much sugar as you could eating too much salt. What do you mean it can lead to high blood pressure? I never really put that together in my mind.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, part of that is those hardening of the artery walls makes it harder for blood to pump through. And here’s the thing, salt and sugar, both are crystallized and we talked with Kristian from the American Heart Association kind of about sodium, but they piggy back off of each other in a bad way. So paying attention to… I know it can be… Doesn’t it feel like it’s so much, there’s so many things to think about and look at, but if you take your time to make better decisions every day, you can really impact your health in a good way.
Chuck Gaidica: But the better decisions for me, and I can only speak for myself, has been simplified by becoming a label reader. And it sounds so nerdy to say this and I never was that guy, but as soon as… Here’s a good example. So you talked about hidden sugars and that could be in your salad dressing, I mentioned it, or you could say it’s in your ketchup or something. I love ketchup. I will occasionally have French fries. Let me just say, if I go to Five Guys, they’ve got good fries. I’m going to dip some and ketchup. Turn the ketchup bottle around when you get a minute and just take a look. I know it’s made with tomatoes but, come on, it’s basically sugar, salt and tomatoes and a little vinegar. Somebody came up with the idea and somebody named Heinz was a zillionaire.
Chuck Gaidica: When you think about this, how much sugar is baked into the cake literally and how much is baked into this stuff we eat, but when you turn that bottle or jar or a can around and look at it, for me anyway, it has simplified the process because light bulbs start going off in my mind thinking, “Oh, that the first ingredient on here is corn syrup. Well, that’s not all tomato.” You know what I mean?
Grace Derocha: You’re like, “That’s weird. This is ketchup.” I’m glad you brought that up because I think, this is sad but true, the reason why there’s over 50 different names for sugars that we find in our products is a couple of reasons. One, not only it’s an additive and a preservative depending on the format. But two, when you’re reading a food label, when you’re looking at ingredients, the ingredients are listed in what is there the most of in that product. So we’re talking about ketchup, so you would hope that with ketchup, tomatoes would be first and then it might seem like sugars further down the line, but sometimes there’s three different types.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh yeah.
Grace Derocha: Maybe there’s molasses and high fructose corn syrup and dextrose. But because those are further down the line, you think, “Oh, there might not be that much.” But there’s three different kinds of it in there now.
Chuck Gaidica: Right. So collectively it actually, if you gang them all up and just call it a sugar, that could be the number one ingredient on something.
Grace Derocha: Exactly. So just being smart about looking at those things and ketchup is a really interesting one. Same thing as peanut butter. Peanut butter has a lot of sugar most of the time. And if you look for, you can find of course in my house we have ketchup that is mostly tomatoes. There’s barely any added sugar. And so when my kids have ketchup outside of the house, they think it tastes really sweet.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, it does. But what do you mean? What kind of ketchup are you getting where you can manage the sugar? I’ve never heard of that idea.
Grace Derocha: Oh, just if you read your food labels, you can find ketchups like at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods of course that have mostly tomatoes and the vinegar and then just a pinch of sugar.
Chuck Gaidica: Got you.
Grace Derocha: As opposed to the sugary laden ones. In making just those, you even talked about salad dressing. Most of the time we make our own. Making salad dressing is so easy. People make it seem like it’s such a hard task. It’s literally some kind of oil, some kind of acidity, the end. Whatever you want that to be. I mean obviously there’s fancier ones and other things that you can put in them. I have a bunch of those recipes on A Healthier Michigan of how to make your own salad dressings. But you will notice when you go to the grocery store, there is sugar in many salad dressings which you don’t have to add when you’re at home.
Chuck Gaidica: Especially the ones that are marked low fat because when you take that fat out of the equation, when you eat that and your tongue is trying to get tricked into thinking that you’re eating something with fat, well there are only a couple of things you can substitute to make it taste good and sugars is one of them. Salt and sugar would be the two I would think the two highest.
Grace Derocha: Exactly. I always tell people if you have 100% of something, if it’s made the original way and as soon as you take something out, they usually fill it with other things. So if you take out fat, they usually fill it with sugar, sugar, alcohols and some salt. Same thing, if you’re taking out, if it says sugar-free, oftentimes that means there’s sugar substitutes, sugar, alcohols, salt, maybe more fat. So it’s really interesting to, like you said, flip around the package or maybe stay with more whole foods side note, but flip around the package to look at what is actually in the food that you’re eating.
Chuck Gaidica: When you have your coffee, and I know you like coffee, right?
Grace Derocha: I do.
Chuck Gaidica: You like matcha and other things. But when you have your coffee, are you substituting stuff in your coffee for sugar or do you add a little sweetener somehow even if it’s artificial?
Grace Derocha: Two things that I usually add. I usually add some kind of milk substitute because I’m lactose intolerant or I use a creamer that’s called nutpods and it’s basically like a nut milk. I like to take off some of the edge of the acidity of the coffee and it doesn’t always have to be with sugar. I usually use some kind of dairy substitute to help me with that.
Chuck Gaidica: But when you add nutpod, does that have any sweetness to it? Because if I’m adding the 30 calorie almond milk to my coffee, which is my typical routine now I’m not lactose intolerant, but I’ve just kind of switched to nut milk and it’s after 30 days I think your palate can shift to anything and it’s shifted. But it’s not real sweet unless I’m going up the ladder of the 60 cal, the 90 cal- you just keep on going. It’s like they have all kinds of milks to choose from now. I still need to add a little Splenda or something to this equation to give me that little taste of sweetness.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. I always tell people in moderation with anything that’s processed. Some of my little tricks that I do… I do this. When sometimes when I brew the coffee I add cinnamon grounds to the coffee. When I’m brewing it, flavor comes through or I’ll put cinnamon directly into my coffee or I use vanilla extract or almond extract because the extract does not have added sugar. Same thing. I’ll either put it in my coffee grounds before I brew it or I add it to my coffee directly. It tricks you because it’s the vanilla bean extract to give you that vanilla flavor without any added sugar. So those are some fun tricks because coffee milkshakes as I like to call them, especially when you’re going to a coffee shop is definitely a thing with a lot, a lot of added sugar.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, you’re talking about a frappe a latte ding dong or whatever they can do whatever new name that, right?
Grace Derocha: Exactly.
Chuck Gaidica: I can’t imagine how much is in there. And then there’s the shot of whip cream and then there’s the caramel on top and then whatever.
Grace Derocha: The caramel drizzle or the chocolate pieces or all of those fun things. And don’t get me wrong, I sometimes spent like if it’s during the holidays and they have the holiday cups, I want to get one. But just be smart about how much added sugar you’re adding in daily.
Chuck Gaidica: All right, so you’ve talked about sneaky sugars. This is not sneaky. If you are the person and you know who I’m talking to, you know who you are and you’re getting not just the biggie cup of pop, but you’re getting a run the hose into my car and I can just fill up as I’m driving. If you’re into pop that much, how can you start to wean yourself off of it? What can we do to start to, I guess just literally get off of pop? What can we substitute?
Grace Derocha: That’s a good one. So I’ve worked with patients on this lots of times. I tell them, we look at…. Let’s say Sally is having three 20 ounce pops a day. So we talk about what can we do today. So can we go to two, can we try to drink a glass of water before you ever drink a pop and see if that helps curb some of it. It’s transitional, but can we try a diet pop or a bubbly carbonated thing that has no calories because you want the bubbles. So trying to find different substitutes and different new habits to build upon to cut back on that. And oftentimes people are trying to lose weight or they want to lose weight in this process. I have joked before that I wish I drank regular pop so I could stop and lose 10 pounds. But it’s a good driver for people to see those empty added sugar calories make a great impact on your overall weight. And if you start to cut back, you can see progress.
Chuck Gaidica: See, but you’re filled with balance here and when you give advice, it’s so sane and it makes so much sense because if I were to go from drinking regular pop right now to drinking a sparkling water that’s got no sugar and it’s got a little lime flavor, I’m going to fall off the wagon this afternoon, right, if I’m just going to switch. Yeah, I can’t get off of three pops a day and just go to sparkling lime water and think it’s all going to work like magic. It’s not.
Grace Derocha: It’s definitely a process.
Chuck Gaidica: So doing this gradually makes sense.
Grace Derocha: Absolutely. And we should offer ourselves their kindness. It’s not like you unless… No, I know this for a fact. You didn’t start drinking three pops out of nowhere. You weren’t born holding three different sodas and drinking 60 ounces of pop every day. This came on slowly, and we have to wean off slowly so that you can adjust, so you can figure it out. Even little things like not having it in the house. Out of sight, out of mind. You’re only having it when you go to a restaurant. Things like that that could help.
Chuck Gaidica: Energy drinks, alcohol, alcohol is probably a whole episode by itself, right? So what you can be cutting back and what’s better? Is red wine, even though it’s in a blue zone in the world and it’s supposedly healthy, what’s the point? But can we start to cut back or should we worry about alcohol and energy drinks?
Grace Derocha: Oh, energy drinks, bye. Please don’t. Have some tea just because oftentimes there’s so much excess caffeine. And if you don’t have the diet version, so much added sugar to make that taste good. No. Alcohol is definitely another episode that we will tell Brandon that we need to do. So alcohol is a tricky one because alcohol naturally is a carbohydrate. Because it’s a carbohydrate, it has some sugar naturally in it. Obviously wine comes from grapes, but then it’s metabolized like fat in the body, so it’s kind of a confusing one, but just moderation is key.
Chuck Gaidica: It is confusing and to be fair, what do a lot of people do… I’m not just talking about a beer or one glass of red wine every once in a while and you’ve convinced yourself it’s good for your heart health or something. But a lot of people, it’s not just that you’re getting a shot of bourbon, you’re putting it in an old fashion, which then has sugar syrup.
Grace Derocha: Simple syrup.
Chuck Gaidica: Exactly. It’s the stuff that… Give me a Bahama Mama. I mean, I don’t know what’s all in there. I can’t tell you, but I know it tastes pretty sweet. Right?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. If you have a daiquiri, pina colada, we’re getting into some major added sugar. Mixers, for sure.
Chuck Gaidica: Before I lose track of this idea, I want to hit this. Where do you stand again on diet sweeteners or the artificial sweetener thing?
Grace Derocha: Oh man, Chuck.
Chuck Gaidica: Are you into the Truvia, Stevia thing or do you have a particular angle on this especially if I’m trying to wean myself off the regular stuff?
Grace Derocha: Yes. Okay. So again, it’s a process. When I work with patients, we talk about the process and what that could look like to come off of added sugars. I am not the biggest fan of sugar substitutes for a variety of reasons. They’re overly processed. There’s still a chemical being added to the body, but if that’s part of your weaning process, I will definitely work with you. And now we do have newer things that are natural sweeteners with zero calories and zero added sugar like your stevia root or monk fruit, is a really popular one I’ve started playing with. And that’s a natural fruit that happens to be sweet, but there’s no sugar calories, there’s zero calories in it and different companies are playing with adding Stevia and monk fruit to sweeten things as opposed to adding sugar. So it will be interesting to see where that takes us.
Grace Derocha: But again, process it to take out added sugars, work with if you need to have some sugar substitute, make sure you’re having it moderation. Don’t put 17 Splenda packets in your coffee. And then work through that so that we can get to a place where you feel like you’re doing your best for your body and feeling at its healthiest while we also took out a lot of that added sugar.
Chuck Gaidica: Do you know I was standing next to a guy at a McDonald’s once and it’s morning, I’m getting a coffee. He steps up to get a coffee and they’ll ask you, “Do you want something?” Any place that sells coffee will. And he said, “I want 21 creams and 21 sugar.”
Grace Derocha: Stop.
Chuck Gaidica: I’ve never heard this in my, I’m not kidding.
Grace Derocha: Two, One?
Chuck Gaidica: And I stood back and I thought how much coffee is left?
Grace Derocha: That’s like a paste.
Chuck Gaidica: It was nutty. It was just off the charts.
Grace Derocha: What did the lady say?
Chuck Gaidica: They gave it to him. I think he was a regular because he just went, hey, you know. I think they kind of knew he was there and it was his thing. My father in law, my late father in law, was nowhere near that. But I mean, he was one of these guys that it was kind of like he may have invented latte before it had a name. I mean it was always a very light coffee, but it was probably five or six teaspoons of sugar and that was his palette. And to be fair, he made it into his mid to late eighties so for everybody’s body, it’s a different deal.
Chuck Gaidica: I have taken away from today’s episode the notion that first of all, we could all ask for diet water, right? We can start to change our palette to include more water because we’re really not getting the kind of water content we need from the standpoint of making sure that we’re hydrated when we’re drinking pop and coffee. So I’ve started that process. Water is really good. I’m changing my thinking. But the other thing you’ve said today, for me that’s a takeaway and I want to do this more often, is building into even my salad. If I slice up some oranges and throw in that handful of blueberries here and there, I’m getting the color, I’m getting some sweetness and I probably to be fair, require less salad dressing if I’m adding stuff in there, a couple of nuts and some stuff and it takes my mind off the fact that I’ve got to sweeten this up somehow.
Grace Derocha: I love fruit in my salad. I know some people don’t, but it adds so much flavor already because of the natural sweetness in the fruit or even if you’re putting a little bit of cheese, sometimes you don’t even need dressing. Sometimes you squeeze a little lemon on there for acidity and call it a day.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Well, good stuff today. I appreciate it. They’re all so many temptations in the world and of course when we’re still in a workplace, a lot of people are going to work and you’re attempted on paczki day to bring some home. But in balance, we can all have a little snack here and there and that’s okay. It’s just when you get on that train where it’s every day over and over again that you start to hurt yourself.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, and this conversation about added sugars is to remind people to take a look to be in the know. Knowledge is power, but it doesn’t mean that… You know I think Easter’s right around the corner here so you can’t have the ears off the chocolate bunny. Just don’t have all the bunnies.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, well that’s a good way to look… And don’t buy all the after Valentine’s day next year. Don’t wait for the day after sales because I’ll tell you it’s tempting to go, “Oh, it’s all half off.” That’s a great way to get chocolate. Well, thanks Grace. Good to have you with us again.
Grace Derocha: Thank you. And to remind people you’re sweet enough you don’t need the added sugar.
Chuck Gaidica: Aw, that’s sweet all by itself. Thank you for reminding us. Grace Derocha has been with us. A certified diabetes educator, certified health coach and a registered dietitian. So much knowledge locked up in this episode. We thank you for being with us on A Healthier Michigan podcast. Thanks for listening. And we want to encourage you to not only listen to this episode, share it with people who you know and love. I mean, that’s what this is about. If you have people that you’re trying to influence, you see they’re going down the wrong path, figure out that way in that context of your own life how you can say this without being insulting. Let them know about these podcast episodes because there’s so much great stuff that come from them.
Chuck Gaidica: You can check them out at You can get this episode. You could forward it. You can go back and listen to previous episodes as well. You can leave us ratings on Apple podcast or Stitcher, and you can always get episodes on your smartphone or tablet. Be sure to subscribe to us on Apple podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. I’m Chuck Gaidica. Have a great day.

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