The Real Truth About Sugar (The Good, The Bad, The Substitutes) – And How To Break Out Of The Cravings Cycle Once And For All

 By JJ Virgin

A Note from Dr. Sara…

If you have a sticky relationship with sugar (no pun intended), now is the time to take action and take back control over your health, hormones and happiness. In today’s article, my good friend JJ Virgin reveals the real truth about sugar in all its forms, and how you can escape the vicious cravings cycle before the holiday season begins.

Pssst… If you missed our top-secret webinar last week, join us for the one-time replay on Friday, October 25 at 11am Pacific (2pm Eastern). JJ is a master at helping people break out of sugar addiction and craving hell, and she graciously offered this webinar exclusively for my tribe. Go here to RSVP:


The Real Truth About Sugar

Ice Cream

Save for momentary gratification, nothing good comes from eating sugar. It wrecks your immune system, crashes your blood sugar, creates fatigue and bloating, stores as fat, and sets the stage for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.

But unless you eat an all-meat diet (something I don’t recommend), you’re going to get some sugar in your diet. Even though they aren’t necessarily sweet, even green non-starchy veggies and raw nuts contain a little sugar. In fact, 2 cups of broccoli contains about 5 grams of sugar!

So what’s a health-conscious consumer to do? Is any food safe?!

Good Sugar vs. “Bad” Sugar

The important thing is how quickly that sugar raises your blood sugar levels. Rather than being a no-sugar diet, The Virgin Diet is a low-glycemic diet.

In other words, the foods you eat on my diet create a slow, steady rise in blood sugar. You don’t get a giant insulin surge that subsequently causes your blood sugar to crash and creates fatigue, inflammation, and fat gain.

On the other hand, let’s say you eat a hot fudge sundae. You’re going to get a rapid blood sugar spike. Insulin swoops in to pull that blood sugar down, but what happens too often is insulin over-compensates and pulls your blood sugar down too low, leaving you fatigued and oddly craving another hot fudge sundae even though you just ate one 2 hours ago.

You’d have to eat a heck of a lot of broccoli or raw almonds to raise your blood sugar even a little bit. Besides having trivial amounts of sugar to begin with, fiber in these foods further buffers out that minute sugar load.

Even legumes and other starchy carbs, which are a little higher in sugar, offer beneficial amounts of fiber to balance blood sugar levels. I recommend them in small amounts on The Virgin Diet because they offer nutrients and steady sustained energy.

Bottom line: it’s not just the sugar in food that creates problems. It’s the food’s overall glycemic impact on your bloodstream. In other words, avoid foods that are high in sugar and devoid of fiber, protein, and healthy fats.

Sugar In Fruit – Is It Always A Healthy Choice?

Lincoln_Square_Farmers_MarketBecause some varieties are higher in sugar, fruit is a little more complex than vegetables and other foods. Higher-glycemic fruits like bananas and grapes can raise blood sugar pretty quickly because they have more sugar but also less fiber than, say, raspberries. They aren’t “bad” foods, but neither are they unlimited as some diet plans will have you believe. Trust me: if you eat a big bowl of red grapes, you will raise your blood sugar.

Berries, on the other hand, are lower on the glycemic index, which means they provide a slow, steady rise in blood sugar that won’t trigger a dramatic insulin response. Berries are my preferred fruit, followed by apples and other lower-glycemic fruits.

Occasionally someone will ask why I recommend something like blueberries, considering a cup of them contains 15 grams of sugar. Doesn’t that violate my 5-grams-or-less per serving sugar rule?

Well, nature packaged blueberries (and other fruits, for that matter) with nutrients, fiber, antioxidants, and all kinds of other compounds that cumulatively reduce that sugar load.

Like I mentioned before, the fiber and nutrients in blueberries create a relatively low glycemic index. In fact, studies show blueberries can help normalize blood sugar levels and reduce your risk for diabetes.

On the other hand, dumping 15 grams of sugar into processed foods like a protein bar has a completely different effect on your blood sugar levels. Even if you get a little fiber, you’re not getting all those nutrients and antioxidants to buffer out sugar’s effects. Processed food will never be able to compete with Mother Nature!

No-Sugar-Added Foods –
Nightmare Or Dream Come True?

Manufacturers realize you know sugary foods are bad, so they’ve cleverly developed “guilt-free” versions of your favorites. Craving chocolate toffee or butter pecan ice cream? No worries: now you can “legally” enjoy a sugar-free version.

Manufacturers originally created these processed foods for people with type 2 diabetes, but dieters quickly caught on, believing they could literally have their cake and eat it too.

Let’s take a look at 2 of these disclaimers to see how they can become confusing:

  • “No sugar added” – Just because a manufacturer hasn’t added sugar doesn’t mean the food or drink doesn’t contain sugar. For instance, a no-sugar-added ice cream might still contain 10 grams of sugar per serving, depending on what other sugar-containing ingredients they’ve used. In other words, “no sugar added” does not mean that food is sugar free.
  • “Sugar free” – again, you’re not off the hook here. That food or drink may indeed have no sugar, but it frequently contains artificial sweeteners and/ or sugar alcohols. Excessive amounts of sugar alcohols (particularly maltitol) in processed foods can cause unpleasant gastric effects (better be near a bathroom!), and experts aren’t sure their impact on insulin secretion.

In other words, these aren’t the guilt-free indulgences manufacturers would have you believe. They often have as many calories as their sugar-filled version, they’re trigger foods, they create a halo effect, and they can seriously stall fast fat loss.

You won’t find a “sugar free” or “no sugar added” label on vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and other whole unprocessed foods. They may contain small amounts of sugar, but that sugar is a far cry from the heavily processed high-fructose corn syrup in packaged foods.

The 5-Gram Rule


I get it: everyone likes to indulge sometimes. That’s why I recommend you stick to 5 grams or less of sugar per meal – and use it sparingly. This is about eating sensibly, not deprivation.

Dark chocolate lovers rejoice: you can find many higher-cacao bars that meet that quota. Just remember to check how much is in one serving, since many dark chocolate bars contain several servings.

Whatever your indulgence, remember: portion is key. If you take a few bites of dark chocolate or almond butter and lose control, break off 1 serving and put the rest away out of sight!

Ready To Kick The Cravings For Good?

Watch the one-time-only replay of Dr. Sara and JJ Virgin’s Secret Sugar Webinar – Friday October 25 at 11am Pacific (2pm Eastern). Go here to RSVP for free:



About the Author…

Celebrity Nutrition & Fitness Expert JJ Virgin helps clients lose weight fast by breaking free from food allergies.  She is the bestselling author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy, a Huffington Post blogger, creator of the 4X4 Burst Training Workout & co-star of TLC’s Freaky Eaters. Her latest book, New York Times Bestseller The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days is out now. Learn more at