Sugar’s been getting a bad rap lately, and with good reason, it is by no means a health food and most of us consume far too much. Studies have linked excessive sugar consumption (excessive being the keyword here) with obesity, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and more. The media tends to go through phases hating on one food, food group, food component, or ingredient - from fat to gluten and now sugar- causing us to obsess over it whether we know the evidence or not. While I’m in no way endorsing sugar, I do think there’s a problem with food obsession. Here are three reasons why I think you should stop freaking out about sugar.
Sugar Freak Out Doesn’t Look at Our Diets as a Whole
I think it’s great you’re trying to cut back on your sugar intake, but by obsessing over this you may be overlooking your own personal dietary downfall.
Personally, I have a sweet tooth, but many of my clients and friends prefer salty treats. I know many people who crave chips the second they get home from work and mindlessly snack by the handful. Meanwhile, they think they’re eating ‘healthy’ because they choose plain yogurt over flavored and avoid high fructose corn syrup. This is great but may not be the area they necessarily need to focus on or obsess over.
Our diet is comprised of not only what we eat but also how we eat including mindfulness, portion sizes, and more. Diets and dietary recommendations are completely individual. So while I may overconsume sugar, many of my clients likely do not. If you’re trying to eat healthier, I suggest looking at your diet as a whole (or asking a registered dietitian to) before restricting and obsessing over fat, gluten, protein, sugar, or anything else.
Food Restriction and Obsession is not a Healthy Lifestyle
I have an issue with food restriction. I like to encourage my clients that all foods can fit in a healthy lifestyle to try to promote a positive and healthy relationship with food. I find that when we tell ourselves we can’t have a certain food, we quickly begin to obsess over it and often crave even more of it.
To me, a diet is long term, sustainable behaviors, not necessarily a temporary program or quick fix. I believe a diet should focus on the foods you can eat not the foods you 'can’t'. While restricting sugar begins with positive intentions, it can quickly spiral out of control - whether the obsession intensifies, anxiety around food increases, or it initiates cravings and overindulgences.
While I don’t think you need to drink soda or eat bacon everyday, if you like them I think you should allow yourself to have a treat. Obsessing over foods is not a healthy mindset or lifestyle, so I’d encourage you to try not label foods as forbidden, or good, or bad, that’s no way to live.
Fruit is Good for You
As our obsession with sugar has exploded, we’ve even begun to point blame at fruit! Yes, fruit has sugar and ultimately sugar is sugar is sugar. However, 100% orange juice is different than soda and berries and bananas are different than candy bars and cookies. Fruit and fruit juice contain essential vitamins and minerals that do wonders for our health and our bodies, while soda and candy provide us calories with no other nutritional value (hence why we call them empty calories).
We could drink 200 calories in a 16oz soda or 200 calories in 1 chocolate bar and still feel hungry, while 200 calories in apples (about 2 large apples) would leave many of us feeling quite full. This is because whole fruit has fiber. Fiber aids in digestion, helps to fill us up, and slows the spike in our blood sugar.
While I think it’s great we’re taking a closer look at our health and our diets, I encourage you to focus on the foods you can have rather than those you ‘can’t.’ Focusing on including more fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins while being more mindful in your behaviors and choices will bring you far.
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