Is It Possible to Remain Healthy Without Quitting Sugar?

is it possible to remain healthy without quitting sugar

Just a little sometime back, fats were considered the worst dietary enemy. Before that it was salt. Nowadays, it the white magic substance; sugar that is topping this list of dietary villains. Internet is exploding with plethora of sugar-free diets to aid weight loss, reverse diabetes, reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases and promote overall wellbeing.

Sugar-free diets motivate people to quit sugar in all forms- table sugar, natural sweeteners like maple syrup and honey, condiments, soft drinks, refined flours, fruits such as banana and sweets. Few sugar-free diets also recommend strictly restricting or eliminating all the dairy products. The sugar-free diets prophesize the concept that sugar leads to obesity, thereby increasing risk of Type-2 Diabetes. In fact, we are swallowing too much sugar each day. An average American consumes around 20 teaspoons added sugar each day. [1].

But you don’t necessarily need to quit sugar, to remain healthy or to be healthy. Quitting sugar is not going to provide any added advantage that cutting down on calorie dense, highly processed foods, increasing intake of fruits and vegetables and limiting your sugar intake can not.

Sugar-free diets emphasize an arbitrary set of rules that are not backed scientifically. Such a restrictive diet can foster an unhealthy relationship with food or create fear of certain foods.


Diet Mentality:

diet mentality

Sugar-free diet is a restrictive diet with a list of “allowed” foods and “not allowed” foods. For instance, allowed foods include whole grains, grapefruits and blueberries and not allowed foods include bananas, white slices of bread and raisins. This promotes a diet mentality and makes the followers worry about accidentally consuming something that is not allowed.

People who worry about food are mostly the ones who diet. This is because they are worried about their body weight or are worried about the effects of certain nutrients on their health. Certain researches [2] reveal that dieting is not effective and might lead to a greater weight gain with time. Our brain interprets dieting similar to a “famine” and stores fats for such food scarcities in future.

Dieting is a stressful situation and in turn, our body produces stress hormones such as cortisol. Cortisol might lead to fat accumulation in the body, especially in the abdominal areas. Worrying excessively about food can lead to depression, anxiety and stress. All of these are characterizing features of a form of an eating disorder known as orthorexia. Orthorexia is characterized by an overwhelming obsession of eating healthy. People with orthorexia spend too much time thinking about food and eliminating foods that are considered bad or unhealthy. According to National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), [3around 7% to 58% of the population have this eating disorder. This does not have any diagnostic criteria and thus it is difficult to measure the prevalence of this disorder.

According to a study conducted at University of Guelph, Canada, sugar consumption can increase opioid addiction. [4]

Cutting out Several Healthy Foods in Sugar-Free Diet:

cutting out several healthy foods in sugar-free diet

Few sugar-free diets recommend elimination of healthy foods and food groups like dairy and fruits without substantial pieces of evidence. This somehow instills food fear and might eventually lead to nutritional deficiencies. These diets also advise people to stay away from fruits for a considerably large amount of time and to go for costlier “healthy” fruits like berries rather can consuming easily available, cheaper fruits like “bananas”.

Whole fruits are rich in antioxidants, fiber, essential vitamins and minerals. Two servings of fruits can reduce risk of developing various types of cancers, cardiovascular diseases and Type-2 diabetes. Considering the fact that Americans consume only half their daily recommended fruit dosage () implementing a sugar-free diet will further deprive them of the benefits of fruits. [5]

Many sugar-free diets that discourage use of dairy products such as cheese, milk and yogurt owing to the “believed” natural sugars present in them. The sugar present in these dairy products is a natural carbohydrate known as lactose, which is potentially harmless. Avoiding dairy products unnecessarily can lead to osteoporosis, if the calcium requirements are not fulfilled with other calcium sources.

Sugar Alternatives:

sugar alternatives

Surprisingly enough, most of the sugar-free recipes use expensive sugar replacements such as maple syrup (it is sometimes allowed and sometimes not allowed), dates and rice malt syrup (it has low fructose content).

These sugar alternatives still have same amount of calories per gram as any other sugar has. These alternatives do not provide any other additional health benefits except rice malt syrup which can be used by people who have fructose malabsorption issues and dates which are rather high in fiber content.
According to a study [6], people consume more food if it is perceived as a healthier option. You can consume 35% more of the food if it is deemed healthy.


Ways to Remain Healthy:

ways to remain healthy

Let’s discuss how to be healthy without actually giving up on sugar.
• Consume plenty of vegetables.
• Enjoy having whole grains, legumes and beans.
• Have two serving of fruits each day (they are your friend, not your enemy).
• Eat a little less sugar and little less times but there is no need to give it up completely.
• Savour and enjoy every bite of the scrumptious looking cake to satiate your cravings. Eat mindfully.

You must remember health is not only about your body weight, waist size or the foods you eat or eliminate, but it is also about your relationship with the food and your psychological health. Remember psychological health is as important as physical health.
Sugar? Yes, please!!!