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Everyone seems to be banning sugar from their diet. But is that really necessary? Is sugar the evil thing everyone thinks it is? I say no and so do many (enlightened) health professionals.
In a recent article, Sugar: The Other White Powder – Rhetoric vs. Reality, Dr. Jon Robison explains why the hype about sugar is not only bogus, but the belief that it is addictive can actually lead to binge eating on high sugar foods.
How? By being the forbidden carrot (or shall we say cookie?), most people want it that much more. Anything that is considered "taboo" usually ends up being THE thing we crave.
I can't tell you how many clients I have had who have tried banning sugar from their diet, only to crave it that much more, and then when exposed to high-sugar foods, go into a feeding frenzy. It's human nature to want what is forbidden (plus, high-sugar foods are yummy so there's that too).
Is sugar good for you? Not really. Sugar has no nutritional value other than providing energy, which comes in handy.
Is sugar addictive? No (read Robison’s article)
Is it harmful? No, but it can cause cavities and if consumed in large amounts for a long period of time, cause inflammation
Do Americans eat too much sugar? Yes, but the answer isn’t to completely ban it from your diet – that will only lead to craving it even more.
In my experience, it’s better to allow yourself to eat the foods you really want (which might be high in sugar) and enjoy them when you do. For instance, just slowing down and focusing on the flavor and texture of your favorite high-sugar food (and not the calories) can enable you to have a positive eating experience, which takes the “power” away from the food and gives it back to you. You’re much less likely to binge on that food if you eat it this way than in a fast, chaotic, guilt-filled way.
This is called intuitive eating and you can learn more about that here.
Should you eat less sugar? If you feel you’re eating too much, sure. Just don’t get caught up in the sugar-is-poison idea.
When I make cookies, muffins, and bars at home, I always reduce the amount of sugar the recipe calls for because most recipes call for too much. For instance, the standard chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for 1.5 cups of sugar (3/4 white, 3/4 brown sugar).
Cookies don’t need that much sugar to taste good. I reduce it to 3/4 cup of sugar and the cookies turn out just fine.
I also don’t consume regular soda pop, mainly because I don’t like it and I also worry about it causing cancer (that caramel coloring story is stuck in my brain). I love candy, however, and enjoy my favorite candy any chance I get.
Life is short – enjoy your favorite sweets whenever you get the hankering and just reeee-lax. Sweets won’t kill you and giving yourself permission to eat them may actually be better for you than trying to NOT eat them.
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