According to a large number of media sources (added) sugar is public enemy number 1 and we might just all die horrific premature deaths as a result of having it in excess in our daily diets. The problem however, from a qualified professional's point of view, is way more than just sugar. There is no one solution for this public epidemic of obesity, but let me tell you- it is not one simple ingredient. Let's have a look at sugar closely- the molecule contains carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and is the most readily available source of energy for the body. Brain cells and blood cells can not survive without it and if it is not received from the diet, the body will break something else down to turn it into sugar- mostly muscle! The problem is, when the media attacks one ingredient so drastically (remember about 5 years ago it was fat!) extreme behaviour follows and a growing number of health fanatics will try to eradicate all forms of sugar from their diet. There are already a growing number of people who leave out for example "high sugar" fruits out of their diet- grapes and melon often get the blame. Fruits are a high source of antioxidants and phytochemicals which are proven to help us fight anything from a simple infection to life shortening illnesses. Extreme accusations will lead to extreme behauviours which will in itself cause problems.
People do not know how and what to eat anymore because of such controversial, alarming messages by the media. They do not know what a balanced diet is and believe it or not- a balanced diet and the correct diet contains refined sugar in it - in moderation!
Too much sugar is a part of the problem, sure. But it is not the sole cause of the problem. The same way that fat is a part of the problem...and salt..and too much protein. Do you get the picture? Did you know that the size of our crockery has also increased over the last 100 years? Bigger crockery means bigger portions. Bigger portions means people eating more. But writing articles in the daily mail attacking and slaying the crockery industry is not sexy at all.
Sugar is often referred to as being an addictive substance. It is just not. If this was the the case, sugar addicts would literally eat sugar by the spoon out of the bag- but they don't. When people eat an excess of sugar, they are usually taking in an excess of fat too. People tend to find comfort in foods that are half sugar and half fat- such as donuts, ice cream and other baked goods. All these are high in sugar AND high in fat. But because we have already spend the last few years attacking fat, its boring now and we have moved on. When fat was exessively in the media as the bad guy, food production companies went to great lengths to produce low, reduced fat and no fat alternatives to their products. If you think about what makes the food palatable and taste good...well it's fat and/or sugar. So if the fat has been taken out it would have been replaced with...sugar! The food product has to taste good, or otherwise people will not buy it.
People want to be healthy, they truly do. I get a lot of people saying to me that they have excluded certain food groups from their diet because they cause all sorts of health issues and make you fat. Unless you are allergic or intolerant to certain ingredients found in certain foods, no one food will make you lose your health. And unless you are taking an excess amount of calories from the food- it will not make you fat. Taking such drastic measures, such as avoiding sugar (or fat) entirely will lead to unhealthy behaviours. Ironic!?! The consequences are already in effect, with high rates of disordered eating behaviours and new eating disorders such as orthorexia on the rise. The quest for the perfect diet drifts further and further away from us.
The only way to stay healthy and to live well is to exercise regularly (at least 30 minutes 3 times a week) and to eat a balanced diet - that includes ALL of the food groups in moderation. Go back to basics- to the old fashioned, unsexy balanced diet. That is the first advice I give to my clients. The rest will follow.