Eat healthier without quitting sugar

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Not long ago, fat was the evil dietary villain. Before that it was salt. Now the sugar-free diet has exploded onto the health and wellness scene — and seems to have topped many people’s list of New Year’s resolutions.

Sugar-free diets encourage people to avoid table sugar (sucrose), sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup, refined flours, condiments, soft drinks, sweets and some fruits such as bananas. Some also recommend eliminating or restricting dairy products.

The diet’s advocates rightly note that excessive sugar consumption may lead to obesity and therefore increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

And it’s true we are swallowing too much of the sweet stuff, with the average Americanconsuming around 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day.

But you don’t need to quit sugar to lift your game on healthy eating. Quitting sugar is unlikely to improve your health any more than cutting down on ultra-processed foods, eating more vegetables, cooking food from scratch and limiting how much extra sugar you eat and drink.

At best, the sugar-free diet is confusing and imposes an arbitrary set of rules that aren’t based on scientific evidence. At worst, such a restrictive diet can create food fear or an unhealthy relationship with food.

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