The sugar-free movement makes me laugh sometimes. They mean well but the message isn’t always straight forward and is often confusing especially when it says in a recipe that is ‘sugar-free’ to add maple or rice malt syrup…guess what these contain…yep you guessed it…sugar… I know I know – they are talking about reducing processed sugars but I’m not sure that rice malt syrup is any more natural than sugar…it looks pretty processed to me…and definitely doesn’t come off the plant like that! In all honesty though, we do tend to consume too much sugars in our diet but is completely cutting them out (or trying to) really the answer?
But isn’t sugar bad?
Well to be honest it’s not a question of sugar being bad as there are many healthy foods that contain natural sugars (e.g. fruit and milk) but it’s more a question of how much sugars you are eating and also looking at your whole diet rather than just sugar. True if you currently are overdoing the sugar then cutting down will be a good thing but if you plan to do this by replacing a piece of fruit with maple syrup on your breakfast porridge then you’re probably not going about it in the right way…
In addition to this, if you cut down the sugar but the rest of your diet isn’t good then you’re not doing yourself much good and may even go back to old ways eventually especially when it gets hard to stick to your new ‘sugar-free’ ways. Also if you find that your new ‘sugar-free’ diet is restrictive and do not know what to eat or how to get good nutrition now that you’ve cut out certain foods, you likely will end up giving up or missing out in nutrients which isn’t a great thing (in fact when changing your diet, it’s essential to make sure you do your research well and or speak to a qualified health professional that can help you)
Rather than focus on ‘going sugar-free’, why not try and reduce overall sugar intake and make other healthy changes in your diet? For example:
- have a piece of fruit rather than fruit juice
- add some high fibre seeds e.g. linseeds or chia seeds to your cereal or yoghurt
- increase the amount of vegetables or salad you are having during the day
- reduced processed foods and cook more from scratch
- cut down your portion sizes of pasta, rice or potatoes at meals
- add some regular exercise in your weekly routine etc.
Taking a whole diet approach rather than just focusing on one thing will mean that you have more variety in your diet and allow you to really make a health promoting difference rather than just a temporary fix that you eventually get over following.