Sugar has been in the headlines a lot recently. What with the sugar tax being imposed (which was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Budget on 16th March) and many celebrities and ‘foodies’ proclaiming they have “quit sugar”.
Let’s be clear here, it is IMPOSSIBLE to quit sugar. Your body needs glucose to function, end of.
What people are cutting out are mainly refined sugars (so the white stuff) and in some instances unrefined sugars. If you were to completely remove sugar from your diet, you would basically have to stop eating.
30-70% of your energy needs to come from carbohydrates, which, when broken down become glucose. Not only does glucose (along with other things) power your body, it powers your brain. Your brain simply will not operate without it.
Simple carbs like white starches (white potatoes, white bread, white rice etc.) and refined sugars are very short chain molecules which are used immediately for energy. Complex carbs (sweet potatoes and whole grains for example) are longer chain molecules which your body has to break down into their short chain counterparts. These complex carbs are what is recommended on a low GI diet (GI stands for glycemic index) because they keep you fuller for longer and do not give you that sugar high or ‘spike’ then the quick drop we have all experienced when we’ve consumed sweets or something very sugary.
The addition of highly refined sugars should definitely be curbed from our diets as they have no real nutritional value, are addictive, and are one of the main causes of childhood obesity (hence the sugar tax), but natural sugars like those found in fruits and vegetables and complex carbohydrates are essential for growth and nutrition. The reason why these sugars are better for you is because they come alongside fibre and other micro- and macro-nutrients which your body needs to stay healthy – yes, fructose (which is a natural fruit sugar) isn’t very good for you on its own but consumed in the form of a piece of fruit it is perfectly acceptable.
We all like to have treats and there’s nothing wrong with that, but we need to be educated about what we are eating and the things we should avoid.
Celebrities etc. are role models to many people out there and I feel they need to be more careful about their choice of words when it comes to their diet changes. Seeing “I quit sugar” in bold font on the front of a glossy magazine in front of a picture of a tanned and beautifully honed body is inevitably going to make the general populous assume that they need to cut out everything that has any form of sugar in it.
I’m passionate about food in all its forms, but I’m also passionate about ensuring that people are educated about it so they can make informed choices about what they are putting into their bodies. Yes, I do consume sugary drinks (especially if I have a migraine), and I will have sweet treats but I am aware of what it is going to do to my teeth, sugar levels, etc., and I have made an informed decision about it as opposed to just being told by the media et al what to and what not to eat or drink.
There isn’t anything wrong with having a can of coke or a piece of cake once in a while as a treat, but they most certainly aren’t things we should be consuming on a daily basis. Quitting sugar needs to be more about consuming more fruit, vegetables and whole grains and less about removing whole food groups from our diets.