A discussion on why sugar and carbs aren’t the DEMONS they’ve come to be known as in the world of food and healthy living.
You can’t pass a magazine stand, flip on the TV, or walk down a grocery store aisle without being bombarded with promotion for carb and sugar restriction. What once were simply considered certain types of food, have now been labeled by our as the cause all of our problems, health related or not. Carb has become the new four-letter word and feeding your child sugar is as blasphemous as smoking while pregnant.
Why do we all have this need to make food the bad guy? Well, I’m done with that negative path. It’s time sugar and carbs got a little aid in the PR department.
We were born to eat carbs
Recent evidence has shown that humans have been eating grains far longer than previously thought. Thus, the rhetoric promoted by the Paleo and low-carb community surrounding the potential health drawbacks of these types of food has no real scientific basis. In essence, we were born to run on carbs. Carbohydrates are the most readily available, efficient source of energy that our bodies can consume. Depending on your age, gender, activity level, body shape, and health history, 50-75% of your daily calorie intake should be coming from carbs. Unless you’re severely obese or have insulin resistance, cutting back on carbs can have some negative consequences to your overall health. When sufficient carbs are not available, the body responds by burning muscle for fuel. In turn, your metabolism slows, your ability to concentrate lessens, and you potentially enter a state of ketosis. Ketosis is the Holy Grail for those in the low-carb community. In reality excess ketones make your breath smell, make your head ache, and make you feel nauseated. I guess if slimming down is you goal, constant nausea could help with that.
Doughnuts aren’t the devil
In 2013, on National Doughnut Day, Dr. Joel Furhman was quoted as suggesting the following:
“Celebrate National Doughnut day by bringing your children to a hospital to view all the diabetics on dialysis or who have leg amputations or have gone blind due to eating doughnuts.
Celebrate National Doughnut day by having children make posters and signs that depict doughnuts as the leading cause of heart disease and cancer deaths.”
This is a perfect of example of diet extremism. One doughnut is not the be-all end-all of a diet and should not be demonized in such a way that creates fear and phobia within impressionable consumers. Moreover, the stress that comes with analyzing and worrying about food choices does more harm to us than actually just eating the food we are agonizing over. You’re better off letting yourself enjoy a favorite food or treat without guilt than shaming yourself for your cravings and having to deal with the repercussions of deprivation later on. Chronic stress from food worry will lead to illnesses like heart disease and cancer. Enjoying a doughnut with your child will not.
Restricting sugar leads to binges
Just like in economics, scarcity leads to increased demand. When we deprive ourselves of a basic macronutrient that we need for proper metabolic functioning, our cravings are sent into overdrive. When we do make those foods available again, we aren’t able to control ourselves and often go overboard with our consumption of sugars and carbs. Make foods off-limits only entices us more to and prompts us to overeat them. The more restriction there is the larger the binge and greater loss of control there is in the future. Whereas if we consume carbs and sugar moderately and don’t deprive ourselves of the simple food joys in life, we can enjoy them in a healthy way. When there isn’t a sense of urgency surrounding food you’re able to resume normal eating and keep in mind that these foods will always be there so there isn’t a need to go overboard in the moment.
Fruit should not be feared
Previously white sugar and high fructose corn syrup were the ‘bad guys’ in regards to sugar. Nowadays even fruit gets a bad wrap. Fruit is said to make you fat, be just as unhealthy as table sugar, and should be consumed sparingly because of its high carbohydrate content. However, fruit is a natural, whole food straight from the earth. It’s full nutritional benefits that scarcely are found in other foods. The ‘fruit makes you fat’ claim is a total fallacy. Fruit actually aids weight loss, keeps your blood sugar levels from spiking, and give you an absorbable source of energy for activities of daily living. If we start vilifying foods that are perfectly healthy, soon there won’t be anything ‘safe’ left for us to eat. Forget low-carb diets, people will soon be touting the ‘air diet’.
Sugar addiction isn’t real
Unlike actually addiction to things like alcohol or drugs, sugar addiction doesn’t actually exist. It’s an advent of the diet industry to cause people further guilt and shame over their natural human cravings. Cravings are your body’s way of telling you what to eat and what you’re lacking in your diet. They aren’t a mark of weakness or a reason to overhaul your diet according to some new diet trend. The claims made that ‘sugar is evil’ and ‘sugar is deadly’ are products of the false diet gurus hoping to gain attention in the media and further their own restrictive agendas. The idea of sugar addiction is an alarmist reaction. It’s not supported by scientific literature and the over stimulated response to sugar that some people have is likely the result of restriction to begin with.
Low carb/low sugar is a first world problem
Most places around the world eat a high carbohydrate diet. It’s only in privileged societies that we see the demonization of certain foods. While a high majority of the human race deals with hunger and the struggle of where they’ll find their next meal, people in our nation make it a point to not eat certain things. This is completely unnecessary given the fact that some of the healthiest people on earth regularly consume carbohydrates and sugar. If you look at the Blue Zones on Earth and where the greatest numbers of centenarians are located, you’ll quickly find that their diets are not restrictive of any food groups and in fact place an emphasis on quality carbohydrate sources.
Instead of creating a food black list, we as a society need to open up the conversation about what constitutes a well-balanced diet. Humans aren’t meant to live in a world of extremes and that is especially true for our diets. Extremes don’t work. Black and white thinking isn’t maintainable. ALL FOOD can be incorporated into ones diet for optimal health and happiness. That’s right, it’s okay for food to bring you happiness. It’s pleasurable aspect of being human and when all we do is disparage certain foods, we lose our ability to fully enjoy what we eat. Sugar and carbs may be the targets this year, but what’s next? No food is safe as long as we keep perpetuating distorted views around what we eat.
Don’t restrict carbs and sugar. Don’t follow the word of the health guru of the week. Instead, educate yourself on basic nutrition and what eating a balanced diet from ALL the food groups can do for you. Cook more. Use fresh foods.
In the end, remember, no matter what you eat, we all end up going out the same way. Whether you choose to be restricted by arbitrary diet rules or enjoy life’s simple pleasures is entirely up to you.
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