Earlier this year when I was working full-time on a health magazine, the incoming mail began raining ‘anti-sugar’ books. Publishing companies, it seemed, were happily supporting the latest health craze: going sugar free.
It’s an idea they hoped would sell—and in turn, that health media would tout, too.
But does the trend have legs? Is sugar really so evil?
I asked two dietitians and they seemed a little less convinced that sugar is the ‘devil’. They do say, however, that sugar is very much ‘in disguise’.
“Sugar is a purified form of carbohydrate and is not evil per se,” explains La Trobe Unversity’s Associate Professor Catherine Itsiopoulos, spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia.
“The problem in our diets is that many food and drinks contain high amounts of ‘hidden’ sugars and these sugars provide additional energy (or kilojoules) without any nutritional value.”
Accredited Practicing Dietitian and author of Body Warfare—the secret to permanent weight loss, Lisa Renn, agrees. Chowing down on sugary foods means you’re filling up the tank, minus the ‘fuel’. In other words, high-sugar diets load you up on calories, but little else.
“It would be simplistic to expect that by reducing sugar that we could “fix” Australia’s obesity epidemic… however reducing your intake of sugar is beneficial to overall nutritional health.”
Empty calorie culprits
Rather than a blanket elimination-plan (to hard to fathom in my case! I can’t envisage my world without the occasional chunk of chocolate in it), try cutting these ‘empty calorie’ culprits, as suggested by Itsiopoulos:
- Sweetened soft drinks and cordials (this includes some high energy drinks which are often loaded with sugars)
- Sweet biscuits and cakes
- Chocolates and lollies
- Highly processed sweet breakfast cereals
- Large milky coffees or hot chocolates with sugar or syrups
- Large sweetened teas (cold or hot)
References available upon request