Why Cutting Sugar Out of Your Diet Is Actually a Terrible Idea

Sugar is bad. It’s the cause of some of the nation’s deadliest diseases. If you stop eating it now, your whole life will change for the better.

Right?

In recent years, we’ve learned that so-called “added” sugars probably cause more health problems than saturated fats. And that jumpstarted yet another diet trend — what you might call the “no sugar” diet.

It’s not all bad. Eating fewer processed foods over time can help you lose weight, feel better, and take steps to avoid certain diseases associated with an extremely high sugar intake.

But most health experts agree cutting it completely out of your life isn’t necessarily the best way to go. In fact, it could make you feel even worse.

What do people actually avoid when trying to ‘give up’ sugar?

Sugar cubes

Sugar cubes | JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images

Why does it feel like every other Facebook friend has announced they’re “quitting” sugar lately? And what does that even mean? Because companies try their best to hide it in most of the packaged products you buy at the store. Not only can it hurt you in large amounts — it’s also not always easy to detect.

When people talk about killing their sugar cravings, they usually try to give up foods known to contain a lot of sugar — such as chocolate, ice cream, syrup, and coffee creamer. They might completely clear their refrigerators, freezers, and cabinets of things like:

  • Desserts or “sweets”
  • Fruit juices and smoothies
  • Dips and spreads like jelly or peanut butter
  • Frozen meals
  • Chips, pretzels, and other snack foods

Some people also give up foods such as fruits and vegetables, because they also technically contain sugar. But in fresh or frozen form, those don’t count as “added” sugars because they grow that way in nature. Manufacturers don’t add it in — it’s already there.

Not all sugar is ‘bad’ for you

Low- or no-sugar diets aren’t new, and the concepts behind many of them are at least based on fact. Eating too much sugar is bad for your heart, your head, your skin, and your overall disease risk. But that doesn’t mean all sugar is worth throwing out.

Added sugars aren’t the same sugars found in fruits, for example. A donut and a handful of strawberries have very little in common nutritionally, despite the fact that both contain large amounts of sugar. Donuts, as the term implies, have sugar manually added to them. In large amounts, that’s not good for our bodies.

Plus, if you stop eating fruits, vegetables, and grains because they have sugar in them, you’re missing out on a handful of vitamins and minerals you might not get from other foods. Proper nutrition is about balance, and you can’t achieve balance if you keep eliminating food groups.

Sugar isn’t the only ‘habit’ that affects health

Fruit smoothie

Fruit smoothie | Iuliia_n/Getty Images

Whether you’re trying to improve your overall health, lose weight, or manage an existing condition, “getting healthy” doesn’t typically happen with just one change. That’s not to say that eating less sugar doesn’t have health benefits. But it won’t necessarily solve all your problems — especially if it’s the only thing you do to improve your health.

You could stop eating processed foods, say farewell to smoothies, and swear off sweets. But that really doesn’t mean anything in the long-term if you don’t also try exercising, eating more vegetables, or monitoring your alcohol intake.

While you can absolutely benefit from easing up on the amount of sugar you eat in a day, it will make the most difference if you make other small, gradual changes too.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!