Sugar is bad, sugar is the devil, sugar is killing you. In the last 3 years, sugar has magically become public enemy number one. Google search the word “sugar” and you’ll be slapped with a multitude of articles on “sweet poison” and how sugar, a deliciously sweet substance enjoyed by humans for centuries, is here to KILL US ALL, MUA-HA-HA-HA.
The media, and the titans of the cookbook world, have recently become so terrified of sugar and other “refined carbohydrates” that they’d rather release a series of books on which affordable, fillings foods you should never eat, and encourage difficult-to-source “whole” foods instead, but not actually explain why. In the UK we’ve been subjected to shows such as “Sugar Free Farm,” telling us all the ways we are “killing” ourselves with refined carbohydrates and even fruit, with little evidence to back it up. How nice.
I am not a scientist, and most of the diet cookbooks or “healthy” cookbooks you own were not written by scientists or registered dieticians either. Bear this in mind. I’m just a girl who’s getting really sick of the Western world’s new fear food hysteria, telling you to rebel and enjoy your life, and some sugar too. Here are 7 reasons you shouldn’t give up sugar.
1. Sugar occurs naturally in just about everything
Apples, bananas, oranges, delicious products of the earth that can be plucked and eaten fresh from their tree. Full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and oh yeah, SUGAR. It isn’t magic that sweetens our bursting little grapes, juicy mango, or plump tomatoes, it’s sugar. It gives us energy and it tastes delicious. Grains, fruit, vegetables, milk, honey, they all contain levels of sugar, and none of them will kill you. No matter what celebrity endorsements or “Whole 30” programmes may tell you.
Your great grandparents probably treasured ripe peaches and spoonfuls of runny honey, they certainly didn’t worry about the effect it would have on their glycaemic index. Unless you’ve been specifically advised to by a medical professional, or have diabetes, you probably shouldn’t either.
2. Advocating expensive syrups over regular table sugar is just plain stupid
The white stuff we’ve been told to fear comes from a natural product, sugar cane or sugar beet is simply processed to extract sugar crystals to be sold to us. Surprisingly enough, agave nectar, maple syrup, date syrup and rice malt syrup are ALSO processed natural substances, processed simply to create sweet products to be sold to us. Yes. Your small £5 bottle of date syrup is pretty much just a marginally less processed version of my large £1 bag of dried sugar cane.
Don’t buy into the marketing, unless you get your “natural” sugar from actual raw fruit or vegetables, it’s processed, plain and simple, just like regular white table sugar. Don’t favour syrups or pastes over more affordable sweeteners.
3. Living “sugar free” is the latest wave of Puritanism
Every generation has a new wave of “clean-living” martyrs who parade their spotless way of life to us wretched mortals below them. The 20th century alone saw hundreds of new diets that claimed they would change your entire life. Grapefruits were supposed to burn body fat, replacing meals with drinks was supposed to help suppress appetite and hydrate you, cutting fat from your diet was supposed to stop you from gaining weight or having heart problems.
Every 5-10 years, we’re bombarded with new ways to be our best, healthiest selves. Just because some people decide to swear off cheese, carbohydrates, high GI foods, or good old sugar, doesn’t mean you are obliged to.
4. Rich people get richer when you give up sugar
Davina McCall and Gwyneth Paltrow want you to cut down sugar and processed carbs, and buy their book. Tom Kerridge and Joe Wicks want you to eat low-carb meals, and buy their book. Sarah Wilson and Robert Young want you to give up sugar completely, and buy their book. The UK government introduced a sugar tax, but only on cheap soft drinks. Notice a pattern here?
In buying into options that famous people deem healthier, you’re likely spending money on an unproven ideology. Robert Young is currently being tried on charges for practicing medicine without a license, all because he believes his diet regime is a cure-all for human disease. Crazy right? Don’t buy into the expensive ingredients and equipment that these wealthy “foodies” offer, fancy oils and alternative sweeteners will not make you live forever. Enjoy the food you can afford, make sure you’re not going hungry, and eat a vegetable here and there, there’s no need to sacrifice flavour or cash for the sake of health.
5. It encourages disordered eating
Eliminating any foodstuff from your diet without the recommendation or advice of a medical professional is not wise. Not choosing the meal you want to eat in a restaurant just because it contains sugar or refined carbohydrates is not admirable. “Being good” by rejecting your family member or friend’s homemade cake isn’t healthy. Eating foods that contain sugar will not make you fat, sick or unhappy.
When you were a child, did you give that chocolate biscuit, lollipop or soft-serve ice cream a second thought? I doubt it. You don’t have to be a weak anorexic to have an eating disorder, any sort of self-inflicted restriction diet for the sake of your “health” or your looks is a form of disordered eating. Take it from me, I’ve battled them my whole life. Consistent over-eating of any food may lead to weight gain, but enjoying the odd can of Coke or a slice of birthday cake will not make you fat, and it will not send you into an early grave.
6. It incites fatphobia
To further my last point, since when did skinny and healthy become synonymous? Someone of a “healthy” weight may subsist on very little food and obsessive painful exercise, while someone considered “overweight” may enjoy a wealth of nutritious food and light exercise while enjoying desserts or sweet treats at the same time. We are more encouraged to fear weight gain than poor health, and sugar is now touted as one of the main reasons for that extra squish around your middle.
As always, unless your doctor has advised you to lose or maintain weight, don’t be so scared of not being a size 8 all the time. Buying into the sugar free trend, which disguises messages of health under those of calories and metabolism, incites this fear of fatness. Question everything.
7. Will it really make you happier?
A tip to always remember: eating healthily and losing weight does not necessarily make you a happier or better person. We may all eat a little too much sometimes, or not manage our 5-a-day, but that doesn’t mean we have to be unhappy about it. Enjoying your Weetabix with a spoonful of sugar is not a bad thing, sipping syrupy milky coffees is not something to be ashamed of, chomping on a bar of milk chocolate every day after your lunch is not a habit to hide.
If you genuinely enjoy all these modern health food trends, by all means do so, but never feel inferior or less healthy than someone else because of the food choices you make. Swapping your regular kitchen staple ingredients for “healthier” alternatives may be expensive and certainly won’t improve your happiness. Enjoy everything you cook, enjoy every bite of what you eat. Don’t fear food, and unless advised to by a medical professional, don’t feel you always have to worry about its nutritional content. Life is too short.
Now you’ve read my 7 reasons you shouldn’t give up sugar and I’ve gotten that off my chest, I’ll be back with more sweet recipes very soon, have a good week!