Is sugar the modern day demon of our diets?

The anti-sugar movement continues to grow, but there may be a place for it in your diet, according to a dietitian.

With associated health risks such as gut toxicity, diabetes, teeth, liver and neurological damage, raised cholesterol, heart disease and links to cancer, it’s no wonder sugar has become the most evil of condiments.

But before you jump on the anti-sugar bandwagon, you might want to reconsider cutting out sugar all together.

According to dietitian and founder of Shift Nutrition, Skye Swaney, eliminating sugar entirely from your diet isn’t a wise move, nor is it a healthy one.

“We have this all or nothing attitude when it comes to dieting,” Skye says. “But more often than not eliminating an entire food group out of your diet is going to be more detrimental to your health than beneficial.”

Skye’s gripe with the anti-sugar movement is that sugar is being demonised in all of its forms. In reality it’s only the processed, refined types of sugar that are linked to health complications.

“When sugar is found in its natural state, such as the fructose and glucose you find in fruits, the accompanying minerals and fibre within the fruit assist in the slow release of the sugar,” she says.

“Aside from the fact fruit helps give us the energy fuel we run on, they are also incredibly nutrient dense so when you eliminate them from your diet it can have a toll on your health and nutrition levels.”

Fructose the exception to the (sugar) rule

But she did point out that fructose malabsorption was an exception.

“Those diagnosed with fructose malabsorption experience irritable bowel syndrome-like symptoms when consuming fruit, so cutting out fruit is actually quite necessary,” she says.

“The problem is many of these diet fads lead people to self-diagnose or misdiagnose food intolerances that they don’t actually have and this leads to them unnecessarily cutting out important nutrients in their diet.”

If healthy eating is your main concern, Skye says the practice of eating from all food groups in moderation is key.

“Sugar isn’t the enemy and I really want to stress the importance of moderation when eating rather than the controlling nature of certain diets, which can trigger eating disorders.”

Skye’s approach to a healthy diet

  • Moderation is key, with a focus on nutrient dense foods.
  • If you suspect food intolerance or digestion issues then contact your GP, who can eliminate conditions such as coeliac disease.
  • If you’re cleared of any conditions, the next step is to see a dietitian. They’ll be able to assess your eating habits and identify any food intolerances.
  • Adjust your diet based on your nutritionist/GP assessment but avoid heavily controlling what you consume.