Does sugar deserve to be completely banned from our lives? Here’s why a little sweetness is not as harmful as it’s made out to be.


Sugar gets a lot of hate.  Commentary can range from “trying to cut back”, to comparing it to Crystal Meth and calling in an addiction.  It’s publicized as a black-and-white issue (i.e. don’t eat it!) with very little grey area.  

If you do eat it, you’re led to believe you’re making a bad choice that will negatively impact your health.  Some would even say you run the risk of developing an addiction.

However, what the addiction model doesn’t account for is the side effect of restrictive or restrained eating.  

If you restrict sugar (or any food for that matter), studies show that we actually become more preoccupied or obsessed with it. You may start to feel out of control with your ability to self-moderate, which says more about your lack of practice in moderation than any lack of willpower, self-control, or development of addiction.

Nutritionally speaking, one could argue that your body doesn’t actually need sugar. It does, however, need carbohydrates, but many people throw a blanket over all carbs when they aim to cut back on added sugars.  That’s exactly what gets us into trouble.

Instead of focusing on overall meal patterns, it’s become all too common to blame one food or food ingredient.

After all, it sounds like an easy solution, with a tempting, alluring gimmick of “just quit eating X and you’ll magically feel amazing”. Heck, they even promise you a cheat meal! (Also known as a binge.)

Here’s the thing: I won’t argue that eating sugar is necessary from a physical standpoint.  What I will argue is that learning how to live in the grey with food will probably be the most productive thing you can do to improve your relationship with food and overall nutrition quality.  

Instead of the all-or-nothing mentality that creates extremes in food intake, you instead consume food in balance, variety, and moderation – the key to adequate nutrition.  When you have multiple restrictive food rules, you run the risk of inadequate nutrient intake and experiencing emotional distress over following the rules perfectly.

Rather, give yourself unconditional permission to eat the foods that you want, including sugar.

Now, what it doesn’t mean is that you’ll be eating sugar it all the time. It just means that you can eat it when you want it, and not eat it when you don’t want it.  More importantly, you know you can stop eating when you’ve had enough because you know you can have it again at a later time.

Giving yourself unconditional permission to eat naturally brings unconditional permission to stop eating.

There’s no need to worry about foods that contain some sugar or added sweeteners, because you already include a much greater variety of nourishing foods throughout your meals.  Allow yourself to respond to your intuitive signals more effectively by eating with the intent to feel full, satisfied and energized – mentally and physically. And when those become your goals, you’ll find your balance.  

So here’s to sugar.  You aren’t addicted, you can be trusted, and you do not lack willpower.

And most importantly, know that it isn’t about self-control. Open your mind to the bigger picture of health with less judgment around food, and sugar will become a non-issue.  

The grey is a funner place to live in.

Adapted from the original article.

Emily Fonnesbeck, RD, CD, CLT is a private practice Registered Dietitian based in Saint George, Utah. Instead of creating unnecessary restrictions, Emily focuses on helping individuals become confident and in charge of their own well-being through Intuitive Eating and Mindful Living. She is a strong believer and advocate for helping people become capable individuals who are confident in taking care of themselves.  Make a visit and read more from Emily.