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Yes, There Is a Place for Sugar in Your Diet

Given the hype around sugar's unhealthy consequences, it might as well be wrapped in a layer of yellow "Caution" tape. But many dancers still cannot kick the strong cravings for their favorite sweet indulgences. How can dancers manage this urge without fear?

Why the Body Craves Sugar

Whether it comes from whole-grain bread or a sundae, sugar is a derivative of carbohydrates. These are your body's preferred fuel not just for dancing but also for your brain, nervous system and red blood cells. When you're low on energy, hormones are released to signal that it's time for a replenishment. This translates into hunger, and if you're choosing a no-carb or low-carb diet, those signals are bound to grow stronger and cause you to crave sweeter, more energy-dense carbohydrate-based foods.

No, Sugar Is Not Addictive

An overwhelming amount of fear surrounds sugar. Some feel that it's addictive and think, "Once I start, I won't stop." But research displaying any potential for sugar addiction is limited to animal studies that cannot parallel human behavior. In fact, there's a stronger link between overall food restriction and overeating.

Sugar in and of itself is not the reason why you might overeat. Rather, denying yourself the sweet stuff is the very driver of overdoing it in the long run, due to the body's biological need for carbs and the mind's psychological desire to want what it thinks it cannot have.

Be wary of low-sugar versions of your favorite dessert. These can often leave you mentally unsatisfied and physically low on the very carbohydrates your body needs for energy.

Signs You Need to Scale Back

There are instances when sugary foods might not serve your dancing. Insulin, a hormone that moves sugar away from your blood and into your working muscles, is released in response to your food intake. Eating an excessive amount of sugar can lead to high levels of insulin, which soon leads to a major drop in energy.

If you're feeling tired and sluggish midway into your class, it could be a sign that you need to scale back on your pre-dancing sugar load. Save that chocolate bar for afterward.

Is "Added" Okay?

The FDA defines "added sugars" as those added to foods during processing to help improve flavor, texture and shelf life. Added sugars can inadvertently sneak into your day. Though not thought of as sweet, condiments, soups, dressings and marinades often have them.

Check the ingredient lists to identify highly refined sugars like high fructose corn syrup, which has been associated with increased levels of inflammation. Choose foods that are instead sweetened with less-refined sources:

  • dried fruit
  • cane sugar
  • brown sugar
  • coconut sugar
  • maple syrup
  • honey
  • molasses

Be Mindful

To make sweets part of a healthy lifestyle, honor your body's need for sugar as a source of energ­y. When cravings arise, embrace them as a sign that you actually need the dose of carbs. To avoid the potential of overdoing it, satisfy your sweet tooth mindfully: Power down the screens, portion your servings and use utensils. This helps to create an eating experience, which allows you to better tune in to feelings of satisfaction and fullness.

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