02/05/2013 05:33 pm ET Updated Apr 07, 2013

Don't Believe the Sugar Hype

The New Year's diet hysteria is in full swing. And so are the resolutions to lose weight, exercise and give up all the things that are "bad" for you. According to research, if you haven't already, you're probably likely to fall off the resolution bandwagon real soon. And from my experience counseling people on their diets, it's usually because the resolution is too extreme, unrealistic or includes giving up something you love. That can be a tough act to follow long-term.

One thing that seems to be topping everybody's "do not eat" list this year is sugar. From claims that it's dangerous to it being the cause of all sorts of health issues, figuring out what to believe about sugar can be tough and confusing. The fact is that sugar has been a part of our diet for more than 2,000 years and is enjoyed naturally in fruit, breast milk, bread and all sorts of other things.

So what should you believe? For the sake of your New Year's resolution and your waistline, I'm here to tell you not to believe the hype about sugar. It, like everything else, can fit into a balanced diet in moderation. And if you have instituted a resolution to give it up and find yourself on the failing end, there's still hope.

But first, you have to understand the important place that carbohydrates like sugar have in our diet. Carbs can be found in many foods including fruits, vegetables, milk, grain products, dry beans, nuts, seeds and more. The human body is fueled by glucose, a substance that is the building block for all carbs and responsible for the great taste we recognize as sweet. Our bodies work on energy that is released after glucose makes its way through the body. Carbohydrates are your main source of energy. So that means, whether you're climbing stairs or taking a hard test, you're using energy.

While plants are excellent glucose producers, our bodies are not. So we have to get it by eating foods with carbohydrates. Since we know that our bodies thrive on energy and this energy has to be furnished by carbohydrates, it's smart to seek out rather than eliminate carbs to keep yourself going. According to the Sugar Association, the simple fact is this: Carbohydrates (sugar) need to be part of a healthy diet, especially since they are the preferred source for brain power, muscle energy and many other natural processes that take place in cells.

Now this does not give you a pass to eat tons and tons of carbohydrates or sugar. But I hope it makes a clear case for why giving up anything you love, especially those things that are important to your bodily functions, isn't necessary or sustainable over time.

The key to sticking with your resolution is moderation not elimination.

If you have sworn off sugar for the New Year, try taking baby steps instead. Substitute sugar with low- and no-calorie sweeteners, reduce your portion sizes or have your favorites like cake, cookies or soda twice a week. And most importantly, exercise! A healthy diet and exercise should go hand and hand. This is a much more sustainable approach to your resolution and can get you back on the road to meeting your goals this year and beyond.

Good luck getting back on the resolutions bandwagon!

For more by Sylvia E. Meléndez-Klinger, click here.

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