Eighty percent of a dancer’s physical fitness is determined by _________. If you had to choose one word to fill in that blank, what would you suggest? Well, if your guess is anything but “food” or “eating,” you’d be incorrect. No matter how dedicated her studio time and skillful her rehearsals, no dancer can be physically fit without healthy eating habits. While the presence of nutritious foods is a huge part of a healthy lifestyle, so is the absence of unhealthy foods. We’ll start with two of the main culprits, when it comes to unhealthy ingredients: sugar and flour.
Flaws of Flour
Sure, most people in the U.S. consume more wheat than any other single food. But then again, most people in the U.S. contract diseases tied to systemic inflammation too. After all, wheat flour is on that bottom level of the traditional “food pyramid,” but did you know that many nutritionists suggest that those recommendations be revised dramatically? Obviously, these kinds of typical problems would be quite hazardous to a dancer’s career.
While all grains have their issues, white flour is undoubtedly the worst of all of them. Stripped of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, this highly processed product is full of empty calories. It produces elevated blood sugar levels, leading to cravings and fat storage — not healthy at all for a dancer’s mind and body. Even foods made with “whole wheat flour” or “whole grains” will contain some refined, white flour.
Sorry About Sugar
Unlike grains, sugars have always been suggested to be eaten sparingly. However, sugar is in almost everything these days. Just start reading labels, and you’ll probably be surprised (and/or appalled). Refined sugars are not only highly refined and void of nutrients, but they’re ripe with empty calories. Our bodies store sugar in fat cells, and an overabundance of sugar can lead to problems ranging from neurological, emotional, immune, and weight problems.
Add to those problems the fact that foods with refined sugars are highly addictive — some even compare its addictive nature to that of cocaine! The body’s response to sugar is to produce a dopamine “high” that has you coming back for and constantly craving more — but never feeling fully satisfied. Sugar can be found in the obvious places, like candy and cakes, but it can also hide in salad dressings, granola bars, and energy drinks. Look for the following ingredients: brown sugar, cane sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, sorghum, and sucrose.
On a side note, powdered stevia is nearly as highly processed as sugar, and while it lacks the blood pressure elevation, it can still be problematic: since it’s actually even sweeter than sugar, it creates a similar but possibly even more dangerous addictive response. Artificial sweeteners like sucralose or Splenda come with their own list of problems, and many argue that any added sweetener (including natural ones like maple syrup or honey) can give a similar “high,” making any sweeteners problematic.