Should You Try J.Lo’s #NoSugarNoCarb Challenge?
We asked a registered dietitian to weigh in.
Recently, Jennifer Lopez took to social media to challenge friends to join her on a 10-day no sugar, no carb challenge. J.Lo challenged actress Leah Remini, producer Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and Today co-host Hoda Kotb, to join on this 10-day journey. Every few days J.Lo posted gorgeous photos on her Instagram to showcase her results. We have a feeling this left many of her fans wondering, is cutting out sugar and carbs completely from your diet a healthy move — for 10 days or for good? Here's the deal.
In the 1990s, fat got all the hating. Today, the keto diet is more popular than ever and now poor carbs and sugar are getting demonized. These so-called "bad-for-you foods" include carbs like whole grains, enriched bread and pasta; starch vegetables like potatoes, legumes, fruit, dairy; and natural sugars like honey and maple syrup. The general vibe is that in order to be healthy you need to cut these food groups out of your diet altogether. But the truth is, that's unrealistic and not actually healthy.
"It makes no sense to eliminate all carbs and it's virtually impossible, says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD of Better Is the New Perfect. "Grains, both whole and refined, fruits, vegetables, and plain dairy products have a lot of nutrition to offer. Eliminating them can result in deficiencies.” That said, Ward does believe that cutting out added sugar could be a positive because "it's often found in relatively high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, and it is a source of extra energy that many people don't need."
The reality is that even all vegetables contain carbs to some degree, so if you want to eat 100-percent carb- and sugar-free then you’re basically left with meat, poultry, fish and eggs. Even avocados have carbs — 17 grams per avocado to be exact. So really you’re just left eating, well, not much.
All That Aside, Would You See Results on J.Lo's Diet?
When you cut out all carbs and sugar, you’re also cutting many other foods and calories in your diet, and you can lose weight. The issue is that you won't be taking in all the nutrients you need within this 10-day window, such as the many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables; the nine essential nutrients including calcium, potassium and vitamin D found in milk and dairy foods; and the fiber found in legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
How Do You Healthfully Cut Carbs and Sugar?
If you’re thinking about going no carbs and no sugar, Ward recommends to “focus on cutting down on added sugar and don't cut the carbohydrates that are better for you. You need carbohydrates to feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut, which help to protect against colon cancer, and on a broader scale, support the immune system and mental health.”
You should also focus on changes that you can live with, not extreme eating that's doable for just a few days or a couple of weeks. One goal Ward recommends is to eat at least three servings of whole grains and five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. “When you add healthy whole and lightly-processed foods to your eating pattern, there's little room for low-nutrient foods, like candy, cookies and drinks with added sugar,” explains Ward.
Bottom Line: If you’re still ogling over J.Lo’s amazing body shots on Instagram it’s important to realize that not everyone has that body — and that's okay! There are many registered dietitians who now speak about body kindness and being inclusive of all your food groups in a healthful way. You can find a registered dietitian in your area who focuses on mindful eating and developing a positive body image on the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics website.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.