Fat Vs Sugar
Sugar and fat are two of the most widely talked about dietary topics, with one of the most commonly asked questions by people with (and without) diabetes being ‘how much sugar or fat can I have in my diet?’
There is a constant movement between different diet fads where we are made to believe that following a certain type of diet is the way to go, only for a new trend to take its place shortly after. I think that the greatest debate is between fat and sugar. Should you choose low-fat products to prevent heart disease or choose low-sugar products to prevent diabetes? Which is worse for you? Should you avoid them completely?
A healthy diet consists of foods from five different food groups: fruit and vegetables; bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates; meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein; milk and dairy foods; and foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar, and it’s better for us to focus our attention on the overall balance of these.
If we are eating too much of one food group, then it means there is less room for another in our diet. So rather than focusing on cutting out, think about what you could be eating more of.
Let’s start with fat:
For over 40 years, we have been scared into thinking that if we eat too many eggs, or use too much olive oil we will end up with heart disease. This caused an influx of low-fat and fat-free products to hit the shelves, with consumers choosing low-fat versions of their favorite foods in fear of having too much cholesterol. The reality is, these low-fat products usually have added sugar to make up for the lack of fat and they are less likely to fill you up. This may shock you, but cholesterol is actually beneficial. Our bodies need cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, bile salts and it is neuro-protective (protects our brain!).
Let’s talk about sugar:
Food companies sneak sugar into most processed products, often disguising it under other names such as glucose, high fructose corn syrup, golden syrup, rice syrup and dextrose, so the average reader is unaware. Have a look at those muesli bars that you buy- some of them contain three, four or even five different forms of sugar, listed under these alias names. You may not realize that the white bread, white rice and white pasta you consume on a regular basis are also sugars. When these are digested, they cause a spike in blood glucose levels just like sugar would. Fruit is a little different, as it is high in fiber which slows the absorption of the sugar and is also packed with nourishing vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, offering a lot of health benefits.
It is important to note, that just because something is labelled as ‘sugar free’ does not mean that it is healthy for you. Many of these products contain artificial sweeteners that are accompanied by their own negative health effects. Products that contain natural sweeteners such as stevia, maltitol, erythritol and inulin are safe to use. These are combined together in Nature Sweet Sugar Substitute, which acts as a great alternative to using sugar in your beverages or baking.
The ‘good’ unsaturated fats are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, have anti-inflammatory properties, support healthy joints, improve cognition, nourish the skin, support healthy cholesterol (HDL) and maintain flexible veins and arteries. These good fats are found in fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, olives and olive oil and eggs. You can get these good fats in EPA-DHA capsules.
When sugar is consumed it is rapidly absorbed in the blood stream and causes a surge in blood glucose. To counteract this, excess insulin is secreted which causes blood glucose levels to drop. You then crave another hit of sugar for energy and the cycle continues. Some of the sugar is used as an energy source, but the excess sugar is broken down by the liver and stored as fat. The regular exposure of excess sugar leads to insulin resistance and is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
It’s often hard to pick a winner to Which-is-Worse questions, but the authors argue that excess added sugars are unhealthier. If you choose whole foods, you shouldn’t have much of a dilemma. You will be well on your way to a healthy balance that is low in saturated fat and added sugar.