Sugar vs. fat: the great debate
If you’re a certain age, you will remember when fat became public enemy number one. You couldn’t walk down a grocery store aisle without seeing low-fat or no-fat products on either side, and the diet industry was screaming about the need to avoid fat at all cost.
But times have changed. In fact, according to sources like Diabetes.co.uk, diets that are low in carbohydrates and high in fat are widely regarded as being healthier, particularly in terms of blood glucose control and weight loss, than lower fat, high carb diet plans.1
It’s sugar that has become the real bad guy. Foods with added sugar fill you up so you have less room for nutritious foods, but sugar can also increase your risk of other problems like tooth decay, high triglycerides, and diabetes.1 According to the American Heart Association (AHA), since our bodies don’t need sugar to function properly, the added calories it adds can also lead to extra weight that can then impact heart health.2
The AHA recommends limiting the amount of added sugar you consume. For women, that’s no more than 100 calories a day, which is about 6 teaspoons. For men it’s 150 calories a day, or about 9 teaspoons. “Added sugar” isn’t sugar that is found naturally in fruits and vegetables. As the description implies, it’s sugar that has been added to processed products and baked goods to sweeten them. You’ll find added sugar in everything from yogurt, ketchup and salad dressings to cereal, bread, beverages, soups and sauces.
For more information on added sugar, how to avoid it, and what to eat instead of it, read our article, “Sweet isn’t always so sweet.”.
So, does this mean you can eat all the fat you want as long as you don’t add any sugar to your diet? No. Moderation is always key, and there are “good” and “bad” fats—they are not all created equal.
Unsaturated fats (those found in foods such as avocadoes, nuts and seeds, as well as olive, canola, flaxseed or nut oils) can help your body absorb some nutrients, so enjoy 2 to 3 tbsp of these healthy fats each day. Saturated and trans-fat is found in meat and poultry, dairy products, and baked and fried foods. Those fats raise the level of LDL cholesterol in your blood and are linked to heart risks, so limit them in your diet.3
On average, the AHA recommends that you keep your saturated fat consumption to about 13 grams per day. For more information on saturated fat, what foods it’s found in, and what healthy alternatives you can substitute for those foods, visit the AHA.
It can all be a bit confusing, especially when the diet industry stands to gain from convincing you that one fad diet is better than the next, so let common sense be your guide. Focus on eating foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while being conscious of avoiding added sugars and saturated and trans fats whenever possible.
Always make sure to talk to your doctor about your dietary and nutritional needs, particularly if you have underlying health conditions. The Internet is a good starting point, but nothing replaces the advice of a family doctor who knows your health inside and out.
417028E CAN/US (06/19)