Sugar and fat intake are two of the most widely discussed, inquired, and studied arenas of the food and nutrition industry. This is because both of these nutrients comprise significant portions of our diet. And with the rising cases of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and other health issues associated with diet and lifestyle, the most frequently asked question by the people is, "what and how much is safe to have in the daily diet – sugar or fat?"
Gaining extra weight is not a choice anymore. Instead, it happens to everyone following a typical lifestyle. But, getting back in shape and being fit is a choice, and it is imperative for better health and well-being of an individual.
You acquire excess fat with its accumulation in your subcutaneous and visceral spaces. True. But, not all that comes from your diet. Only 20 % is contributed by the diet taken. The body makes the rest from consumed sugars. When you eat excess sugar, your pancreas produces insulin, and the excess sugar is converted to glycogen, which is then stored in the liver. This insulin production also causes fat to get deposited in the adipose tissues. So, who is the real culprit here?
Is It Right to Cut Down on Fat?
Fat has been looked down as a "bad choice" for consumption for several years. However, lately, there has been a shift in this opinion as many scientific studies have claimed fat to be better than carbohydrates or sugars. Though both these nutrients are necessary for optimal growth and development yet, their quantities should be within limits. As per the studies, a low-carbohydrate and a high-fat diet are healthier than a low-fat and a high-carbohydrate diet. The former diet plan helps control blood sugar levels and aids in weight loss due to its minimal effect on blood glucose levels.
Fat has the most intense energy among all nutrients, and it holds double the calories as an equal quantity of sugar. But, this does not indicate putting it at bay altogether. It simply means checking the calories consumption, especially when taking high-fat foods like butter, cheese, and cream. In addition, eggs, cod oils, yogurt, etc., which are rich sources of good fats, should be included in the diet. It is also essential to avoid trans fats, which are unhealthy; and are mostly found in processed foods and readymade food items.
Low-fat food products are also an available healthy option in the market these days, as they affirm to have less calorie content. But, they may not always be necessarily healthy. For instance, yogurt has a low-fat content but high sugar concentration, so it cannot be considered healthy overall. Choosing low-fat products is also dependent on the general diet taken. For example, low-fat dairy options should be chosen for individuals who include many dairy products in their diet.
Completely cutting down on fat is like putting the wrong guy in jail for his friend's mistake. By abandoning fatty food, you are at risk of getting deficits of HDL (high-density lipoprotein), developing lousy skin, poor wound healing, and even bad cardiac outcomes. But, do not get me wrong, you do not need to eat excess fat either. Excess fat consumption automatically conveys extra calorie intake, which causes increased insulin resistance and raised blood sugar levels.
Is Cutting Down on Sugar Needed?
Correct, cutting down those excess sugars from the diet is helpful. Restricting the sugar intake should be a priority for everyone, whether diabetic or not. It helps in keeping the blood sugar levels within the normal range. It is not just the snacks and the sugary items like cakes and cookies that contain sugars; sugar is also a significant part of many other foods such as cereals, fruit juices, smoothies, fruit yogurts, ready-to-eat meals, soups, etc. Sugar has also been claimed to have no nutritional benefits and adds to the consumed calories. Sugar consumption leads to an exponential rise in blood glucose levels; that is why people with diabetes are advised to limit their sugar intake and watch it. The NHS, U.K has recommended men to have less than 70 grams of sugar in a day and women to take below 50 grams of sugar daily.
How to Limit Sugar Consumption?
The following steps can be taken to restrict the amount of sugar in the daily diet:
Adopting sugarless chocolates, snacks, and desserts.
Abandoning processed foods as they have high sugar content.
Including sugar substitutes like honey, molasses, etc., in the food.
Using artificial sweeteners in drinks.
Avoiding intake of white rice and preferring wheat instead.
For individuals over 35 years of age, their milk intake should be limited only to beverages like tea and coffee.
Curbing more than 50 % of the current sugar intake and including an appropriate amount of healthy fat.
Nevertheless, holding on to these restrictions becomes problematic if the people around, like friends, family, colleagues, etc., are more into eating sweet and sugary foods. However, such measures are not needed in hypoglycemic individuals or those at risk of developing hypoglycemia. They can even grab sugary snacks like energy drinks (Lucozade) and glucose tablets to prevent or treat hypoglycemia.
It is highly imperative to make the right food choices. And this can be done correctly by acquiring correct information about the food products and the nutrients present in them. For example, both sugar and fats are macronutrients. Yet, only their optimal quantities should be taken, and a slight inclination towards a high-fat and a low-carbohydrate diet is preferable. Also, care should be taken not to fall prey to the different over-the-counter shortcut weight loss methods and have proper health. Adjustments in the diet based on consultation with a registered dietician are always better.