Sugar Vs. Fat , what is worse?

When we talk about inappropriate diets, the protagonists are always sugar and fat, but what actually causes more harm to our bodies?

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Nowadays, we are about three times as fat as in the 60s. And it is not because we are eating much more or because we move less. In fact there is more variety of light foods, more sports options and more access to them. So, what factor is behind this epidemy?

We know that fat and sugar are suspects when it comes to obesity, but we still seem to go on with life without understanding how to balance our diet. What fattens more, fat or sugar? Which one should we abstain from?

The first thing we should know: nothing in excess is good, ever. So both sugar and fat in excess are harmful and are directly related to cardiovascular diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemias, etc. But there is something important that we should all consider.

For years, fat was in the dock and we ignored sugar. This was because one gram of fat has 9 calories and one of sugar has 4. In that sense, fats get you fatter. But in reality we demonize foods with fats more than necessary and the problem is that over time we have become addicted to sugar.

Sugar is not intrinsically bad, but it is the quantity and frequency with which we consume it that matters. We have become accustomed to eating more than our body needs.

The nutritionist Francisca Bustos explains: "The body has a limited quantity of sugar reserves, not fat, which can be stored in an unlimited way". Therefore, if we eat an excess of sugar and we have already stored the amount that can be reserved in our organs, it happens to accumulate in the form of fat. As part of fat tissue or as triglycerides, which are fat molecules that accumulate in our arteries which can increase cardiovascular risk.

The nutrition expert Dr. John Briffa points out: "the fault of obesity is not pointing more and more to whole foods that contain natural fats, but to processed foods loaded with carbohydrates and refined sugars, which quickly turn into fat".

What is sugar?

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate: sucrose, a mixture of glucose and fructose.

Bustos explains that there are many types of carbohydrates and that some provide only calories (simple sugars), while others also come with essential nutrients for our body, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, enzymes, among others (complex sugars).

"We must understand that although carbohydrates are natural and come in healthy foods such as fruit (fructose), dairy (lactose), rice or noodles (starch), or artificial as table sugar or processed products that the contain (cookies, chocolates, cakes, etc.), whenever we consume it in excess it will be harmful ".

We must also consider that any sugar is not the same. The refined table sugar (simple sugar) is different, because it is an empty food. It has no nutritional power.

On the other hand, the complex sugars naturally present in fruit, vegetables, cereals and legumes have a great advantage: their nutritive elements are essential for their absorption and use. They take longer to be absorbed, so they produce a slower rise in blood glucose. This makes it possible to keep blood sugar levels under control and, at the same time, makes a long-lasting fuel available to the body.

How healthy are low-fat products?

"It's 0% fat, then it fattens much less" is the myth that our mind is created when we buy food. Many products reduce the percentage of fat. But as they lose their natural flavor, they are unpleasant to consume. How do they fix this? Easy, they add sugar instead. This means that there are cases in which even a low-fat product has more calories than an ordinary one. And although it is not something that is given as a rule, there are many other examples of the little caloric difference that have reduced fat foods.

Francisca explains that under the food regulation, the concept "light" is simply understood as 20% less of something: sugar, fat or sodium. But losing 20% of some ingredient, does not necessarily mean that you do not increase the amount of other ingredients. Therefore, light is not equal to free of calories.

Many of the products we see as healthy, yogurt, cereal bars, 0% fat products, water with flavor, can have much more sugar than we think and we should rely more on nutritional labels if we want to measure our diet, than in the commercial label of the product. Considering the percentage of our daily diet that represents the portion.

Why does sugar dependence appear?

In the first place because we need it: sugar is essential, glucose is the food of our neurons par excellence and that's why we shouldn't leave it.

Also, because we want it: in addition to its pleasant sweet taste, sugar can lift the mood, by causing the body to secrete serotonin, which is the "happiness hormone".

Finally, because it makes us dependent: very sweet foods (with simple sugar) fill us up and leave us empty very quickly. By having a "high glycemic index", they quickly increase the blood glucose in our blood and we are satiated, but that lasts a short time.

Dr. Robert Lustig, American pediatrician and endocrinologist, expert in obesity, explains that sugar resembles controlled drugs: "We have to stop being dependent, we have to make our lives sweeter, we have to make sugar a pleasure, not a basic element of our diet" It is not about escaping from all the meals and living traumatized by every taste that we give ourselves. We know that it is not necessary. But we must be more aware of what we are eating every day.

It would not be a bad idea to start by decreasing the amount of tablespoons of sugar in the coffee or replacing a snack with a more natural one. According to the FAO and the World Health Organization, carbohydrates are responsible for providing the bulk of energy needs, between 55% and 75% daily. But of those carbohydrates, simple sugar, should not exceed 10%: about 10 teaspoons between coffee, chocolates, sweets, drinks and other foods.

As you can see, sugar is not totally harmful, you just have to monitor the quantities you consume so that you avoid having problems in your health.