Sugar Makes You Unhealthy and Fat. {Natural Fats Don’t}

This post is a continuation of my thoughts from the post I wrote about my anti-sugar campaign.

For the content and support for this post’s title, I’d like to encourage you to read this infographic (really, please read it—when you click on it, it will open in a new window).

My reaction to the infographic: I agree. And I have some thoughts.

I don’t want you to think that I believe sugar to be the only “worst” thing you could possibly eat—it’s really one of two of the worst, the other being vegetable oil (including canola). But I’ll talk about that another time. My point is that if you ingest sugar in a very very moderate way (think about how much sugar/carbs they ate in a day while working on a farm in the midwest in the 1800s—maybe an apple or some corn, one piece of bread…), and you also eat a lot of healthy protein and fat sources, and exercise (or be active) regularly, you can avoid the sugar=fat+sick equation.

My best tip for the carb/sugar problem is to always try and consume your carbs (simple or complex) with a protein, fiber, or fat. For example, if you must consume toast for breakfast, please put butter (from grass-fed cows), coconut oil, or nut butter on it (not jelly!). If you have fruit, eat it with some coconut cream dip (recipe soon) or nut butter. Doing this slows the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, and you’ll avoid (or at least minimize) the blood sugar spike and crash.

Something to note: I’ve noticed a lot of recipes on the Internet boasting that they are “sugar-free,” and this is amazingly frustrating to me when I look at the ingredient list and see “1 1/4 cup dates” as one of the ingredients. It is not only misleading, but it’s not a true label. I agree that some sources of sugar or worse than others (high fructose corn syrup tops the Bad list), but if you’re trying to watch your sugar intake, using dates, honey, or maple syrup (regardless of what positive qualities they have) is not helping you cut the overall sugar content of your food.

Note: I would choose a food source of sweetness if I had to choose one.

It might seem elementary, but I frequently have clients and students who misunderstand what actually “counts” as sugar. The processed food industry and government make it confusing (and don’t even get me started on the HFCS commercials put out by the Corn Refiners Association).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the sugar/carb/weight topic!

Today, I spent the morning gathering more motivation and support for what I do—it was my wellness coaching day (corporate–which is so great because I get to see so many people in one day in one place). My friends there have so many great things going on (many of which involve cutting down/out sugar and processed food), and it makes me feel like what I do is so worthwhile.

Did you look at the carb/weight infographic above? (if not, you should!) If so, what do you think?

Do you think the average American can look at a food (processed or not) and know what macronutrients (carbs, fat, protain) it contains?

22 thoughts on “Sugar Makes You Unhealthy and Fat. {Natural Fats Don’t}”

  1. we agree that sugar is a big factor in weight gain. when we take sugar out or eat a really low sugar base diet we notice a difference in how we feel and how our bodies look. and we love our healthy fats and when we go without eating them we also notice a huge difference, so for us we much rather eat 2 avocados in one day and no sugar. but that is just us. we do enjoy our sweets but have learned to enjoy in moderation

  2. i agree agree! i see sugar free but with dates, raisins, etc. Thats concentrated sugar for sure. Yes, its natural and i eat dates all the time, but with nut butter and only a few. Balance out that sugar with protein/fat. Good stuff woman.

  3. glad you had such a rewarding day yesterday, lisa! that is just great when you can spend the day talking about your passion with people who are ready to listen!
    i LOVE apple with peanut butter – so i was happy to see your suggestion to add nut butter to fruit! that is far away my favourite snack or part of breakfast.
    good last question, there. i would say that most americans DO know the diff between carb/fat/pro but would be stuck in differences among carbs and sugars.
    happy wednesday!

  4. Just looked at the infographic. I agree that sugar and high carbohydrate consumption are two of the reasons that obesity is rising. I have never paid attention to fat grams – in fact, throughout my weight loss I always made certain to eat foods that were great sources of healthy fats. Nut butter, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, etc… That said, I’m curious as to why vegetable oil is so bad? I mean, I know it’s not good – but one of the two worst?

    Also, while I know that low-carb, Atkins diets work in the short-term, I’m not so sure about their validity in the long run. I lost a lot of weight on Atkins, but the second I reincorporated carbs (whole grains) – I regained the weight (plus some). So, I think a diet filled with most vegetables, some fruits, a little whole grains (quinoa, oats, etc.), healthy fats, and treats very much in moderation is the way to go. At least that’s what worked for me. 🙂

  5. I totally agree that sugar is a big factor when it comes to being overweight or obese. I was never overweight, but always had extra fat on me growing up and I completely blame it on all the sugar i consumed. I also think the sugar was what messed up my hormones and why they’re not balanced today. Could that be possible?

    P.S. That info-graphic in regards to carbs was so interesting. I already knew a lot from you talking about carbs before, but I learned even more! It makes sense!


  6. I swear every time I read/hear something you write about it! I was watching Dr. Oz at the gym (don’t really agree with a lot of things he says). He was talking about different oils and mentioned that vegetable and canola oils are the worst because they are basically a bunch of leftover oils mixed together. In the past I have used both for baking, but those days are long gone. 

    I took a look at the info-graphic and think its does a great way of explaining what carbs and sugars do. I knew they were bad, but the chart really helped me understand. 

  7. I looked at it and I really like how relatable it is, even for someone without a background in food and nutrition. Though I still have a way to go, I’m getting much better at looking at sugary foods and saying to myself “you will do x, x and x to your body if you eat that right now.” It helps me stay away when I need to 🙂

  8. I’ve actually been really curious about this because
    1. I’m a vegetarian
    2. I have high cholesterol (genetics, not diet)

    I tried the vegan thing for awhile to try to lower my cholesterol naturally and it actually made things worse and I suspect it’s because I cut out things like eggs and low fat dairy, and replace it with carbs and sugar.

    The problem is, since I don’t eat meat… I don’t know what I CAN eat that is low in sugar and carbs… Thoughts?

  9. I don’t like the label of sugar free either… it’s very confusing.  If I use dates to sweeten something I say naturally sweetened with dates and “no added sugar” but that is still confusing to some people.  Most people know that there is natural sugar in dates but some will translate that into thinking they can eat as much as they want.

    I eat alot of starchy carbs… potatoes, rice, corn… my body just needs the energy!!

  10. I agree that our country has come very acclimated to too many carbs. It’s interesting that you point out how many carbs people ate in the past “out on the farms” – it’s a true point! And we aren’t even usually working in the fields in the farms anymore, but sitting at our desks! I am always very wary of sugar content. It makes me feel so crappy anyway. I get a “sugar hangover” whenever I have more than I am used to, which is not as much anymore.

  11. I think the label “sugar free” is accurate when there is no refined/organic sugar in a product/recipe. Maybe a clearer way would be to label it “natural sugars”.

    I love using natural sweeteners in my foods and I feel good when I do…I just use moderation. I eat honey still, but hardly at all. Then there’s stevia, which I use a lot. Healthy sweetners are good for you, but in balance!

    I want to know that a product/recipe is sugar free & doesn’t have artificial sweeteners and appreciate it when it’s labeled so.

    But really…it’s so easy to look at the nutritional info and see how many grams of sugar are in it. That’s a better clue as to what the big picture is when the product is till labeled “sugar free”.

  12. I completely agree with the sugar-free/date thing… that’s not sugar free at all.  Just like recently I’ve seen a lot of grain-free recipes called “paleo” when they have beans or peanut butter in them.  Might not seem like a big deal, but it can be misleading to those who aren’t fully educated.  

  13. I’m planning to write about vegetable oil…there are just so many layers to that topic it may take me a while to organize it into something concise and blog-friendly…

    I agree on the low-carb thing—yes, they do work for weight loss as long as the diet is sustained… But usually when I see someone doing atkins, they are only considering weight and not health/wellness overall. The moderation approach seems so much better nutrient-wise, disease prevention-wise, etc. I think my main problem with carbs is that even once you take out processed foods (which make up 70% of the American diet) and just use real ingredients and foods, if you follow the USDA carb % recommendations that were in place for the last couple decades…it’s excessive. So, when Americans combined that quantity of carbs (in the presence of the low-fat craze) with more and more processed food…health and weight took a gigantic turn for the worse. I’m a stickler for a few things: low sugar, high protein, moderate fat and always high quality…

  14. Yep….I think it’s 100% possible that a high sugar diet can cause hormone imbalance. In fact, I think that, in conjunction with a low fat intake is what really screwed me up (ok, so that’s true, but I also think being on birth control pills for a long-time can be a culprit). So, it’s likely a combination of things, but sugar would be a main offender in many cases!

  15. I would say that for most people (especially genetically sensitive to high cholesterol), the culprits are sugar and carbs and processed foods (trans fats, chemicals, poor quality foods)….and not animal products or fat. Things like eggs, that previously had a bad reputation for cholesterol, actually have been shown to lower it in some people (and be neutral in others)! The truth is that dietary cholesterol does not translate to blood cholesterol. Fiber is a big player in the removal of the cholesterol from the digestive tract (instead of it being reabsorbed into the bloodstream), and the a diet made of healthy fats, veggies, fruits, and adequate protein is the best solution. Not eating meat definitely eliminates some choices, but having eggs, cheese, nuts, avocados, lots of veggies, coconut products (cream, milk, oil, etc), butter from grass-fed cows, and minimal whole grains (in the presence of fat, protein, and fiber) gives you quite a bit to work with!

  16. I’m a big fan of stevia too.
    I would like to think that people understand different types of sugar (sucrose vs. date sugar, etc)…but I teach nutrition courses, and I can say that between my students and clients, a lot of people really don’t know that things like dates contain a lot of sugar. So my gripe really is about recipes online—if they’re not providing nutritional information, but labeling something “sugar free,” and then it contains a lot of natural sugar, it is confusing to many.

    I can teach students how to look at ingredients and how to find out how many grams of sugar are in something, but I think it’s irresponsible of bloggers to post recipes that contain natural sugar and still label it “sugar free” (if they’re not providing the nutrition “label” info).

    You’re so right about the nutrition labels on packaged foods‹by law, the sugar has to be accounted for and labels can’t say “sugar free” if they’re not!

  17. It’s hard enough to get people to to a point where they can remember what to look for…and then when it’s misleading, it throws everything off!
    I had a client send me a recipe she found online (posted by a popular blogger), and she was so excited to try it on her “sugar detox” diet because it said “sugar free.” If she hadn’t sent me the link, she would have made it and eaten it, not knowing she was sabotaging herself (although I would hope she’d realize something was off when it tasted really sweet…).

  18. Hi Laury….I just dug this comment out of my spam folder! 
    I used to be against the Atkins Diet too (really, all I focused on was that in practical application it appeared that people were living on pepperoni, cheese, and chicken wings!).
    I can so relate on the natural sugar/raw thing. A couple years ago, I was trying to eat “clean” so much that the raw food diet just made sense to me—but I was making chocolate cake out of walnuts and dates…like you said, the sugar was out of control. 
    I’m glad you brought up the working out thing—because the rules definitely change a bit in relation to workouts and athletes! I’m working on a triathlon training plan with protein and strategic-carb focus…so I’ll share that along the way. I’ll look forward to your input on it too! 
    …my muscles/recovery/energy are so much better than trying to get all the protein I needed from plants! 
    OMG!!!! The coconut/avocado conversation!!! That kind of stuff blows my mind…the worst part is that it’s often health professionals with that view…and I even once had a dietician tell my client she should stop using coconut products because of the saturated fat 🙁
    Thank you for your long ass comment!! 

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