There has been a lot of speculation about the effects of sugar and fat on our diets. For a long time we have thought that fat was the cause of obesity and had many detrimental effects on our health. However more recently, sugar has been put in the hot seat when it comes to our health. So how do sugars and fats impact our diet, and more importantly, our health?
Both sugars and fats can have an impact on your health in many ways, including your body’s ability to use insulin. Normally insulin is released in order to convert carbohydrates and maintain blood sugar levels. This response is triggered by glucose entering the system. However, if one is insulin resistant, the body’s cells have trouble communicating with the insulin, leaving higher levels of glucose in the system as it cannot be properly processed.
Regular consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates produce a constant release of insulin, which can cause insulin resistance over time. This regular consumption has also been linked to type 2 diabetes, excess weight gain, and many other health problems. There are many studies that produce findings that sugar has no greater impact than any other calories when it comes to weight or development of diabetes; however the majority of these studies are funded by the sugar industry and therefore should be perceived as biased.
Carbohydrates from whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, have much less of an impact on insulin sensitivity. The fiber in these foods slows the absorption of glucose into the blood, not requiring a strain or sudden burst of insulin production in order to process glucose levels.
Fats can be a bit more complicated when it comes to how they affect our health. It really all comes down to which types of fats are consumed, as they are not all created equal. “Bad fats” such as trans and saturated fats are often found in red meats and processed foods. Trans fats are linked to heart disease, and saturated fats are linked to worsened insulin resistance and an increase in blood pressure. There are some studies that show saturated fats derived from plants however, might not be so bad.
“Good fats” are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, often found in avocados, nuts, and oily fish. These good fats have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels and can improve insulin sensitivity.
The majority of research at this time shows that a low fat diet doesn’t actually have any major benefits for weight loss as it was once suspected, and there is little evidence that a high (in good) fat diet would have any negative impact on one’s health.
So what does it all mean?
Although many sites like to tout about cures for diabetes based on specific diets or adding/restricting specific foods, there is unfortunately no cure at this time. The foods we eat have major impacts on managing your symptoms and your overall health. Always try to eat fresh, whole foods and avoid processed foods as much as possible. Carbohydrates from fruit, veggies, and whole grains can be a great addition to your diet; however added sugars and refined carbs should be avoided. “Good fats” found in fish, nuts and avocado are also beneficial in your diet, but too much red meat and processed foods can have bad health effects. If you are having trouble figuring out what to eat, consider talking with a Registered Dietitian who can help create a custom diet plan with your specific needs in mind!