Does Sugar Make you Fat?
When it comes to weight loss, our society has a tendancy to make food groups and ingredients look like villains. We learn all the reasons why we should be afraid of them, cut them out of our diet completely and tell everyone we know to do the same. We did it to fat only a few years ago and right now carbs & sugar are sharing that mantle of crazy villain which is responsible for our expanding waistlines.
Well I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a life where I can’t indulge in a little ice cream or ummmm and ahhh over a decadent brownie. But I get it, the media can make sugar and carbs uber scary so what’s the deal? Does sugar (and by extension carbs) make us fat?
Gaining weight, in essence, comes down to eating more calories than we expend during a day. So if you are eating more calories than you burn, then you are going to gain weight. The same is true of losing weight. If you burn more calories than you eat, then you will be in a calorie deficit which means you will lose weight. This means that one single food group or ingredient isn’t responsible for making you fat.
That doesn’t mean that sugar doesn’t have an impact on your health or your diet. It absolutely does. And sugar, because of how it affects our bodies, can actually make it hard for us to stay in a calorie deficit because its well, so darned delicious!
When it comes to sugar, there are two different types of sugar: natural and added sugars. Natural sugar occurs in foods naturally and is present in your fruits, vegetables, milk & dairy products. Added sugar refers to the sugars that are added to foods that are manufactured or processed and which are in your grocery and freezer aisles. They are added to food to make them sweeter and more palatable … and essentially to make you want to eat as much of them as possible. Natural sugar is more healthy for you because it comes with a ton of nutrients, micronutrients, fibre and more. Added sugars come in highly processed foods that don’t have the same nutritional value so it’s easier to eat more of them which can contribute to weight gain over time.
Regardless of whether you are eating natural or added sugars, it is possible to over-do it with either one. Sugar affects our bodies in a multitude of ways like triggering our feel-good hormones (like seretonin & dopamine) and have us craving more. This is why experts recommend limiting sugar – especially added sugars – because sugar can be addictive and if you get stuck on that roller coaster, looking for a sugar high throughout the day, then over time it can have a negative impact on your health and your weight.
So what is a healthy amount of sugar to have each day? Well the simple answer is between 5% – 10% (max) of our daily caloric intake. For women and children, that typically means no more than 6 tsp a day, for men that means no more than nine tsp a day. So how much sugar do we actually have everyday? Well here are a few stats:
- The average American consumes 17 tsp of sugar per day and a staggering 57 lbs of sugar per year, per person
- Australians eat on average, 14 tsp of sugar a day
- In Canada, it’s estimated that the children eat 23 tsp of sugar a day (!!!) and adults take in about 20 tsp of sugar a day
- A 12 oz can of cola or soda contains 39 g of sugar
- 1 cup of unsweetened apple juice contains 24 g of sugar
- 1 small sweetened coffee from Dunkin Donuts contains 17 g of sugar
- 1 cup of low fat yoghurt contains 47 g of sugar
- Protein bars can contain between 30 g – 60 g of sugar
- An apple has 19 g of sugar
- A cup of strawberries has 7 g of sugar
- A cup of watermelon has 9 g of sugar
- A cup of zucchini has 3 g of sugar