Dieting: Sugar vs. Fat

Healthy Lifestyle Habits

According to the National Institute of Health, 60% of Americans are overweight, the highest number in history. Many factors are blamed for this statistic. We eat too much or eat the wrong things. We are more sedentary or eat too many preservatives and chemicals. We have too much environmental pollution. We don’t exercise enough.

The bottom line is we take in more calories than we expend. A simple solution to losing weight would be to eat less and increase activity. Upon closer inspection, however, the remedy is not quite so simple. People who eat very little while on a diet might lose some weight, but when they go back to normal eating they get even heavier.

Looking at overall weight is not as beneficial as looking at body fat compared to lean muscle mass. Sometimes people who fall within a normal weight range are still over-fat when considering the ratio of body fat to muscle mass.

Diet and exercise are keys to balancing these ratios. The amount of sugar eaten is more important than the amount of fat. Blood sugar is the fuel your cells use for energy. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, acts like a truck transporting the blood sugar into your cells. When you have excess blood sugar in your system, the body will convert it into fat for later use.

Fat is a concentrated energy source that can be utilized as a fuel, but it requires a lot of oxygen to break it down into usable units. Sugar provides a quick and easy energy source requiring nothing but insulin to transport it into the cells. Since the body doesn’t want to waste fuel, it converts the excess sugar into fat.

Eating a meal heavy in sugar stimulates the pancreas to produce a large amount of insulin to transport the sugar, but excess sugar is converted to fat, and the excess insulin can lead to the cells becoming resistant to the action of insulin. This would be similar to the boy who cried “wolf!”

After a while, the cells ignore the insulin and sugar doesn’t get transported into the cells easily, causing the pancreas to produce more insulin, which causes more resistance and soon you get a condition called “diabetes.”

One of the ways to reduce the body’s tendency to make more fat is to eat less sugar. The sugar content in food has been rated with a system known as the glycemic index. Foods with a high glycemic index rating are more likely to trigger carbohydrate cravings and an overall increase in appetite, potentially resulting in unwanted weight gain.

These high glycemic index foods include candy, cookies, starchy foods like potatoes and white rice, sweetened cereals, and juices and drinks with a high sugar content. Foods with a low glycemic index include apples, cherries, unsweetened oatmeal, legumes and unsweetened plain yogurt.

So it’s more likely the sugar you eat that makes you fat, not necessarily the fat consumed. Maintaining a steady level of blood sugar in the system is the key, and eating the right types of foods will keep sharp fluctuations from occurring.

That’s why it’s better to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day rather than one large meal. Eating one meal a day starts looking like a starvation condition to the body because blood sugar levels are not maintained. The body compensates by storing more fat.

The answer to using up these fat stores in your body is EXERCISE. Check back next time to find out more about this topic.

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