I need to give up sugar… or maybe sugar isn’t the problem? 🥣
One of the many diet myths I hear a lot is that sugar is bad, and clients will often say they need to give up sugar. Now in reality this usually means they intend to give up things like biscuits, chocolate, cakes, ice cream, doughnuts etc. Very few people are mainling pure sugar! These foods aren’t just “sugar” – they all contain significant amounts of fat too.
As you can see from this comparison – 50g of sugar contains nothing but sugar. It’s 50g of carbs – no fat, no protein etc. All of those carbs are sugar and 100% of the calories it contains are from sugar. The jam doughnut on the other hand contains around 12.4g sugar which accounts for only 17% of the total calories. The majority of the calories come from fat, other carbs and a little protein. The foods that people commonly associate with sugar are a mixture of sugar, fat and salt which make them hyper-palatable. That means they’re designed to taste really good – which encourages you to eat more. Eating 50g of pure sugar in one sitting is actually not a pleasant experience (try it – I dare you lol!) and it isn’t something most people would do. Eating a jam doughnut or 2 though – well thats super easy. To consume the same amount of actual sugar as pure sugar you’d need to eat 4 doughnuts in one go.
So this combo of sugar, fat and salt is what makes doughnuts and other snacks so easy to over eat. That’s not to say doughnuts are bad but they have the potential to derail you from your goals because they’re calorie dense (i.e. more cals in a smaller package) and as I said they taste great so you’re likely to eat more. So it’s not the sugar thats causing this – its the combination of ingredients in these products. So vilifying sugar is pointless and a misunderstanding of where the real issue lies. In fact sugar is actually an important nutrient and the brain’s main fuel source.
In sum, sugar isn’t “bad”, it isn’t causing you to gain fat in itself and you don’t need to give it up. If you have a balanced diet then having the odd “sugary” snack like doughnuts etc is fine – just account for it in your calories.