Low-Carb Diets Versus Low-Sugar Diets

With so many diet choices to choose from, it is very difficult to find one that may be the best and healthiest option. Additionally, there is so much overlap of information among the programs, it’s difficult to know if one is actually better than another. For instance, consider adopting a low-sugar diet versus a low-carbohydrate diet. At first glance, you may think they are the same program. So, let’s take a look at how they are actually different.

Low-carb diets have become the go-to plan for weight loss; and there are several different programs to choose from, including Atkins, Whole 30, Paleo, and Keto. These plans replace carbohydrates with protein and fats, thus forcing your body to seek energy from alternate sources of fuel, instead of relying on the energy from sugar (glucose). For example, the Keto Diet relies on raising the ketone levels in your body. Ketone is a type of fuel that the liver produces from stored fat. Raising the ketone levels results in ketosis, which can be risky, and there are some potential health complications associated with eating this way.

The Keto diet recommends eating high levels of protein with no differentiation between lean and low-fat sources, opening the way for full-fat dairy products and higher levels of saturated fats from oils and meat. Foods high in saturated fat are associated with higher LDL cholesterol, which leads to heart disease. There is an additional risk of nutrient deficiency by cutting out complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are prime sources of vital minerals and vitamins. Furthermore, eating a diet low in fiber can lead to constipation and abdominal discomfort.

On the other hand, a low-sugar diet cuts excess added sugar from the diet. Too much sugar from processed foods, sweets, and even juices can cause many health issues, like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Recently, the federal government adopted guidelines for limiting sugar intake; the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting the amount of added sugars in our diet to no more than 10 percent of daily calories. That’s about 12 teaspoons of sugar a day, which is equal to ¼ cup of sugar.

Since sucrose is prevalent in most everything we consume, it is important to know where to look for information on how it is used in food production and what whole foods contain a high level of sucrose naturally. A list can be found on the Sucrose Intolerance website. A more extensive resource for researching food composition is the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, the major source of food-composition data in the United States. Managed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the database contains over 8,000 food items, and its information is free to the general public. While the data for sucrose is not complete, the USDA continues to update the database.

If you favor a low-sugar diet, becoming an expert in reading food labels is a must. Processed food companies use many different names for sugar, and these can be deceptive to the average consumer. The University of California San Francisco has a great list with 61 different names used for sugar on food labels. Knowing the names before you shop can help you choose items low in sugar.

Added sugar has zero nutritional value and is associated with numerous negative health problems. That being said, not all sugar is bad for you. Cutting complex carbs in an effort to lose weight quickly has risks to your health. Maintaining a diet low in sugar, high in fiber, and nutrients is vital to good health.

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