You know what is wrong with most dietary advice for managing weight? Firstly, the simplistic assertion that all we have to do is control calories in and calories out, and secondly, the belief that sugar and sweets are relatively benign foods. Many diets allow the intake of refined sugars in sweets and desserts as long as the overall caloric intake is controlled. The rationale is that by allowing yourself to eat a small amount of sweets, you won’t feel deprived.
There are many factors that influence our ability to avoid weight gain, and one that is often overlooked is stress. Stress reduces serotonin (the happiness hormone), causing low moods and carbohydrate cravings, which make us dive into the candy. But many recent studies attest to the dangers of over-consumption of sugar, one being that sugar raises triglycerides – blood fats that are deposited as fat in our fat cells. Elevated triglycerides are now known to significantly raise risk for heart disease. Even children can have high triglycerides which puts them at serious risk of cardiovascular events in adulthood. All sugars consumed in excess of our caloric needs are quickly converted to triglycerides, but when more than 50% of the sugar is in the form of fructose, the production of body fat increases significantly. Fructose from corn is now the cheapest form of sugar and is used in most soft drinks.
Sugar also depletes chromium and magnesium, two minerals that are needed to properly process glucose. Without them our insulin receptors simply don’t function properly. (If you crave carbs, especially sugar, you will greatly benefit from 400mcg of chromium taken with meals. Apart from reduced cravings you will experience improved mood and energy.)
So, the more sweet stuff you eat, the more you deplete the very nutrients that are needed to help your cells metabolize the sugar in them, which could indirectly lead to insulin resistance. Elevated triglycerides are seen frequently in people with diabetes. But you don’t have to be diabetic. Anytime you take in carbohydrates in amounts that exceed the body’s requirements for energy, the excess glucose is converted to fat which may lead to raised triglycerides.
The current American Heart Association recommendations for lowering triglycerides are to reduce intake of fats but these measures will have limited impact if a person’s carbohydrate intake (not fat intake) remains too high. The research is pretty clear that it is carbohydrates, not fats, that have the biggest impact on triglycerides and the sooner dietary recommendations are updated, the better.
Low sugar and starch diets are the most effective for lowering triglycerides and managing weight.
So, if you want to be a weight-watcher you do need to take it easy on the sweet stuff. Watch for hidden sugars like sucrose, dextrose, corn syrup and HFCS on labels in processed foods. Starchy foods like bread, potatoes, rice and pasta are also high in glucose and need to be avoided too if you’re serious about not packing on the pounds.
But not wanting to be a complete killjoy, and because I can’t resist a bit of chocolate either, here’s an amusing quote that frees us all of too much guilt:
“Research tells us that fourteen out of any ten individuals like chocolate”.
Sandra Boynton, “Chocolate: The Consuming Passion”