Low-Carb vs. Low-Sugar Diets: what is what?

<b>Low-Carb vs. Low-Sugar Diets: what is what?</b>

Low-Carb vs. Low-Sugar Diets: what is what?

Confusing, isn't it? In reality, both of these are aiming at one thing: reducing excessive sugar intake. 

Let's take a step back to first understand what they are and why health experts are telling us to lower our intake.

 

Carbohydrates 

Carbohydrates are the starch, sugar, and fiber found in dairy, grains, vegetables, and fruits. They are called "carbohydrates" because they contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules. Carbohydrate is a macronutrient, and the two others are protein and fat. 

The human body does not make macronutrients, and we need to obtain them from food. Together, they are vital energy and nutrients sources for the body to maintain its functions. 

Refined carbohydrates, also known as simple carbohydrates, have been processed and with fiber and nutritious parts removed. White flour, white rice, and table sugar are all examples of refined carbohydrates. 

Sugars

Sugars are a type of carbohydrate. They come in many different forms, and the most common ones that you would have heard of are glucose, fructose, and many more. 

Fructose is found in fruits; like glucose, fructose is a monosaccharide, a single molecular unit, and the smallest carbohydrate unit. Lactose, found in milk, is a disaccharide that contains two monosaccharides. There are also oligosaccharides and polysaccharides, all named after the chemical structure of the compound. 

Starch is a polysaccharide, and we find starch in grains and root vegetables like potatoes. Hence any grain products, such as muesli, oatmeal, rice, pasta, bread, pastries, are all starchy foods. Starch is broken down into the simple sugar, glucose, for the body to use during digestion. 

As you can see, sugar is naturally present in many foods, and most carbohydrates, except for fiber, are broken down into glucose in the body. Glucose is the preferred fuel source for the body: muscles, central nervous system, and brain. It is an essential nutrient that the body requires in large amounts. 

What is the problem?

We are taking in more sugar than need, and most of these come from the sugar added to foods. 

Our daily caloric intake varies based on age, gender, activity level & health condition. The brain takes up about 20% of our daily caloric expenditure, and most health professionals suggest that carbohydrate intake should be at 45%-65% of the total calories.   

Here you will find the Recommended Daily Allowance for Singaporeans by MOH Singapore. 

A 38-year-old moderately active male, based on the recommendation, requires 2590 calories/day. Assuming that he needs 50% of total calories from carbohydrates:

 

2950 x 50% = 1295 calories

1295 / 4* = 323.75 g of carbohydrate

 

*1g carbohydrate = 4 calories

 

*1g carbohydrate = 4 calories

 

Here's a look at a day's meals:

 

Foods

Carb (g)

Calories

 

 

 

1 serving of kaya toast with butter

14.79

108.75

1 Milo, ready-to-drink

23.75

150

1 apple (130 grams peeled, no skin)

16.32

61.38

 

 

 

1 bowl of prawn noodle

70.56

527.45

1 carrot, green apple, orange juice

15

65.12

 

 

 

1 bubble tea with pearl

110.18

441.33

1 serving granola bar

29

190

 

 

 

1 bowl of cooke rice (200 grams)

62.2

280

1 portion sweet & sour pork (194 g)

26.97

486

1 portion braised mixed vegetables

9.73

131.61

1 slice watermelon (194g)

4

24.69

 

 

 

1 slice cheese cake (98g)

29.6

335.03

 

 

 

 

412.1

2801.36

 

While the total caloric intake is close to the recommendation, the calories coming from carbohydates are above the recommended amount.  One sugar cube is 4g, so 412.1g of carbs equals more than 100 sugar cubes.
 
A high-sugar diet is associated with weight gain, irritability, depression, type-2 diabetes, pre-mature aging, cancer, heart disease, and higher risks of dying from heart diseases.
 
Start reducing your total sugar intake by cutting out added sugar in food products. Added sugar is mostly found in packaged and processed foods that are often high in trans fat, saturated fat, and salt.
 
On the other hand, when consuming sugar that naturally exists in apples or carrots, you also take in nutrients and fiber that help fight against chronic diseases.
 
Here are some ways to help lower the amount added sugar in your day:

 

Avoid sweetened beverages
The amount of sugar in the bubble tea above is equivalent to 11 sugar cubes. Instead of fruit juices, have a piece of fruit. 

 

Sweeten foods with fruits instead of sugar
Using carrots, onions, apples, pineapple to add flavor and natural sweetness to your cooking

 

Read ingredient lists and nutrition labels
Sugars are added to processed foods not only for the sweetness but also to create volume, texture, temperature control, fermentation or preservation.  They can be listed in the ingredients under other names such as glucose, sucrose, maltose, fructose, molasses, malt, evaporated cane juice, maple syrup, fruit juice concentrates,  agave nectar and more. Honey may be good for you, but it is still sugar. 

 

Be seletive when choosing foods
Keep your carbohydrate intake moderate and choose unrefined carbs such as whole foods and whole grains whenever possible. 
Reducing your added sugar intake will lower your overall sugar intake. Complete your meals with protein and healthy fats that would help keep you satiated and energized throughout the day. 
 
Reducing your added sugar intake will lower your overall sugar intake. Complete your meals with protein and healthy fats that would help keep you satiated and energized throughout the day.