Step Ahead Wellness Center Blog

Low-Sugar or Low-Carb?

Posted by deborah neiman on Fri, May 29, 2015 @ 05:42 PM

Low-Sugar or Low Carb? On the face of it, low-sugar and low-carb diets seem similar: Sugars are carbs, after all, and most carbs get broken down into sugar (glucose) during digestion. Both diets also call for cutting back on processed foods. But ask a doctor or nutritionist which plan to follow, and it's a safe bet you'll be told that low sugar is best -- specifically, low added sugar. Here’s what you need to know:

low sugar or low carb?

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Our body needs carbohydrates in order to function -- the glucose they provide is the main fuel source for the brain. When you go low-carb you may find yourself cranky, tired, and struggling to focus. “Mind your P’s and Q’s” advises nutritionist Sari Greaves, RDN. Practice portion control (use measuring cups!) and  choose high Quality carbs loaded with nutrients such as low-fat yogurt, skim milk, fresh fruit, whole grains, beans, and sweet potatoes.

Watch out for sneaky sources of added sugat. Did you know that you'll find it in the soy, almond and cashew milk you use instead of regular cow's milk, usually in the form of evaporated cane juice or cane sugar? (Avoid it by buying unsweetened versions.) What about condiments (ketchup, BBQ sauce, salad dressings) and processed foods like crackers and chips, as well as in tomato sauce and white bread?

Your daily green juice may be another secret sugar bomb. Purely-green juices are generally low in sugar, but at some juice chains, even if they look green, they can have up to 39 grams of sugar per cup or bottle (sizes vary). For comparison, a 12-ounce can of soda generally has around 40 grams of sugar. Even though these juices have vitamins and the sugar is natural, they're highly concentrated doses of sugar paired with little to no fiber, priming you for a crash later.

Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. This does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those in milk and fruits. The major food and beverage sources of added sugars for Americans are:regular soft drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies and cobblers, sweet rolls, pastries, and donuts, fruit drinks, such as fruitades and fruit punch, dairy desserts, such as ice cream. Sari’s advice: Nix the juice in favor of a nutritious whole fruit (serving size: a tennis ball) for a true energy boost and filling fiber that will take the edge off hunger.

Reading the ingredient label on processed foods can help to identify added sugars. Names for added sugars on food labels include: anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, confectioner's powdered sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, nectars (e.g., peach nectar, pear nectar), pancake syrup, raw sugar, sucrose, sugar, white granulated sugar

You may also see other names used for added sugars, but these are not recognized by the FDA as an ingredient name. These include cane juice, evaporated corn sweetener, fruit juice concentrate, crystal dextrose, glucose, liquid fructose, sugar cane juice, and fruit nectar.

Bottom line: Added sugar has zero nutritional value but may be responsible for associated health problems. Too much sugar has also been linked to cardiovascular issues and other chronic conditions associated with obesity. So it's not surprising that the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has singled out added sugar as a major health concern, recommending that Americans get no more than 10 percent of their daily calories from the sweet stuff.

Referenced articles:


Dr. Deborah Neiman MD

49 U.S. Highway 202
Far Hills, NJ  07931

Tags: Weight Loss, low sugar, low carb