Editorial: Sugar-free is not low calorie.

Sugar FreeSugar Free

Sugar-free does not mean low calorie or even healthy.  



Food marketers are very skilled at peddling their wares.  They come up with fancy new ways to hide the real evils of their products, and many of them are hidden by the claims of what they don’t have in their products.  One example of this is the moniker “sugar-free.”  Unfortunately, some of these little trade gimmicks are actually pushed by the nutrition and medical experts to attracts us to what they feel is a healthier choice.  The problem is sugar-free doesn’t mean a product has fewer calories than the regular version.  In fact,  these products may have more, and you are giving up some of the best parts of the food you desire to eat.

To be honest with you, there is no such thing as sugar-free.  I suspect that if you drank pure olive oil or ate only a steak that was cooked in olive oil alone that there is is still a trace of sugar in the olive oil and steak.  The “sugar-free” claim does not mean that the product is devoid of sugar as you think.  These sugar-free products, actually, have less than 0.5 grams of sugars per serving.   This means they still contain carbohydrates and, without a doubt, they have calories.

I hear multiple so-called experts refer to natural versus unnatural sugar.  But it natural sugar actually better?  The answer is no.   Sucrose or dextrose and fructose both occur in nature.  Pretty much all sugar is a natural.  Well, I guess sucralose of Splenda is a fake sugar.  Our bodies cannot digest it.  I would refer to is as a franen-sugar because it is something out of a nightmare.  It only needs bolt out of its forehead.   One of the worst sugar to eat is fructose and even in its natural form in fruit, large amounts can have a negative effect.  We should limit our consumption of all sugars.  I am not saying that we should avoid fruit.  Fruit is good for you, but you should not have unlimited servings of any food.  Fruit juice is especially bad for you because it is a readily absorbable source of sugar that has most of the most healthy portions removed in the juicing process,  

Sugar Cube Pyramid

Sugar Cube Pyramid

Low carbohydrate dieters should proceed with caution.  You would think that maintaining a diet that is low carbohydrates would be as a simple as counting carbohydrates, but often knowing the number of grams of carbohydrates is not enough.  Carbohydrates and sugars are not the same things and I have found that we actually need to know how much sugar is in a particular food.  Foods are loaded with sugar during processing to add flavor.  Also, many of the low carbohydrate foods are sweetened with sugar alcohols.  Experts will tell you that sugar alcohols do not count, but these alcohols still count as calories and many times they may be worse than sugar itself.  Many so-called sugar free foods may be full of artificial sweeteners such as the sugar alcohols and fats.  Sugar alcohols are not calories free.   Even “zero carbs” can have added sugar, so read the ingredients to ensure that “zero carbs” is just a rounding gimmick.  Less than one gram can add up if you have 30 servings a day.  

There is good news.  The Federal Drug Administration is beginning to require added sugar be added to the label.  As soon as this occurs, it might be as easy as reading the labels to find out how much sugar is added to food.  Hopefully, they also require the label to include sugar alcohols and other fake sugars.  

The bottom line: Protect yourself and read both the nutritional label and ingredient list.  Some of the ingredients that replace sugar can be high in calories.  If you know what you are eating, it will help you better understand where your diet is going wrong.  As with most things in life, artificial and natural sweeteners aren’t dangerous in moderation.  The problem with all foods including sugar-sweetened ones is maintaining moderation.  Good luck.  

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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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