Sugar consumption is a common problem in our diets and is hidden in many foods. Yogurt, condiments, sauces, juices, flavored coffees, sports drinks, milk, soups, bread, and protein bars are a shortlist of foods where sugar is hidden. These hidden sources of sugar in addition to the foods with known sugars cause obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, dental problems, and cardiovascular disease. According to Harvard Medical School, a 15-year study on added sugar and heart disease showed, “Participants consuming 25% or more of their daily calories as sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease than those whose diets included less than 10% added sugar. The results were regardless of a person’s age, sex, physical activity level, and body mass index.”
The long term effects of sugar are mind-blowing, what about the short term effects? Short-term effects are lethargy, weight gain, depression, cavities, decreased energy, restless sleep, premature aging, acne, feeling bloated, inflamed joints, increased cholesterol, increased blood pressure, impotence, and cravings for sugar. These are not just short-term effects of eating sugar but indicators that we are eating too much sugar. How much sugar should we consume in our diets? The American Heart Association recommends that women consume less than 100 calories of sugar and men less than 150 calories of sugar daily. To me, this is an odd statement; we’re all so different in size and activity level, how can you tag an exact amount of calories?
What can we do to cut back on sugar? The simple answer is to limit or eliminate foods with sugar in them. Read food labels, substitute nuts or fruit for cookies and sweets, reduce sweeteners in coffee and teas, choose sweeteners such as stevia in place of sugar, swap water with lemon or other fruit for sugary juices and sodas, cook/bake your own foods, and get educated on the different names of sugar. With effort, we can improve the health of our body and reduce the numerous health issues that come along with eating excess amounts of sugar by becoming more aware of the dangers and becoming more knowledgable to where sugar is found.
Sugar alcohols are low-calories sweeteners that are derived from fruits and vegetables. The molecular structure is similar to a combination of sugar and alcohol, although there is no ethanol (the ingredient in alcohol that gets people intoxicated).
Sugar alcohols are found in baked goods, candy, gum, ice cream, jams/jellies, Jello, and toothpaste. Health benefits include increased bone health, skin health, weight loss, and a positive prebiotic effect by feeding the good bacteria in your gut. Another major benefit of sugar alcohols is the lack of insulin response (not causing a sudden increase in blood sugar). Diabetics eating foods with sugar alcohols rather than traditional sugar can manage insulin levels (in moderation). Another benefit consuming foods sweetened with sugar alcohol is bacteria in the mouth is often hindered and cease to develop, protecting against tooth decay (Xylitol the is best known for this, as a result, is added to gum and sugarless mints as a sweetener). According to the Journal of Medicinal Principles and Practice in 2011, “a diet found substituting regular sugars with sugar alcohols was an effective tool in reducing tooth decay.” Too good to be true? There are side effects, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea. These often are a result of overconsumption, although each person may have a different response if at all.
Common Sugar Alcohols
Erythritol - .2 calories per gram (60-70% sweetness as table sugar)
Hydrogenated Starch - 3 calories per gram (40-90% sweetness as table sugar; often blended with other sweeteners)
Isomalt - 2 calories per gram (45-65% sweetness as table sugar; often used in sugar-free candy)
Maltitol - 2.1 calories per gram (75-90% sweetness as table sugar)
Mannitol - 1.6 calories per gram (50-70% sweetness as table sugar; medical application)
Sorbitol - 2.6 calories per gram (60% sweetness as table sugar; medical application)
Xylitol - 2.4 calories per gram (same sweetness as table sugar; toxic to dogs)
Although not a cure-all, sugar alcohols are a great substitute for traditional sugars. When consumed in moderation side effects are minimal to none, with health benefits that will help with our overall well-being.
|Diet||Ketogenic Diet (Keto Diet)||Paleolithic Diet (Paleo Diet)||Mediterranean Diet|
|Diet Structure||High-fat focus, with moderate||Moderate amount of protein,||High carbohydrates, moderate proteins and|
|protein and low carbohydrates||fats and carbohydrates||fats|
|Diet Macronutrient %||Carbohydrate 5-10%||Carbohydrate 22-40%||Carbohydrate 45-65%|
|Protein 20-25%||Protein 19-35%||Protein 10-30%|
|Fat 65-75%||Fat 28-58%||Fat 20%|
|Higher fat % for medical usage||Percentage varies by goal||Percentage varies by goal|
|and use||ex. muscle building||ex. weight loss|
|Benefits||Weight loss||Weight loss||Weight loss|
|Reduces seizure frequency||Balances blood glucose||Reduces inflammation|
|Reduces inflammation||Increased energy||Increased energy|
|Helps with neurodegenerative||Detoxifies||Detoxifies|
|disorders||Reduces inflammation||Increased mental clarity|
|Reduced risk of disease||Increased mental clarity||Long-term heart health|
|Regulation of type 2 diabetes||Decreased allergies||Aids with depression and anxiety|
|Mental clarity||Improved skin clarity||Helps balance blood sugar|
|Increased energy||Improved gut health||Improved gut health|
|Improved skin clarity||Reduced Risk of disease||Reduced risk of disease|
|Polycystic Ovary Syndrome improvement||Improved sleep||Reduced cravings|
|Improved mitochondrial function||Reduced cravings||Improved vision|
|Improved gut health||Improved kidney function|
|Aids in regulating hormones|
|Drawbacks||Keto flu/adapting to process||Possible lower energy with decreased carbs||Possible weight gain with high % of carbs|
|Nutritional deficiencies if done incorrectly||Decreased appetite||Calcium deficiency|
|Restrictive||Elevated LDL cholesterol||Possible increase in alcohol consumption|
|May cause high cholesterol||Diarrhea||Challenging for those with celiac disease|
|Increased thirst||Bad breath||Challenging for those with gluten intolerance|
|Constipation||Possible increase of heart disease|
|Possible development of kidney stones||Calcium deficiency|
|Sleep problems||Vitamin D deficiency|
|Bad breath when starting||Carb/keto flu|
|Possible diarrhea when starting||Difficult to follow|
|Leg cramps when starting|
|Difficult to follow|
|Ease of use||Can be challenging in social situations or||No diary may be challenging||Very easy, unless eating gluten-free|
|when not planned, will require planning|
|Food Staples||Meats, eggs, wild-caught fish/seafood, dairy, nuts||Meats, eggs, wild-caught fish/seafood, nuts||Fish/seafood, limited animal protein, whole|
|and seeds, healthy fats, greens/leafy greens, berries||and seeds, healthy fats, any vegetables, any fruits||grains, nuts, and seeds, legumes, dairy, any|
|vegetables, any fruits, healthy fats|
|Gluten-Free||Keto Diet is gluten-free by default||Paleo Diet in it’s strictest form is gluten-free||Can be with effort|
|Types of Sweeteners||Stevia, monk fruit, erythritol, xylitol, maltitol, inulin,||Coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey, stevia,||Honey, maple syrup, dates, raisins, natural|
|allulose||molasses, monk fruit, dates, natural sweeteners||sweeteners|
|Alcohol Use||Ideally not, but choose light liquor such as vodka, gin,||Ideally not because paleo focuses on the absence||One glass red wine nightly|
|whiskey, scotch, or tequila||of processed foods and toxins and alcohol is both.|
|Red wine and hard cider are the best choices|
|Not Ideal For||Older adults requiring higher percentages of protein,||People who eat dairy||People with Celiac disease or gluten|
|people without a gallbladder||intolerance|
The biggest drawback to the ketogenic diet is the lack of studies to determine it’s long-term effects. A clean ketogenic diet has many similarities to the Mediterranean Diet (known to be heart-healthy) except for the percentage of carbohydrates and fats consumed. Both focus on natural, high-quality foods with the absence of sugar and processed foods.
Clean keto consists of foods that are high-quality, minimally processed, and with no artificial ingredients. Grass-fed beef, wild-caught seafood, free-range eggs and fresh low-carb vegetables such as spinach and broccoli are examples. With the growing interest in the ketogenic diet, new foods are coming out that support the clean keto model. Check the ingredients to ensure that those foods support clean keto eating.
Dirty keto foods are processed, low-quality, and have artificial ingredients. Hot dogs, grain-fed ground beef, bacon, farm-raised seafood, many kinds of cheese (high in saturated fat), keto bars, snacks, and shakes are examples. Not all foods on the dirty keto list should not be avoided but enjoyed in moderation and not used as a staple food item. Read the ingredient list to determine if the food is worth putting in your body.