By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator
There is plenty of information out there telling you that ‘carbs are the enemy,’ but I encourage you to change that mindset!
Carbohydrates are used primarily for energy, and excess is first stored in the muscles and liver to be used later for things such as energy production, regulating blood glucose and insulin metabolism, and circulating other hormones such as testosterone and thyroid hormones.
Certain sources of carbohydrates are also chock-full of fibre, which is important in regulating cholesterol levels, reducing certain types of cancer, and enhancing our digestive health! Now, it is true that excess carbohydrates have the potential to be converted to fats, or triglycerides, and this is partly where the fear sets in – but should we really be afraid of carbs?
Sugar vs Carbs
I argue that one of the biggest problems facing us today is that our diets are inundated with added sugars. Soft drinks, packaged and fast foods are readily available and are often loaded with additional sugars.
The Heart & Stroke Association recommends that you “consume no more than 10% total calories per day from added sugars.1” This is the equivalent to about 12 teaspoons or 50 grams, which sounds like a lot. But that specialty coffee that you had this morning could have up to seven teaspoons of added sugar. That can of pop? Up to ten teaspoons of added sugar. That pre-packaged muffin? You don’t even want to know…
In 2015, Canadians consumed, on average, 100 grams of sugar a day2 – that’s over 80 pounds of sugar a year! What’s concerning is that the majority of the calories are coming from added sugars in things like soft drinks and candy versus naturally occurring sugars from milk or fruits. The benefits from eating whole foods means you are also consuming protein, vitamins, and minerals that our bodies need to thrive.
By 2020, it is estimated that one in three Canadians will have diabetes or pre-diabetes2. According to 2015 Stats Canada data, 61.3% of Canadians are overweight or obese3 and this can greatly impact your chances of developing heart disease and diabetes as well.
3 Steps to Avoiding Added Sugars
If carbohydrates aren’t the enemy, and added sugar is something to watch out for, how can you address this?
- Eat whole foods: fill your plate with fruits, vegetables and soluble and insoluble fibre-rich carbohydrates like beans and quinoa, respectively.
- Reach for water: try to keep most fluid intake to plain old water instead of soft drinks or energy drinks.
- Read the label: watch for things like high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, malt syrup, dextrose, etc., and check the sugar content per serving. If sugar or a sugar-relative are listed near the top of the ingredient list, this item likely has a pretty high sugar content!
To reiterate, carbohydrates are an important factor in overall health, but excess amounts of sugar can be detrimental. I also want to point out that this is a complex issue and that I am not against having some sweetness in your life, or even low-carb diets like Keto – the rule of thumb is to find a balance that works best for you – and know that everybody and every body is different!
- Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada. Reduce sugar. Retrieved from https://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/healthy-eating/reduce-sugar.
- Canadian Diabetes Association. Sugar & diabetes. Retrieved from https://www.diabetes.ca/advocacy—policies/our-policy-positions/sugar—diabetes.
- Langlois, K., Garriguet, D., Gonzalez, A., Sinclair, S., Colapinto, C.K. (2019). Change in total sugar consumptions among Canadian children and adults. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/pub/82-003-x/2019001/article/00002-eng.pdf?st=eOChLVYB.