Which is more dangerous: fat, calories, or sugar?
Your question is a good one. All three nutrients can be positive, but can also be negative if consumed in excess. Fat is something that we need in our diet. It helps slow our digestive system and contributes to satiety. It contributes towards the overall flavor of the food and it can add creaminess to the texture of foods and beverages. Sugar (and calories in general) is needed in our body to keep our systems working and to give us energy. The “bad” part of all three nutrients, however, is that if a person consumes any in excess, it can lead to several health disparities.
A person that consumes too much fat may increase their risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Specific types of fats (saturated and trans fats) may clog our arteries and raise our bad cholesterol, which puts us at higher risk for a heart attack. And given that each gram of fat contains 9 calories (as compared to 4 calories per gram of sugar and protein) it is very nutrient dense so a little fat adds many calories to the daily diet. A diet that contains more calories than necessary will lead to obesity, which we want to avoid. That is why calories can be “dangerous” also (if consumed in excess). I advise my patients to determine how many calories they need to consume each day to be at a healthy weight for them. The easiest way to determine this is to go on the Old Orchard website and use the Nutritional Needs calculator. Enter your information and you will learn your calorie needs per day. I urge my patients to check labels and note how many calories can be found in the products they are eating. There are also several nutrition phone applications that can help a person count calories and stick to their daily calorie goals. Sugar is the last nutrient that may be an unhealthy addition to the diet. We find that when consumed in excess, sugar may contribute to the increased risk of diabetes (and obesity). A diet high in sugar may lead to liver failure, obesity, heart disease and stroke. I suggest that my patients limit the amount of simple sugars they are consuming (cookies, candy, cake, ice cream, soda) and try to find more natural forms of sugar. Fruit is a prime example of this. Fruit contains a lot of healthy vitamins, minerals, and fiber. So, it can be the source of “sweet” in your diet. Overall, all three nutrients are very important as part of a healthy diet. And as I have said before, moderation and healthy balance are the keys to a long lasting and healthy life.