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Sweets are delicious. And it’s easy to overindulge in cakes, ice cream, cookies, baked goods, and sweetened beverages because, well, again, they’re delicious and eating them makes most people happy. However, there is a controversial issue regarding sweets. Many people ask, “Do sweets make you fat?” Can a diet high in added sugar cause obesity and chronic health conditions? This article will attempt to answer these questions.
Reasons Why Added Sugar Is Fattening
So do sweets make you fat? The short answer is yes. Here are the reasons why.
1. High in empty calories
Sugars are added to foods and beverages to improve taste. Common types include corn syrup, fructose, cane sugar, and agave. Excess sugar may lead to weight gain because it is high in calories but offers little in terms of nutrition.
Added sugars are called empty calories because they are relatively high in calories but void of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber, which the body needs to function optimally.
Foods and beverages that usually contain a lot of added sugars include ice cream, soda, candy, and cookies. They are often loaded with calories as well. While consuming small amounts of added sugar is not likely to cause weight gain, regularly eating foods that are high in added sugars can cause a person to gain excess body fat quickly and more drastically.
2. Impacts blood sugar and hormone levels
Consuming large amounts of added sugar daily can lead to elevated blood sugar levels. Hyperglycemia (prolonged elevated blood sugar) can cause harm to your body, including weight gain.
One way hyperglycemia leads to weight gain is by promoting insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when cells stop responding to insulin properly, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. That condition impairs normal cell function and promotes inflammation.
High blood sugar and insulin resistance are associated with increased body fat, especially in the belly area. In addition, insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels interfere with leptin, a hormone that plays an important role in energy regulation, including calorie intake and fat storage. Leptin reduces hunger and as a result, also reduces food intake.
3. Foods high in added sugar are less filling
Foods and beverages packed with added sugar tend to be low or lacking in protein, a nutrient that promotes feelings of fullness. Protein produces this effect by slowing down digestion, keeping blood sugar stable, and regulating hunger hormones. Additionally, protein reduces levels of ghrelin, a hormone that increases calorie intake and drives appetite.
Eating refined carbs high in added sugars is less filling and may lead to weight gain because you tend to eat more throughout the day. High sugar foods are also usually low in fiber, a nutrient that can reduce appetite and increase feelings of fullness.
4. Displaces healthy foods
If a majority of your diet consists of foods high in added sugars, you are likely missing out on important nutrients. These include vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fats, and fiber which are found in whole, nutritious foods. Your body needs these nutrients to function optimally and stay healthy.
In addition, refined foods and beverages high in added sugar don’t contain antioxidants, which are found in brightly colored vegetables and fruits, nuts, beans, and olive oil. Antioxidants help protect your cells from free radicals.
Oxidative stress (imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals) is linked to heart disease and certain cancers. Diets high in added sugars increase your risk of such diseases, as well as your risk of obesity. Eating foods high in added sugar could negatively impact your overall health because it displaces nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables.
5. May cause you to overeat
Eating too much added sugar, especially fructose, can increase levels of ghrelin, a hunger-promoting hormone, while decreasing levels of peptide YY, an appetite-suppressing hormone. Also, fructose may increase appetite by affecting a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is responsible for appetite regulation, calorie burning, carb and fat metabolism.
The body is predisposed to crave sweetness. Studies suggest that sweet tasting foods activate certain parts of the brain responsible for pleasure and reward. Sugar may increase the desire for calorie-rich foods, which can lead to overeating and weight gain.
6. Linked to obesity and chronic diseases
Many studies have linked high consumption of added sugar to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. This effect has been observed in both adults and children. A review of 30 studies in 242,000 adults and children found a link between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity. One study conducted on 6,929 children found that those between the ages of 6 and 10 that consumed more added sugar had significantly more body fat than those who consumed less.
Studies also show that consuming too much added sugar can increase the risk of chronic health conditions. In a study conducted on 85,000 people, the risk of dying from heart disease was twice as high in individuals who get 25% or more of their daily calorie intake from added sugars, when compared to individuals who get less than 10% of their calorie intake from added sugar.
Added sugar is also associated with heart disease in children because of its role in raising body fat, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels – which are all risk factors for heart disease. Meanwhile, sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with the occurrence of type 2 diabetes in adults.
To summarize our “do sweets make you fat” article, unhealthy dietary habits can lead to weight gain and accumulation of excess body fat. The key here is moderation. Sweets, desserts, and sweetened beverages taste great, and it’s okay to enjoy them once in a while. What you should avoid is overindulging to a point that sweets displace other healthier, nutrition-rich foods. Besides putting on excess body fat, eating too many sweets can increase the risk of chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
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What are macronutrients? Macronutrients are nutrients your body uses in relatively large amounts. Hence, you need to get macronutrients from your diet daily. There are 3 types of macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Macronutrients provide your body with calories and building blocks for cellular growth, overall repair, and immune function. They help the body to function properly. Here’s what you should know about macronutrients and calories.
Types of Macronutrients
Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose. Glucose is the energy source of the body. Specific organs need glucose to function properly. Aside from being a primary energy source, some carbohydrates help synthesize specific amino acids.
There are three main types of carbohydrates:
Simple carbohydrates – are easy for the body to break down for energy. Also known as sugars, simple carbohydrates have one to two sugar molecules and are found in food items which are usually sweet, such as table sugar, milk, yogurt, honey, agave nectar, syrup, molasses, and fruits. Fruits contain a natural sugar called fructose, as well as vitamins and minerals.
Complex carbohydrates – require more time for your body to break down. Also known as starches, complex carbohydrates are long strands of sugar molecules that are strung together and usually have a savory taste. Starches include pasta, bread, and cereal. They also include certain vegetables such as peas, corn, and potatoes.
Fiber – is a type of carbohydrate that can’t be broken down by the gastrointestinal tract. Eating foods rich in fiber can make you feel full, making it less likely for you to overeat. This nutrient doesn’t provide energy, but it helps your body get rid of wastes and keeps the intestinal tract healthy.
Protein allows the body to grow, build, and repair tissues. It is composed of amino acids (building blocks of protein). There are two types of amino acids. Non-essential amino acids aren’t required to be consumed through your diet because the body can make them. On the other hand, you must get essential amino acids through your diet.
Protein-rich foods include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, and other types of animal byproduct foods. But this doesn’t mean you have to eat animal-based foods to be healthy. A person can get amino acids from consuming plant-based proteins such as those found in beans, nuts, lentils, and soy, as well as in some grains, vegetables, and fruits.
Fats allow you to store energy, make hormones, absorb fat-soluble vitamins, cushion organs, and help with cell membrane integrity. The three types of fat are saturated fats, unsaturated fats, and trans fats.
Saturated fats – have single bonds in their chemical structure and are generally solid at room temperature. In large amounts, saturated fats can increase cholesterol levels and increase the risk for heart disease. Conversely, decreasing the amount of saturated fats in the diet can be beneficial. Saturated fats are mostly found in animal sources with high fat content such as pork, fatty beef, poultry with skin, lamb, lard, butter, cream, full-fat cheese, and other dairy products.
Unsaturated fats – have at least one double bond in their chemical structure and are generally liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are considered healthy fats because they can reduce the risk of heart disease. This type of fat originates from plant sources like avocados, nuts, olives, and oils (olive, safflower, canola, etc.). They are also found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, and herring.
Trans fats – come from hydrogenating (adding hydrogen molecules to unsaturated fats) in order to make them into solid or semi-solid saturated fats. The process produces hydrogenated oils. Trans fats can be found in margarine, baked goods, doughs, shortening, and fried foods. You should cut out or limit your consumption of trans fats, as they increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Fats usually get a bad reputation because they are the way we store excess calories, and saturated and trans fats can be unhealthy. Certain types of fats aren’t good for us, but consuming healthy fats at the right amounts is good for overall health.
What are calories? The amount of energy in foods or drinks is measured in calories. When you eat or drink more calories than you use up, your body stores the excess as body fat. If that continues, you may put on weight over time.
You can check if you have a healthy weight by knowing your Body Mass Index (BMI).
As a rule of thumb, an average man needs around 2,500 calories (kcal) each day. For an average woman, it is around 2,000 calories (kcal) a day. These figures can vary depending on age, size, level of physical activity, and metabolism, among other factors.
Checking Calories in Food
Knowing the calorie content of foods and drinks can help ensure you are not consuming too much. To know how many calories they have, check the packaging or nutrition label.
The calorie content is usually expressed in kcals (short for kilocalories) and also in kJ, (short for kilojoules). A kilocalorie is another term for what is commonly known as a calorie. So 1,000 calories is written as 1,000 kcals. Meanwhile, kilojoule is the metric measurement of calories. To determine the energy content in kilojoules, multiply calories by 4.2.
The packaging label usually indicates how many calories are contained in 100 g or 100 ml of food or drink, so the calorie content of various products can be compared. You can use calorie information to evaluate how specific foods fit into your daily caloric intake.
Calories and Energy Balance
It is important to strike a balance between macronutrients and calories. The body needs energy to keep it alive and its organs functioning normally. When you eat and drink, you put energy into your body. Your body uses up that energy through everyday movement.
Carbohydrates and protein provide 4 calories per gram, and fat provides 9 calories per gram.
To maintain a stable and healthy weight, the energy you put into your body should roughly be the same as the energy you use through bodily functions and physical activity. The more physical activity you do, the more energy is spent. It is important to balance the calories you put into your body with the energy you use.
It’s important for your body to receive the right amount of macronutrients and calories. So consume a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. For optimum health, you should eat a balanced diet. The USDA recommended amounts (macronutrient split) for macronutrients are: 45 to 65% carbohydrates, 10 to 35% protein, and 20 to 35% fat.
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Eating fruits is an excellent way to improve health and reduce the risk of certain diseases. Fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals. They also provide a broad range of health-boosting antioxidants. Do you want to know the top 10 healthiest fruits based on their nutrient profile and health benefits? Read this article to find out.
List of the Top 10 Healthiest Fruits
Because of their high nutrient and antioxidant content, grapes can provide you with numerous health benefits. They are a good source of vitamin C and vitamin K (a fat soluble vitamin that is essential for blood clotting and healthy bones).
Red grapes are particularly high in antioxidants. One of the antioxidants found in grapes is resveratrol. Studies show that resveratrol can help protect against heart disease, lower blood sugar, and help prevent cancer.
Incredibly nutritious, apples contain a high amount of potassium, fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K. They also contain B vitamins. Studies show that the antioxidants found in apples promote heart health and may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and cancer. These antioxidants are also linked to increased bone density.
That’s not all. Apples also contain pectin. What is pectin? Pectin is a prebiotic fiber that supports the good bacteria in the gut and helps improve digestion and metabolism.
Eating blueberries provides many health benefits. First and foremost, the fruit has an impressive nutrition profile, having such nutrients as vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, and fiber. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants that may reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
In addition, blueberries can boost the immune system. One study reported that eating blueberries regularly may increase the number of natural killer cells in the body. Killer cells help defend against oxidative stress and viral infections.
Another property of the antioxidants in blueberries is that they may have a protective effect on the brain. Consuming blueberries has been shown to improve the memory of older adults.
Grapefruits are citrus fruits that are packed with vitamins and minerals. How to eat grapefruit? You can add grapefruit slices to fruit salad, or squeeze the juice and add into water to make a drink.
This particular fruit is known for its ability to aid weight loss and also reduce insulin resistance. In a study in 91 people, the participants who ate half a grapefruit before meals lost 2.9 pounds more weight than those who did not. That same study also reported that the grapefruit group had a significant reduction in insulin resistance.
Eating grapefruit has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and prevent kidney stones. Moreover, compounds in grapefruit called furanocoumarins can help protect against oxidative stress and tumors and also support healthy bones. However, these same compounds can interact with some prescription drugs, so be sure to check with your physician before eating grapefruit if you are using prescription drugs.
One of the most popular and nutritious fruits, oranges are a good source of vitamin C, thiamine, folate, and potassium. The plant compounds found in this citrus fruit are responsible for many of its health benefits. These include carotenoids, flavonoids, and citric acid.
The vitamin C and citric acid in oranges can help increase iron absorption and help prevent anemia. Citric acid may also reduce the risk of kidney stones.
Pineapple is a tropical fruit that is very nutritious. When it comes to the Reference Daily Intake (RDI), one cup of pineapple provides 131% of vitamin C and 76% of manganese respectively.
This fruit also contains bromelain, a mixture of enzymes that has anti-inflammatory properties and helps in the digestion of protein. Test tube and animal studies show that bromelain may also help protect against tumor growth and cancer.
While most fruits are high in carbs, avocado is low in carbs and consists mainly of healthy fats. The majority of fat in avocado is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat associated with better heart health and reduced inflammation.
Aside from healthy fats, avocados are rich in potassium, fiber and magnesium. One avocado provides about 28% of the RDI for potassium. Sufficient potassium intake is linked to a lower risk of stroke and reduced blood pressure.
The vitamin C, folate, manganese, and potassium content of strawberries is what makes them shine. Strawberries are juicy, red fruits with a high water content. Compared to other fruits, strawberries have a low glycemic index, meaning eating them won’t cause a big spike in blood sugar.
Like other berries, strawberries also have a high antioxidant capacity, which may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases. They contain anthocyanins that can help boost heart health. Moreover, animal and test tube studies have discovered that strawberries may help in preventing cancer and tumor formation.
How to eat strawberries? You can eat them raw, add them to yogurt or breakfast cereals, make them into jam, or blend them into a smoothie.
Watermelon is high in vitamin A and vitamin C. It is also rich in antioxidants such as lycopene, carotenoids and cucurbitacin E. Lycopene can reduce the risk of cancer of the digestive system. Cucurbitacin E, meanwhile, may inhibit tumor growth.
Eating lycopene-rich foods promotes heart health by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol. Watermelon is made up of 92% water; eating it can help you feel more full.
If you’re wondering why pomegranate made it to our list of healthiest fruits, read this. Aside from being nutrient dense, pomegranates also contain plant compounds that can reduce inflammation and help prevent diseases such as cancer.
Furthermore, the antioxidant levels in pomegranate are extremely high (up to three times higher than that of green tea and red wine).
Regularly including fruits into your diet can reduce your risk of developing certain conditions such as heart disease, inflammation, and cancer. Just remember that it’s best to eat fruits while they are still fresh. Now that you know the top 10 healthiest fruits out there, it’s time to create a shopping list and make that trip to the nearest supermarket.