For as long as I can remember, the “experts” have been telling us to cut down on our sugar and fat intake in order to be healthy. On the government’s “MyPlate,” the latest version of the healthy food pyramid, there are plate sections for fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy, but nowhere is there any plate section for sugar or fat. In fact, if you go to the MyPlate website, the only place you can find sugar is under the “Empty Calories” heading. And while fats (or oils) are listed under the “Food Groups Overview,” they do not make an appearance on, or anywhere near, the plate.
So, is anyone truly able to cut out both sugar and fat? Well, it seems like it’s a lot harder than it sounds. A recently-published review in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition looked at 53 scientific papers and found that people who follow a diet low in sugar also had a significantly higher percentage of calories coming from fat, and low-fat dieters had a significantly higher percentage of calories coming from sugar. This phenomenon, which many nutritionists have dubbed the “sugar-fat seesaw,” seems to occur because most sources of sugars, such as fruit, grains, and juices, are low in fat, while most sources of fat, like butter, oils and meat, are low in sugar.
So, what is the average health-conscious person supposed to do about this? Well, instead of trying to cut out one major nutrient, how about trying a more moderate approach? How about focusing on eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes all of the nutrients and not branding specific nutrients as either virtuous or evil? Sugar and fat have a place in our healthy, balanced diets, and they should definitely be represented somewhere on MyPlate.