Low Fat = High Sugar!

Low Fat = High Sugar!

If you have been watching or reading any media recently you may be aware of the harmful effects high sugar foods are having on our health. One of the most recent being Jamie Oliver's documentary Sugar Rush – which I highly recommend watching. It certainly opens your eyes to the amount of sugar in certain 'healthy' claimed products... which has led me to writing this blog.

The amount of products on the market that are claiming to be healthy snacks or low fat, weight reducing alternatives is worrying, because a high percentage of them in fact are the opposite. Some unlikely 'healthy' culprits are protein bars, flavoured yoghurts, smoothies and salad dressings!


A high sugar intake is harmful for our health; it can cause diabetes, hypertension, oral health diseases and obesity; which is linked to heart disease and cancer.

A high sugar intake also does not provide us with any benefits when trying to improve our body composition, whether this is reducing body fat or gaining muscle. Sugar has a huge effect on your insulin levels, the primary hormone used to regulate your fat tissue. In simple terms insulin converts glucose (sugar) into fat, this is stored. The more insulin you produce (triggered by an increase in sugar) the more fat that will be stored, and where that is stored is dependent on your genetics.

Fats for fitness

For many years we have been educated to believe that fat is bad for us. But in fact not all fats are the enemy; fat is an important nutrient within our diet and a key dietary component in improving body composition.

Essential fats we find in many natural food products such as nuts, avocadoes and oily fish can help protect us against illness such as heart disease. But as well as health benefits, Omega 3's have an essential role in fat burning and muscle gain. Omega 3's increase the lipolysis process (burning of fat) as well as regulate the thyroid; a hormone which is closely linked to metabolism regulation. Getting enough Omega 3's can also help elevate your growth hormone, as well as support recovery, meaning the potential of greater gains from strength training.

The nutrients we receive from essential fats cannot be made in the body so we have to consume them from our food to gain these benefits.

Processed Foods

If you are choosing to change your weight using a calorie controlled diet, it is very easy to simply opt for the lower calorie marketed foods. However this is probably going to do you more harm than good. You might see the number on your scale reduce due to the lower calories you're consuming, but you won't see change in your body composition, in fact by choosing these low fat options you could be increasing your body fat!

To lower the calorie content within a food the fat is removed and unfortunately with that goes the flavour. Therefore sugar needs to be added to the product to make it taste nice. This product is now nutrient deficient and high in sugar, creating empty calories. And because there are no nutrients to be used, your body will store this as fat.


The term #eatclean is used a lot in the fitness industry now, and although you are probably fed up of seeing the hashtag plastered all over Instagram there is some truth behind the phrase. For both your health and to improve your body composition it is much better if you can make meals from scratch and snack on natural foods. Natural foods being anything that is from a plant, animal or swims in the sea. Avoid anything that has been made in a factory or been 'flavour enhanced'.

By eating natural foods you can be sure that no artificial sugar has been added to it and no nutrients have been stripped from it. Should you want to reduce the calories in your diet then look at reducing your portion size, it is much more nutrient beneficial than choosing low fat empty calorie filled alternatives.

Should you have to eat a processed food for any reason, always check the sugar content NOT the calorie content. If the food has more than 10g of sugar per 100g then this is classed as a high sugar product – steer clear! On packaging sugar can be described as; Carbohydrates of which sugars, syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, maltose and sucrose.

About the Author
Ellie Steele
Author: Ellie Steele

Ellie is based at our Canary Wharf medical centre and is a Senior Healthcare Advisor for Wellness International Ltd. Ellie has a BSc in Sport Therapy, is a qualified fitness professional and has consulted for the BBC on David Beckham's torn Achilles tendon.

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