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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Why isn't sugar free as important as low fats in diets?

    Why are diets more concerned about low fats, proteins and carbohydrates when compared to low sugar levels?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Ashleigh is an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD, AN) and registered with the Dietitian's Association of Australia with experience in both clinical and private practice. Ashleigh's … View Profile

    An imprtant fact to remember is that we are all different - what may work for one person may not work for another.

    With diets looking at weight loss, they aim to meet macronutrient dietary requirements. Consuming macronutrients within these ranges help to meet your caloric needs whilst reducing your risk of chronic disease. The macronutrient ratio goals are as follows:

    • 45-65% of calories from carbohydrates
    • 20-35% of calories from fat
    • 10-35% of calories from protein

    In view of a healthy balanced diet, it is imortant to include a variety of foods from all food groups. Diets which eliminate certain food groups increase your risk of micronutrient deficiency and vitamin depletion. You should more so look at choosing the best, most nourishing, sources of these macronutrients to ensure you are providing your body with the nutrition it needs.


    Aim to include carbohydrates in your daily intake. Focus on foods with a low glycemix index (GI) as these carbs will release sugar into your blood slowly for long-lasting energy. Examples of carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables and dairy products. Complex carbohydrates include wholegrain breads and cereals, vegetables and beans/legumes. Carbohydrates are also found in many processed foods with "sugar". Avoid refined carbohydrates in biscuits, cakes, desserts, confectionary and some breakfast cereals - these forms carbohdrates, although they provide short-lived energy, provide little other nutrition. With the "avoid sugar" message, some people take this too literally and thus avoid all foods containing carobhydrates (including fruit and vegetables!). Fruit and vegetables, along with wholegrains and legumes, provide  us with dietary fibre, essential for healthy bowel function and reduce the risk of chronic disease. For this reason, it is essential not to avoid sugar in carbohydrates, rather include healthy, low GI sources of carbohydrates in moderation.


    Protein is an essential component of every cell, tissue and organ in your body. They undergo a constant process of being broken down and replaced. The protein in your diet is digested into amino acids that are utilized in this process to rebuilt proteins. Protein is found in meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, legumes, vegetables, tofu, nuts, seeds and some grains. Protein from animal sources is known as complete protein because it contains all 20 essential amino acids, while protein from plant sources is called incomplete protein because it lacks one or more of the essential amino acids. Aim to include lean sources of protein in your daily intake - refer to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating for portion and serving size recommendations.


    Fat is needed by the body for normal growth and development, energy, absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and to provide taste, consistency and stability to food. Fats are broken down into three main categories, saturated, unsaturated and trans fats. Saturated fats include foods such as meat, butter and cream and are known to raise LDL, or bad cholesterol, levels. Unsaturated or healthy fats help to lower blood cholesterol. There are two types of unsaturated fats, mono and poly. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive and canola oil while polyunsaturated fats are found in sunflower, safflower, corn and soybean oils as well as in avocados, nuts and fatty fish such as salmon, herring and trout. Trans fats are found primarily in fried foods, snack foods and commercial baked goods. These fats have been found to increase your risk of developing heart disease.

    So remember, when embarking on a healthy eating regime, aim to include a balanced and healthy diet inclusive of all core food groups. Do not focus on eliminating certain food groups and rather enjoy a nourishing array of foods to help you meet your goal. For more information or to tailor your eating habits, contact an accredited practising Dietitian.

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    Elizabeth Newsham-West is committed to optimising the health and well-being of people across all ages within the Mount Tamborine community.  She works as a domicillary … View Profile

    In the 20+ years I have been consulting as a Dietitian, the message for eating for a healthy body weight has always been about reducing your added sugar which is most commonly found in processed foods and sugar sweetened beverages. This message is true today as it has been yesterday.

    The reason for this is because it is adding additional calories without any other good nutrients when the whole aim of weight loss is eating less calories. Sugar is just carbohydrate that comes with no valuable nutrients just energy.

    However what we aren't saying is reducing foods that have their own carbohydrate or natural sugar as a natural part of the food as these foods often provide important and valuable nutrients for health .e.g lactose the carbohydrate in milk  is an essential food for calcium, fructose the carbohydrate in fruit is a valuable food source of anti oxidants ,soluble and insoluble fibre , vitamin C to mention a few.

    Somehow the " no sugar" message seems to lump everything in together failing to understand that the way added sugar is metabolised in our body can be different to the way carbohydrate is, when it comes in more whole foods like milk/fruit/beans/lentils.

    The fat story is now about getting your fat from more plant based foods and reducing you saturated fat ( not total fat). So the fat story is about reducing saturated fat. This is found predominantly in takeaway foods, processed carbohydrate foods especially snacking foods. So the foods high in fat are often found in exactly the same foods that are high in sugar ( processed carbohydrate foods). We see this confusion often in some magazine journalism which don't recognise a high sugar diet from eating processed carbohydrate foods can also be high in fat. And fat has more calories than sugar so more effective in gaining weight if too much food is eaten.

    Our focus should not be about fat or sugar but about choosing more whole and less processed foods. The ones with no labels at all.

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