Is Fat or Sugar more Important to Avoid in a Healthy Diet ?

October 1, 2014 BY: LISA

The other day I was at the gym in my usual boxing class and one of the ladies said in passing. “So Lisa, it’s more important to watch your sugar intake rather than fat isn’t it?” She was expecting a short answer but nothing is really that clear cut!

So thanks for the question Di- here is my answer.


Sugar: What we knew a few years ago when I began my studies was that sugar was only clearly linked with holes in your teeth. Then soft drink became the new water and we saw consumption in the US and UK rise as the level of overweight and obesity rose. In Australia, however, over the past 10 years we have actually seen a decline in our sugar consumption while our overweight and obesity rates have increased.  So, in Australia at least, it is not solely to blame for our current problems with overweight and obesity.


So where does that leave us in regard to sugar? Sugar is an empty calorie- we don’t need it for good health but it does provide some enjoyment to our lives.  It comes back to balance and moderation. If you cut out sugar from your diet you would expect to lose weight as you are cutting back on calories. The other thing is that a lot of high sugar foods are also high in fat so you would be cutting out even more calories and not missing out on any nutrients by giving those types of foods a miss.


So should I cut out sugar? Cutting down on sugar is absolutely a useful thing to do; banning it completely is not necessary or really sustainable in the long term.


What about fruit? Fruit does contain sugar naturally; it also contains dietary fibre and some great vitamins and minerals. It makes a great snack and it tastes good – there is no need to cut out fruit. Eating two pieces per day has been shown to be good for your health- having a lot more than two pieces is not necessarily better.


What about juice? Drinking juice means that you miss out on the fibre and only get a large dose of sugar as usually it takes more than two serves of fruit to make up a full glass of juice. If you are going to drink juice regularly make sure there are more vegetables than fruit and keep the pulp in where you can.


Fat: Fat by nature is the highest contributor to our calories. This is where the traditional low fat diets came from in that if you decrease fat you decrease a lot of calories. But over the years our knowledge of fats has become a lot more sophisticated. We now know there are good fats and bad fats – it is no longer just about low fat. The bad fats (saturated fat) increase our cholesterol while the good fats (mono- and polyunsaturated fats) can actually help to lower cholesterol and contribute to a healthy heart and blood vessels which is great.

As a general rule good fats are from plant sources and bad fats are from animal sources.


  • Saturated fats – sources include fatty cuts of meat, full-fat milk, cheese, butter, cream, most commercially baked products such as biscuits and pastries, most deep-fried fast foods, coconut and palm oil.
  • Mono-unsaturated fats – sources include margarine spreads such as canola or olive oil based choices, oils such as olive, canola and peanut oils, avocado, and nuts such as peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews and almonds.
  • Polyunsaturated fats – sources include fish, seafood, polyunsaturated margarines, vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, corn or soy oils, nuts such as walnuts and Brazil nuts, and seeds


Given that fats are so high in calories serve size is still important with the good fats. 30grams of nuts is a healthy serve however if you were to eat a lot more than that it could easily contribute to increasing your weight.


Bottom line:

  • Cut back on sugar in the diet. Minimise sweets, soft drinks, cakes and sweet biscuits, chocolate and your health will benefit as will your weight.
  • Decrease your intake of saturated fats from take away foods, cakes, pastries, butter, cream, fatty meats and
  • Include some good fats every day.
    • For example, a 20-30gram palmful of nuts and seeds,
    • Avocado, 1/8 -1/4 of the avocado per serve,
    • Olive oil or other plant based oil used in cooking. Mix up the oil you use in meals there is not one super oil but certainly olive oil has the most robust body of evidence of its health benefits.



Lisa APD


All enquiries, Lisa 0413 956 107 Appointments 1300 725 806
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