A sugar-free & starch-free diet is very limiting. Sugars and starches are two of the three carbohydrates in food. Fiber is the other. The U.S. government and most health-related groups such as the American Heart Association urge people to eat more carbohydrates, which are plentiful in fruits, grains and vegetables. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's list of sugar-free foods includes almost no fruits and vegetables and a limited amount of grains.
The USDA labels a product "sugar-free" if it has less than half a gram of sugar per serving. It doesn't identify the amount of starch in a product because starch is a type of sugar. Sugars are simple carbohydrates because they have one or two sugar molecules. Starches are complex carbohydrates because they have more than two sugar molecules. They often have hundreds of sugar molecules, according to The New Pritikin Program.
The USDA's Sugars Content of Selected Foods chart lists approximately 900 foods, and about 300 of them are sugar-free. All turkey; numerous kinds of beef, chicken, lamb and pork; and several fish dishes, including tuna, sardines, salmon and flounder, have 0 grams of sugar. A few kinds of grains such as bread, cereal and rice have between 0 and 1/2 gram of sugar per serving. Produce that the USDA labels sugar-free includes asparagus, cauliflower, lettuce and peppers.
Low-fat diets such as Dr. Dean Ornish and Robert Pritikin's diets and low-carb diets such as the Atkins and South Beach diets want people to limit sugar because it causes fat and lacks minerals and vitamins. Nutritionists disagree about starches, however. Low-fat diets recommend them. Ornish praises starches as low-fat and healthy and says 70 to 75 percent of your calories should come from starches and fiber. Low-carb diets, though, report that starchy foods such as carrots and potatoes cause body fat by increasing your blood-sugar levels.
Most fruits and vegetables aren't sugar-free and starch-free, but fiber reduces the negative impact of sugars because it is "the major factor that slows the absorption of sugar," according to The South Beach Diet. The glycemic index measures how fast foods increase your blood sugar. Carbohydrates with low glycemic-index scores have a lot of fiber. They include fruits such as berries and cherries and vegetables such as broccoli, celery, eggplant, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes and zucchini. The USDA urges you to eat 25 grams of fiber daily if you eat 2000 calories daily.
Diets low in sugar and starch can help people "lose more weight, and lose it faster," according to The Lowdown on Low Carb. Low-carb dieters lost an average of 11 pounds in their first year. Low-fat dieters lost an average of 7 pounds However, low-carb diets have many long-term risks because their lack of fruits, grains and vegetables could increase your risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Sugars Content of Selected Foods
- Essentials for Health and Wellness; Gordon Edlin, Eric Golanty, Kelli McCormack Brown
- The New Pritikin Program; Robert Pritikin
- Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease; Dean Ornish
- The South Beach Diet; Dr. Arthur Agatston
- University of California: The Lowdown on Low Carb
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.