Sugar or Fat: The Lesser of Two Evils

variety of sugary and fattening foods

With so many competing diet plans out there, it can be hard to figure out what’s okay to eat, what we should eat less of, and what we should cut out entirely. Case in point: sugar vs. fat. We know that too much of either is unhealthy, but is one worse than the other? Could cutting out sugar or fat be the answer to our health and weight goals?


Some sugar is found naturally in many foods, and natural sugar is necessary to fuel our brains and other essential organs. The problem lies in eating too much sugar, especially sugar added to foods during processing. These simple sugars are nothing but empty calories—with no nutritional value at all—that your body winds up storing as fat. Complex carbohydrates bring extra nutrition along with them, but when too much is eaten—well, sugar is sugar. It all gets stored the same way, as fat, mostly around our waistlines.


Like sugar, our bodies need some fat to function normally. Fats are needed for:

  • Supplying long-term energy
  • Keeping skin, hair and nails healthy
  • Absorbing fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K
  • Keeping vital organs insulated and protected
  • Brain development
  • Blood clotting
  • Controlling inflammation

Also, like sugar, some fats are worse than others. Saturated and trans fats, which are solid at room temperature, raise the levels of “bad” cholesterol, increasing our risk of heart disease and stroke. 

So, which is worse?

Well, neither. And both. Like most things in life, moderation is key. It’s rarely a good idea to completely cut a nutrient (which fats and sugars are) completely out of your diet. Instead, focus on making healthy choices on how much sugar and fat to eat and what types of each. Pay attention to serving sizes to avoid overindulging. Choose complex carbohydrates to give your body the sugars it needs, like whole grains, beans and vegetables. Add in small amounts of mono- and polyunsaturated fats from foods like lean meats, fish and poultry, healthy oils and nuts, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier eating plan.