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Sugar: The Truth

Recently, the World Health Organization recommended that for optimal health we should restrict our added ‘free sugar’ intake to just 25 grams or 6 teaspoons a day [1]. To put that into perspective: a Twix bar (50.7g) contains 6 teaspoons of sugar, a can of Coke contains 8.25 teaspoons of sugar and 100g of Honey Nut Cheerios contains 8.25 teaspoons of sugar. Naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables are ok and don’t count. ‘Free sugars’, removed from their original source and added to foods as a sweetener or as a preservative, is what we need to be wary of.

Consuming sugar is a regular part of many people’s day – whether it be indulging in a chocolate bar or simply adding a teaspoon of sugar to a morning coffee. Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick. Sugar has long been implicated in a host of health ills, such as obesity, diabetes and an increased risk of cancer. It is now also regarded as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease as well as other chronic diseases, including liver cirrhosis and dementia.

Sugar releases the same opioids and endorphins that love does.

That’s why breaking up with sugar can be very difficult.

The instant lift we get from sugar is one of the reasons we turn to it when we crave comfort or at times of celebration. However, even those of us without a sweet tooth may be eating more sugar than we realise because so many processed foods such as breakfast cereals, bread, pasta sauce, salad dressings and soups contain tons of added sugar. Low-fat and 'diet' foods often also contain extra sugar to help disguise the blander taste and to add bulk and texture in the place of fat.

Always Read The Label

Sugar will not always be listed as sugar. Manufacturers hide sugar in foods and drinks under many sneaky names that sound nothing like sugar. If a product contains more than one of these alternative sugars (listed below) and they are listed close to the top of the ingredients list, than what you are eating may not be as healthy as you think:

Agave Nectar, Barbados Sugar, Barley Malt, Beet Sugar, Blackstrap Molasses, Brown Rice Syrup, Brown Sugar, Buttered Sugar, Buttered Syrup, Cane Juice Crystals, Cane Juice, Cane Sugar, Caramel, Carob Syrup, Caster Sugar, Coconut Sugar, Corn Sweetener, Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup Solids, Crystal Line Fructose, Date Sugar, Demerara Sugar, Dextran, Diastatic Malt, Diastase, Ethyl Maltol, Evaporated Cane Juice, Fructose, Fruit Juice Concentrate, Galactose, Golden Sugar, Golden Syrup, Grape Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Honey, Invert Sugar, Icing Sugar, Lactose, Malt Syrup, Molasses Syrup, Muscovado Syrup, Organic Raw Sugar, Oat Syrup, Panela, Panocha, Confectioner’s Sugar, Rice Bran Syrup, Rice Syrup, Sorghum, Sorghum Syrup, Sucrose, Syrup, Treacle, Tapioca Syrup, Turbinado Syrup, Yellow Sugar.

You can find out how much total sugar is in a product by looking for the 'carbohydrates (of which sugars)' figure on the nutrition panel. More than 15g of total sugars per 100g means it has a high sugar content, 5g of total sugars or less per 100g means it has a low sugar content.

You wouldn’t think twice about saying ‘no’ to a Kit Kat,

but did you know that some muesli can have as much as 23g of sugar per serving?

Ways To Cut Down On Sugar

  • Use natural sweeteners such as dates, date syrup, honey, maple syrup and fruit purée.

  • A sprinkle of cinnamon in your coffee will help stabilise blood sugar levels and adds flavour without the sweetness.

  • Instead of fruit juice, have a herbal tea or water infused with fruit.

  • For a mid-morning or afternoon boost, instead of a chocolate bar, have a piece of whole fruit with a handful of nuts or a small tub of plain yogurt. Nuts and yoghurt contain protein which helps balance blood sugar and energy levels.

[1] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/sugar-guideline/en/

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