There has been a lot of discussion on tv and in the press about sugar and its’s contribution to weight gain and tooth decay. Not to mention the abundance of books that have been written on how we can finally quit sugar.
To start, let’s look at the different sugars out there.
In the UK we all eat too many foods with added sugars, these are known as “free sugars”. Don’t be fooled by the name as these are the bad sugars that we should reduce consumption of.
Think biscuits, chocolate, flavored yoghurt, cereals or fizzy drinks. These added sugars are not only in manufactured products but also added by ourselves whilst cooking.
Also in this category (even though they are naturally occurring) are honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, golden syrup, unsweetened fruit juices, vegetable juices and smoothies.
The NHS guidelines say that we don’t need to cut down on sugars found naturally in foods such as milk, fruit and vegetables as these do not count as free sugars.
As adults we should be getting no more than 5% of our calories (energy) from free sugars, that’s about 30g only of free sugars a day (the equivalent of 7 sugar cubes).
For example: one can of cola can contain up to 9 sugar cubes, more than the recommended daily limit for adults.
Unfortunatley we are not helped any by the food and drink manufacturers as they are responsible for feeding our sugar habit. Sugar is in pretty much everything produced.
I remember how hard it was to ween myself off three sugars in my cup of tea and that was a long, long time ago now. I did it gradually over a long period of time so that my craving became less and less. First two spoons, then one, then three quarters, then a half. Until eventually I got used to zero sugar in my tea. I also choose green tea now. Funny how tastes move on.
Personally I would find it pretty miserable to completely “quit sugar” so I try for a balance. I go by the 80/20 rule. I eat healthily 80% of the time and allow myself the odd sugary treat now and again.
We can however make better lifestyle choices, try these tips to start reducing your “free sugar” intake:
- Start reducing the amount of sugar you add to hot drinks gradually
- Drink more water or sugar-free drinks. Add squash (with no added sugars) to sparkling water for a fizzy drink
- Try reduced sugar products like jam and baked beans
- Choose unsweetened breakfast cereals with added fruit for sweetness
- Break habits – if you always have a biscuit with your cup of tea try having a piece of fruit instead
- Don’t buy the biscuits then you can’t eat them. Experiment with healthy snacks.
- Eat real food that hasn’t been processed
A final note on artificial sweeteners:
Both Cancer Research UK and the US National Cancer Institute have said sweeteners don’t cause cancer. “Large studies looking at people have now provided strong evidence that artificial sweeteners are safe for humans,” states Cancer Research UK.
However, it has been suggested that the use of artificial sweeteners may have a stimulating effect on appetite and, therefore, may play a role in weight gain and obesity.
Research has been inconsistent so it’s too early to tell.
You can read a recent article here on the increased risk to diabetes from using artificial sweeteners rather than sugar.