Both the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and the World Health Organization (WHO) have highlighted we are eating too much sugar. In fact…
“The average Briton consumes over 1kg of sugar each week”
In the UK, added sugar makes up on average 16% of total calories of our diet. However, it is recommended that we should get no more than 10% of our total calories from “free sugars”. The new WHO recommendation recently released (March 2015) state that, further reduction of free sugars, to less than 5% of total calories, would be even more beneficial for our health.
But what does eating too much sugar do to us?
The recommendation of 10% or less of total calories is seen as a “strong” recommendation based on evidence that increased sugar consumption is linked to a greater likelihood of tooth cavities and increase in body weight. Having too much body fat increases your chances for developing chronic illnesses like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
What are “Free” Sugars?
Free sugars are known as empty calories by nutritionists as they don’t add much nutritional value. Examples of free sugars include those added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer. They are also sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.
Key sugary words to look out for:
Those ending in
“..ose” Those starting in
“malt” “dex” “suc” “mono” “di” Ingredients including
Take a look at this reduced fat dessert and how many added sugars you can find…
Water, Toffee Sauce (13%, Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Invert Sugar Syrup, Condensed Skimmed Milk, Sugar, Water, Butter (Milk), Salt, Stabiliser – Pectin, Preservative – Potassium Sorbate, Flavouring), Sugar, Skimmed Milk Powder, Wheat Flour (contains Calcium, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin), Caramel Pieces (4%, Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Brown Sugar, Palm Oil, Palm Fat, Butter (Milk), Water, Sweetened Condensed Skimmed Milk, Salt, Emulsifier – Soya Lecithin, Flavouring, Icing Sugar), Glucose Powder, Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Whipping Cream (Milk), Inulin, Palm Oil, Brown Sugar, Pork Gelatine, Stabilisers – Mono- and Di-Glycerides of Fatty Acids, Sodium Stearoyl-2-Lactylate, Locust Bean Gum, Guar Gum, Sodium Alginate, Carrageenan, Xanthan Gum, Dextrose, Whey Powder (Milk), Modified Potato Starch, Sorbitol Syrup, Egg Powder, Fructose Syrup, Barley Starch, Flavourings, Egg Albumen, Caramelised Sugar Syrup, Colour – Paprika Extract
How easy is it to reduce sugar in my diet?
If you are wanting to cut down how much sugar you have, it can be an easy step. However, it is important to understand this can be challenging for two different reasons. Sugar is something that man naturally can crave due to the energy it gives to humans, dating back to primal times when we needed excess energy to basically stay alive.
The second reason is plain and simple, it can be an addictive substance! Sugar fuels every cell in the brain. The brain sees sugar as a reward, which makes you keep wanting more of it. If you often eat a lot of sugar, you’re reinforcing that reward, which can make it tough to break the habit. People are known to suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, fatigue and mood swings when cutting sugar from the diet.
Nutrition Tips to cut down on sugar:
First place to start is to look at the foods and drinks you are currently consuming. Read food labels. Sugars can make their way into food in many ways;
Check food labels for added sugars – main culprits are:
• Processed sauces e.g. pasta, cooking sauces, condiments
• Low fat/diet products e.g. yoghurts, cakes
• Sweets, cakes, pastries, sweet breads, ice creams
• Fizzy drinks, energy drinks and milkshakes
• Cereals and cereal bar
How to read a food label:
High More than 22.5g per 100g
Medium Between 5-22g per 100g
Low 5g or less per 100g
Check the food label and under Carbohydrates (of which sugars):
Be mindful when looking at foods with fruit in as these will show naturally occurring sugars. Whole fruit (not fruit juice) and milk naturally contain sugar and these will show up on nutrition labels. Fruit sugar and milk sugar should not be counted towards the amount of “free” sugar you’re allotted for the day. Whole fruit and milk are full of vitamins and minerals that are important for your body.
You can train your taste buds to enjoy things that aren’t as sweet. Try cutting out one sweet food from your diet each week. For example, pass on dessert after dinner. Over time, you will lose your need for that sugar taste.
Eating protein and fibre are easy ways to curb sugar cravings. High-protein and high fibre foods digest more slowly, keeping you feeling full for longer. Protein and high fibre foods do not cause blood sugar to spike how refined carbohydrates and sugars do. Pick proteins like lean chicken, low-fat yogurt, eggs, nuts, or beans. Choose fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Or smear some peanut butter on an apple or cottage cheese on oatcakes for a protein/fibre combination.
Fruit is also full of mixed messages…is it healthy? Is it bad for us? What counts in our 5 a day? Here are some helpful tips
• When choosing fruits, choose berries and citrus fruits as these are naturally lower in sugar
• The riper the fruit, the more sugar has been released, especially in bananas and pineapples.
• Watch out for dried fruits! More than a handful can contain too much sugar as they fruit has been dried and released sugars.
• A 150ml glass of 100% orange juice is not considered a source of added sugars but it is considered a source of free sugars since the juice (which contains all of the fruit’s sugars) has been extracted e.g. extrinsic sugars.
It is important to know there is no reported evidence of effects on humans consuming sugars in fresh fruits and vegetables, and sugars naturally present in milk which is why they are not within the WHO recommendation guidelines.
Calculating free sugars to less than 10% of total calorie intake
Step 1: Your total calorie goal for the day multiplied by 0.1 for 10% or 0.05 for 5%
e.g. 1500 calories x 0.1 = 150 calories
1500 calories x 0.05 = 75 calories
Step 2: Take the calories from free sugar and divide by 4 to give you the maximum grams of free sugars you should be eating.
e.g. 150 / 4 = 37.5g
Step 3: Take the grams of sugar and divide by 4 for the maximum teaspoons of free sugars you should be eating
e.g. 37.5 / 4 = 9.4 (9 ½)