You're worried you're eating too much sugar? How much is "too much"? Is sugar really that bad for you? It’s time we took a serious look at this topic; It’s time you found out the surprising truth about sugar...
Increasing research is starting to suggest that it is sugar, rather than fat, in our diets, that is the major contributing factor to the global obesity epidemic.
It's hard to imagine now, but there was once a time when humans only had access to sugar a few months in a year. Fast track time, and our sugar hits come all year round, this time with little nutritional value and far more easily - simply opening a can of fizzy cool drink or a chocolate bar. It certainly doesn't take an expert to see that our modern sugar intake is less healthy than it was in our foraging days.
Sugar in more detail:
Firstly, sugar is a carbohydrate. Fact! It is found naturally in a range of different carbohydrate foods, such as fruits and vegetables, grains, and dairy. In essence, we cannot avoid it completely however, we can make knowledgeable choices.
There are two types of sugar: natural occurring sugar (fructose in fruit; lactose in milk) and "free" sugar - this is the sugar we find in cakes, honey, syrups, fizzy drinks and table sugar, to name a few.
"Free" sugars are also referred to as monosaccharides (such as glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose). This type pf sugar is added to foods and drinks by manufacturers, cooks or consumers, and is also naturally present in fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.
These free sugars are also present in foods that we would not expect to be sweetened: soups, breads, cured meats, and even ketchup!
The result: we consume way too much added sugar. Adult men take in an average of 24 teaspoons of added sugar per day, according to the National Cancer Institute. That's equal to 384 calories!
How much can we consume?
It's hard to say, since sugar is not a required nutrient in your diet. The Institute of Medicine, which sets Recommended Dietary Allowances, or RDAs, has not issued a formal number for sugar. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a daily consumption of fewer than 10% of your total, daily, calorie intake. This guideline does not refer to the sugars found in fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy because there is no reported evidence of adverse effects of consuming these sugars.
The UK government recommends that free sugars should not make up more than 5% of the calories you consume, each day.
- Adults should not consume more than 30g of free sugar (equivalent to 7 sugar cubes), each day.
- Children aged 7 to 10 should consume no more than 24g of free sugars a day (6 sugar cubes)
- Children aged 4 to 6 should consume no more than 19g of free sugars a day (5 sugar cubes).
- There's no guideline limit for children under the age of 4, but it's recommended they avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and food with sugar added to it
Reading food labels:
Reading food labels is one of the best ways to monitor your intake of free/added sugar. Look for the following names for added sugar and try to either avoid, or cut back on the amount or frequency of the foods where they are found:
- brown sugar
- corn syrup
- fruit juice concentrates
- high-fructose corn syrup
- invert sugar
- malt sugar
- syrup sugar molecules ending in "ose" (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose).
Total sugar, which includes added sugar, is often listed in grams. Note the number of grams of sugar per serving as well as the total number of servings.
Also, keep track of sugar you add to your food or beverages. About half of added sugar comes from beverages, including coffee and tea. A study, in the May 2017 Public Health, found that about 2/3 of coffee drinkers and 1/3 of tea drinkers put sugar or sugary flavourings in their drinks. The researchers also noted that more than 60% of the calories in their beverages came from added sugar.
Three simple steps to cutting down:
At the rate that we are consuming sugar today, is that sugar is no longer a treat. Instead, it has become a gradual death sentence. Reducing sugar and highly refined carbohydrates can change your life drastically! Now, some of you may be feeling quite overwhelmed at the thought of making such a drastic change. Have no fear! Change doesn't need to be major; baby steps. Below are just 3 simple steps you can follow to start making a change to your sugar-laden diet:
Step 1: Have protein for breakfast
This will lead to stable energy levels throughout the morning.
Step 2: Hungry? Try water first.
Being dehydrated can often be disguised as hunger. A 5% decrease in hydration can correlate with a 20% decrease in energy.
Step 3: Seek low-carb replacements for high-carb foods
There are many replacements out there today that can be used to replace those sugar-laden foods that we just cannot let go of. There are cauliflower pizza bases; zucchini noodles; stevia to replace regular sugar. The list goes on.
Finally, you have the knowledge and you have the power. When you start reducing the added sugar in your diet, you will automatically start using your meals as they were intended to - to fuel you into greatness.