Sugar | How Much Is Too Much?
Sugar | How Much Is Too Much?
We've all seen the recent hype about sugar consumption – but what does it all mean? Many of us eat healthy, wholesome and balanced meals while also indulging in the occasional burger, ice cream and wine (which is perfectly OK!). Nonetheless, even the most balanced diets contain hidden sugars that add up to more than we expect.
We give you the top tips on how to know if you’re eating too much sugar and what you can do to avoid it!
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Types of sugars
Natural Sugar -
Natural sugars are the sugars that naturally occur in food. Natural sugar foods include:
- Lactose in milk and dairy products
- Grains and cereals
Free Sugar -
Free sugars are sugars that have been taken from their original source and added to food. Free sugar foods include:
- Table sugar
- Rice malt syrup
- Maple syrup
- Coconut sugar
- Unsweetened fruit juice
- Agave syrup
- All processed foods i.e. chocolate, biscuits, jams, sauces
Recommended daily sugar intake
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) we should be consuming less than 10% of our total energy intake in free sugar. WHO suggest that a further reduction to 5% or lower (25 grams / 6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.
In Australia the average daily intake for an adult is 8, 700 Kilojoules (2, 175 calories), with 10% of that (870KJ = 208 calories) being your daily sugar consumption – approximately 50grams / 12 teaspoons.
Some of us might think that we are consuming less than 12 teaspoons of sugar a day, when in actuality we are often having more. For example, a can of Coke (335ml) contains 39grams of sugar! Even your healthy morning breakfast can contain loads of sugar - yoghurt with berries and granola can add up to a whopping 49.5grams of sugar (keep in mind this includes both natural and free sugars). Our consumption of free sugars is what makes us exceed our daily sugar allowance – but what damage is this really doing?
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Why should I eat less sugar?
Both free and natural sugars are broken down the same way - into fructose and glucose, which are metabolised once they reach your stomach. What does differ is how fast they’re broken down. Since natural sugars are often paired with water and fibre, they’re released slowly into your body, giving you a consistent stream of energy. Free / added sugars are broken down immediately, leaving you with a sugar high that doesn’t make you feel full but instead leaves you craving more sugar.
Adults who consume more than the recommended 10% daily sugar intake have:
- Risk of obesity
- Heightened chance of cardiovascular disease
- Higher risk of type-2-diabetes
- Higher rates of tooth decay
- Less energy
By consuming less sugar you can avoid adding unnecessary kilojoules/calories that take up space in your diet and diminish your health.
How to eat less sugar
- Cut down on processed foods
- Try not to drink your sugars – stick to water, tea and your morning coffee
- Use the nutritional information panel on the back of packaging to help you gauge how much sugars are in food products. Food labels ingredients are usually listed in descending order, so the higher that sugar appears on the list, the more that product contains.
- Cut down on added and free sugars –these aren’t always easy to spot! When in doubt, refer to the above list of types of free sugars.
- Have a balanced diet – your everyday consumption should consist of mainly fresh and wholesome foods (e.g. vegetables, nuts, fish, meat etc.). Don’t forget to spoil yourself every now and then while still being conscious of your sugar intake. We know how hard it is to stick to those couple of pieces of chocolate when you’ve opened a whole block!