sugar_lead

Sugar

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate and an ingredient found in different foods. On its own, it has very little nutritional value, but it’s important to understand the different types of sugar and which foods they’re found in.

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate and an ingredient found in different foods. On its own, it has very little nutritional value, but it’s important to understand the different types of sugar and which foods they’re found in.

WHERE IS SUGAR FOUND?

Naturally occurring sugars are found in whole fruits, veg and dairy products. These types of sugars are not harmful to our health and are not the types of sugar we need to be worried about.

‘Free’ sugar is the type of sugar that it’s recommended we consume less of, and includes the sugar that is added to food and drink, plus sugar found in fruit juice, honey and syrups.

Some people believe the nutritional value of honey, and syrups such as agave, is superior to white and brown sugar, which is extracted from plants called sugar cane and sugar beet. Although there are some very slight nutritional differences between different sugars, they still all contribute to free-sugar intake, and should be consumed in small amounts. Fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies and purées contain nutrients, and so still contribute to our 5-a-day, but because they also contribute to free-sugar intake, the recommended daily amount is no more than 150ml.

Sugar is added to all sorts of foods to make them taste sweet or to preserve flavour. It’s not only found in the foods you’d expect – such as cakes, fizzy drinks and desserts – but is often hidden in foods like ketchup, bread and cereal. Check the ingredients list on the food label to see how much sugar it contains. Sugar is not always labelled as plain sugar, so it can be tricky to spot. The following are all sugars: agave nectar, corn sweetener, dextrose, honey, corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, glucose and molasses.

WHY IS TOO MUCH SUGAR UNHEALTHY?

Excess consumption of ‘free’ sugars can lead to tooth decay, contribute to weight gain and is associated with diet-related diseases. In particular, sugary drinks are associated with an increased risk of type-2 diabetes.

 

The reference intake of total sugars for an adult is 90g, and it is recommended that no more than 30g of free sugars are consumed in a day (this is equivalent to 7 teaspoons). Note that it is recommended that children have no more than 4 to 6 teaspoons of free sugars a day, depending on age.

 

To know whether a product or ingredient is high in sugars, read the label and use the quantities above as a guide.

WHAT ABOUT ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS?


Artificial sweeteners do not add calories to foods. They can be found in lots of things such as jams, flavoured water, juices and fizzy drinks. Artificial sweeteners include aspartame, sucralose and acesulfame K. All sweeteners used in food and drinks in the UK have been tested and approved as safe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

HOW TO REDUCE FREE-SUGAR INTAKE

• Drink water; not sugary drinks. Sugary drinks are one of the biggest contributors to tooth decay, obesity and type-2 diabetes.
• If having a fizzy drink as a treat, choose a low-sugar option.
• Don’t keep sugary drinks and snacks at home.
• Limit portions of fruit juice and smoothies to 150ml per day and dilute with water.
• Swap sugary cereals for sugar-free options; or choose porridge or eggs and toast
for breakfast.
• Choose fresh fruit and yoghurt for dessert rather than sugary options.
• Swap sugary snacks for plain popcorn, or houmous with crunchy veg for dipping.