We all know that too much sugar is not healthy but how much is actually too much? Where are sugars hiding? Are any OK or should we be cutting sugar out altogether? There is conflicting (and confusing) information out there on sugar—‘natural sugar’, ‘refined sugars’, ‘added sugars’—which can make it hard to know what we’re consuming so let me break it down for you.
Sugar is the generic name given to sweet soluble carbohydrates that the body breaks down for energy. Sugar is naturally present in almost all foods—fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes and milk. These foods deliver natural sugars paired with other important nutrients such as protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals so cutting them out completely would be madness! But not all ‘sugar’ is created equal. The sugars we need to watch out for are those that are added to processed foods such as soft drinks, pastries, biscuits, yoghurts, cereals and condiments.
Sugars are found naturally in lots of everyday healthy foods. So it’s the added sugar foods that we need to be mindful of. Consuming foods with added sugars can quickly build up over the course of the day and it’s detrimental to our health. A diet high in sugars can lead to dental cavities as well as unhealthy weight gain which is why the World Health Organisation recommends adults and children reduce their added sugars intake to less than 10 percent of their total energy intake, ideally less than 5%. A recent ABS study showed that 1 in 2 Australians are exceeding the recommended intake of total sugars and these sugars are mainly coming from ‘added’ sugars—those contained in processed foods and drinks.
Often people are blissfully unaware of the amount of sugar they are consuming. Monitor your intake and then try to cut it down. It only takes a few small, positive changes to get your sugar intake under control. If you’re suffering from cravings while you’re cutting back, that’s normal. Check out these 11 tips and read Jessica Sepel’s foolproof plan to banish them for good.