There is a collective term “free sugars” for the kind of sugar we eat a lot. These are sugars that are usually added to drinks or food and can be found naturally in syrups, unsweetened fruit juices and honey. Consuming too often food and drinks that contain added sugars, which can be high in energy and often have few other nutrients, means that your intake of calories is higher than you need and can lead to weight gain and obesity. The gain weight increases your risk of getting diseases such as diabetes type 2 and heart disease. The risk of getting diabetes type 2, in particular, is higher if you drink lots of sugary drinks.
In order to have healthy, balanced diet you should consume small amounts of these types of food occasionally. Get your calories from other kinds of food like fruit and vegetables and starchy food.
Decay of teeth and sugar
Decay of teeth can also be caused by sugary drinks and food and the longer this kind of food is in contact with the teeth the more damage can be caused by it to the teeth. The natural sugars contained in the structure of the fruit are less likely to cause teeth decay but once the fruit is blended sugars are released and these can cause damage to the teeth, if the fruit juice is frequently drunk. Keep the fruit juice to mealtimes and limit it to a small (150ml) glass a day. Avoid the drinks that say “fruit juice” since they can have high level of sugar. Some sugars can be also released when the fruit is dried; dried food can also stick to the teeth; so swap it with fresh fruit.
How much sugar can we eat?
It is recommended for the adults to have maximum of 30 grams added sugars a day which roughly equals to seven cubes of sugar. Children aged 4 to 6 should have no more than 19 grams which is five cubes of sugar and children aged 7 to 10 no more than 24 grams which is six sugar cubes. Food in which added sugar can be found is: chocolate, cakes, biscuits, sweets, and some fizzy and juice drinks – you need to reduce the consumption of this kind of food!
Tips to reduce the consumption of sugars
These tips can help you reduce the consumption of sugars:
- Drink lower fat milk, sugar free and diet drinks and water instead of sugary fizzy drinks.
- Dilute fruit juice with sparkling water if you like fizzy drinks.
- Instead of cakes or biscuits, have some malt loaf with low-fat spread, a currant bun or scone.
- Gradually reduce the amount of sugar if you take it in hot drinks or add it in your cereal, until you take it out completely.
- Spread low-fat cream cheese, low-fat spread or have a sliced banana on your toast.
- In order to pick the food with less added sugar check the nutrition labels.
- Reduce by half the amount of sugar you use in your recipes – it doesn’t work for meringues, jam and ice cream.
- Instead of syrup choose tins of fruit in juice.
- Do not choose wholegrain breakfast cereals coated with sugar or honey.
Sugars and nutrition labels
You can always compare the nutrition labels to see how much sugar a food contains. In order to check that look for the figure “Carbohydrates (of which sugars)” in the nutrition label.
- high – over 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
- low – 5g of total sugars or less per 100g
Medium level is regarded if the amount of sugar per 100 grams is between these figures. The total amount of sugars in the food is shown with the sugars figure in the nutrition label.
Labels on the front of packaging
On the front of the packaging on some food there are labels that contain nutrition information, such as labels that include color coding. These color coded labels give advice on reference intakes of some nutrients, which can include sugar. The color codes are: red = high amber = medium green = low.
The approximate amount of a particular nutrient and energy needed for a healthy diet are expressed by the Reference Intakes or RI.
List of ingredients
List of ingredients can show you whether the food is high in added sugars. Words that also describe added sugars are glucose, sucrose, maltose, fructose, corn syrup, honey, hydrolyzed starch and invert sugar.