Ok, so how much sugar do you eat every day?
You may have given up sugar in tea and coffee years ago, so you are thinking, not that much.
Unless you have been on a desert or maybe that should be dessert island you will be well aware that sugar is hidden in all sorts of foods.
Sugar is also hidden in many purported “health foods’. Approximately 74% of all processed foods in the US contain sugar. While we expect to find sugar in goods such as desserts, cakes and pastries, it also lurks some that are not so obvious, for instance in most shop bought sauces, condiments and pre-cooked meals, even prawn cocktail flavoured crisps.(1) (2)
If you are a low-fat aficionado it is more than likely you are consuming more sugar than the rest of us.
By choosing a low-fat variety of food, you may be experiencing a double whammy. Fat adds flavour, by extracting the fat, manufacturers replace the flavour with added sugar and salt.
You will be well aware of the hidden dangers of eating a diet high in sucrose, fructose, glucose, maltodextrin or one of the other 50 to 60 names sugar is given. Make yourself familiar with some of these hidden names eg. malt barley, galactose, sorghum, agave nectar, cane juice, beet sugar, corn syrup, dextran or diastatic malt. Take a look here for all the alternate names.http://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/hidden-in-plain-sight/#.W7IQaS2ZP0F
Be wary of the labels on food packaging, they are there to invite and sell to you. Wow, this fruit drink contains 100% Vitamin C and no high corn syrup, so what can be bad? Well, fruit contains fructose and while eating fruit in moderation is a positive thing, when we juice we lose the fibre and increase the sugar content. In effect, fruit juice is not such a good thing as it contains fructose which is only broken down by the liver. The liver is an incredibly busy organ without us adding to its workload and increasing the potential for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
That is not to say fruit is bad, but it is best eaten whole rather than bought in a carton.
Once we learn what to look out for, reading the labels in the supermarket whilst time consuming should help us in our quest for healthy food.
Sadly takeaways and eating out are fraught with danger. However, if you enjoy your Friday night takeaway, steer clear of sweet and sour sauce which often contains around 3 times the daily RDA for sugar. From a low sugar perspective, one of the best takeaway dishes is a chicken dhansak which has only 2 grams of sugar in a 350-gram portion, excluding rice.(3).
How much should we enjoy ?
Adults - 7 teaspoons or 30 grams,
children over 6 years - 6 teaspoons or 24 grams,
children between 4-6 - 5 teaspoons or 19 grams.(4)
In my opinion, 7 teaspoons of sugar look like a lot of sweet stuff. However, it is impossible to gauge individual consumption if it cannot be seen or tasted without reading food labels.
Why do we find it so hard to give up?
Being addicted to sugar and flour is not an emotional eating disorder. It’s a biological disorder, driven by hormones and neurotransmitters that fuel sugar and carbohydrate cravings — leading to uncontrolled overeating.(5)
Sugar is addictive and feeds our dopamine and mu-opiate receptors which relate to pleasure and reward. The more pleasure we experience, the more our dopamine levels rise and the better we feel. Sadly, dopamine requires more and more of its guilty pleasure to reap the same reward. Consequently, whether, your poison is cocaine, marijuana, sweets, chocolate or alcohol the need for more of the addiction will grow over time.(6)
A 2018 study on rats found that Oreo cookies were as addictive as cocaine. In fact, the cocaine-addicted rats prioritised sugar over the cocaine.(7)
Another reason we continually crave sugar is due to blood glucose (BG) levels. They become erratic when we consume food and drink with a high sugar content. Following a high carbohydrate food blood glucose levels rise. Insulin is produced to try and cope with the excess BG. However, excess glucose is stored as fat. Excess insulin is then in our bloodstream and requires glucose, creating a drop in our energy and mood level. We then look for the next chocolate bar. So the cycle continues, sugar feeds sugar. (8).
Why is it bad for us?
Again, we will all be more than aware that sugar contributes to many serious diseases such as metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, alzheimers and diabetes.
Diabetes itself can lead to blindness, and amputation of limbs,
eating sugar causes weight gain, and also raises blood glucose,
neither refined grains nor sugar contains any nutrients of value
sugar raises the risk of Type 2 Diabetes,
sugar can make you depressed,
sugar causes wrinkles,
sugar makes you overeat,
raises risk of heart disease,
restricts blood vessels and
kills energy. (9)
How can I control my sugar cravings?
Sugar cravings can be controlled by enjoying foods with a low Glycaemic load (GL). Have a balanced meal or snack including protein at all times. Protein is the most satisfying of all the macronutrients, while sugar is the least. (10)
A low GL tells you both the type and amount of carbohydrate in the food and what that particular carbohydrate does to your blood sugar. Therefore low GL foods maintain stable blood glucose levels for longer.(10)
Vegetables growing above ground are low carbohydrate and can be eaten freely. • Vegetables growing below ground contain more carbohydrates, so be more careful with them (especially baked potatoes).
What can I use as an alternative?
There are options but not many, as all substitutes are still sugar. The supposed healthy alternatives agave nectar, coconut sugar and honey are still sugar only in a different form. In fact, they might be even worse for you than sugar as they contain high levels of fructose which places additional strain on the liver. (11)
What about artificial sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners are no better for us than real sugar. And some, notably aspartame and acesulfame-K have had negative press relating to chronic diseases.(12)
Sugar alcohols like sorbitol are poorly broken down by the body, and may cause symptoms of bloating, diarrhoea and gas. (12)
Artificial sweeteners and many other ‘natural sweeteners’ that find their way into "healthy food" behave in the body the same way as real sugar by raising your blood sugar levels. (12)
However, there are 2 natural alternatives, if the thought of being sugar free fills you with fear. Stevia, a natural plant has been used in South America and Asia for over 300 years. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar and is available in liquid or powder form.(13)
The jack fruit, popular in China for over 300 years is another natural alternative to sugar and again has 300 times the sweetness of sugar and may also be used in cooking.(13)
However, if possible the very best idea is to wean yourself off sweeteners of any kind. This helps you appreciate natural sweetness from real food. If you continue to eat sweet things, your taste buds will always want sweet things. It’s as simple as that. If you need a sugar fix, find it in real, natural foods.
So where should I find my natural sugar? (sugar naturally present in 100g)
Mangos – 3.2 teaspoons of sugar,
bananas – 3 teaspoons of sugar,
apples – 2.6 teaspoons of sugar,
pineapples – 2.5 teaspoons of sugar,
grapes – 4 teaspoons of sugar,
lemons – 0.6 teaspoons of sugar,
kiwi fruit – 2.3 teaspoons of sugar,
apricots – 2.3 teaspoons of sugar,
strawberries – 1.3 teaspoons of sugar,
raspberries – 1 teaspoon of sugar,
blueberries – 1.7 teaspoons of sugar,
cranberries – 1 teaspoons of sugar (14).
Beware of yoghurts, as the higher in fat the lower in sugar. For example a 150g pot of yogurt can often contain 20g of added sugar (equivalent to 5 tsps) in addition to the 6-12g of naturally present lactose.
How much in our guilty pleasures?
Snickers bar (57 g): 5.83 teaspoons of sugar,
Milky Way (58 g): 7.02 teaspoons of sugar,
Hershey's Milk Chocolate bar (43 g): 4.87 teaspoons of sugar,
Butterfinger bar (60 g): 5.58 teaspoons of sugar,
Twix (57 g): 5.68 teaspoons of sugar,
Milk chocolate M&M's packet (42 g): 5.68 teaspoons of sugar .(15)
Coca-Cola (one can, 330 ml): 7.25 teaspoons of sugar,
Red Bull (one can): 5.35 teaspoons of sugar,
Sprite (one can): 7.61 teaspoons of sugar,
Old Jamaica Ginger Beer (one can): 10.18 teaspoons of sugar. (15).
Sadly, breakfast cereal is one of the worst culprits, especially as they are based on a 30g serving, which I doubt anybody eats. To make matters even worse, a small child is only supposed to consume 19 grams a day, making a portion oh the high sugar content cereals approximately 50% to 60% of their recommended daily allowance. Remember that is only a 30gram serving.
Cereal all based on 30g serving:
Aldi's Harvest Morn Choco Rice 12g,
Kellogg’s Frosties 11g,
Kellogg's Crunchy Nut 11g,
Morrisons Honey & Nut Corn Flakes 10.9g,
Sainsbury’s Honey Nut Corn Flakes 10.9,
Kellogg's Coco Pops 10.5g,
Sainsbury's Choco Rice Pops 10.5g,
The Co-operative Choco Rice Crispies 10.5g,
Essential Waitrose Choco Pops 10.5g,
Lidl Crownfield Choco Rice 10.5g,
Nestlé Lion Cereal 8.7g.
Shredded Wheat: 0.3g
Calculate your daily sugar consumption and see if you are having more than your 30g a day.