Sugar What You Need to Know

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Sugar – What You Need to Know

Sugar-What you need to knowWhy is it an issue?

It’s the latest thing on the health police’s agenda, being cited as a major cause in the rise of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and possibly even dementia, not to mention tooth decay. The risk to your health is becoming harder to ignore, and the costs to the NHS of treating avoidable illnesses are enormous.

But some sugar’s ok, isn’t it?

Yes, it’s the added sugars that are the problem. Naturally occurring ones in fruits, milk, etc. are generally considered ok. Government guidelines give recommended levels of added sugars. They say no more than 10% of your daily calorie intake should come from added sugar (taking into account alcohol).

That equates to 50g for women and 70g for men, as a rough guide. But the government has just halved its recommendations, so 25g or 35g now!

How do I know how much I’m eating?

Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as just reading the labels. The problem is that these guidelines are for added sugars, but the guidelines you read on food packaging are often for total sugars, including the naturally occurring sugars in fruits, milk and other foods that are not considered such a danger. There are no government guidelines on total sugars because that doesn’t tell you the proportion of added to natural. So the industry uses a rule of thumb of 90g for labeling.

One can of standard Coca Cola contains 35g of added sugar. That’s your entire daily allowance under the new halved guidelines! A sweet and sour chicken ready meal can contain 22g, although some of that is naturally occurring in the pineapple, and it’s hard to work out how much is added.

It’s all a bit too confusing, isn’t it? What can I do?

Try to cut down on sugar you add yourself, in tea, coffee, cereals, etc. Do it gradually, by reducing the amounts rather than going cold turkey. You’ll find you don’t miss the taste if you adjust gradually, and that alone can make a big difference.

Switch fizzy drinks for fruit juices or flavored water. Think about what you snack on, and try not to head straight for the donuts. Read labels, especially on things that claim to be healthy – a prominent health claim on the packaging is often countered by less healthy additives such as sugars.

Most importantly, avoid processed foods. The ready meals and pastries many of us grab for convenience are stacked full of the bad sugars we need to avoid. Eating clean is one bit of advice that can help a wide range of issues with the modern diet.

And don’t forget to exercise regularly – any diet should go hand in hand with that.

Shouldn’t the labels be more informative?

Yes, as the extent of the problem is becoming better known, pressure groups are demanding more accurate and less misleading information on a variety of topics, and sugar is right up there at the top of the agenda. But multi-nationals use sugar to generate cravings and make you buy more of their product, so they’re not likely to change unless they’re forced by law or our shopping habits.