If you want to cut your sugar consumption then please read this article
What is Sugar?
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate. There are other types of more complex carbohydrates such as starch rich foods including rice, pasta and potatoes.
Carbohydrates are our main source of energy and health advisers recommend that about 50% of our energy should come from carbohydrates which are broken down by the digestion system into individual sugars to be absorbed and used by the body for energy.
How is Sugar made?
All green plants make sugars which they use themselves for the energy required for growth and repair. Plants contain varying amounts of glucose, fructose and sucrose and store sugar in the form of sucrose. However, only sugar cane and sugar beet contain enough sugar, in the form of sucrose, to make it economically viable to grow and harvest. The manufacturing of the cane and beet produces refined crystallised sugar which is virtually 100% sucrose.
The starch found in plants such as rice, wheat and potatoes is made in the plants by converting glucose into starch. When we eat and digest these foods they are broken down into simple sugars.
There are other types of sugars which occur naturally in milk and honey. See the list below which shows the form of sugar and the source(s)
Fructose: Fruits and Honey
Glucose: Fruit, Honey and Vegetables
Sucrose: Fruit, Sugar Beet and Sugar Cane
Sweetness in Nature
So sugar in its natural form is not all bad and is used throughout nature. Sugar is manufactured and used by plants for growth and energy. Just as plants need energy so do insects and animals, and the sugars found in nectar for example supply the bee with the energy for flight and the natural sugars found in fruits and berries supply animals with a good source of natural carbohydrates and sugar for energy. So as we can see nature produces and uses sugar.
So why has sugar got such a bad name?
In simple terms the bad sugar is “ADDED SUGAR”
And more importantly although sugar has been used for centuries it is the amount of added sugar that many of us unknowingly consume that has led to a sharp increase in our consumption of sugar which for many of us is way above the recommended daily allowance.
What is my daily sugar allowance?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that only 5% of your daily intake of calories should come from these added sugars. This is approximately 25g for women and 35g for men, or more simply put between 5 and 7 teaspoons of sugar per day. Makes you think doesn’t it?
High levels of added sugar in our diets are increasingly blamed for a succession of health related issues including diabetes, obesity, heart and liver disease, dementia and an increased risk of some cancers.
Sugars that are naturally present in our whole food are there because nature intended them to be there and contain natural buffers that help slow down and regulate the absorption of the sugar which is typically in a complex form and needs to be broken down by the digestive system.
It is not natural for the body to have to deal with the added sugar in much of our food for example the 8 or 9 teaspoons of neat sugar dissolved into a fizzy drink or the 4 teaspoons in a supposedly healthy cereal bar.
How do I cut down on the sweet stuff?
Well you have to find the added sugar first! And that is not always so easy.
Check the label
The food manufacturers have various ways of naming and listing ‘sugar’ on a label and this can be extremely confusing.
Anything ending in an ‘ose’
Dextrose, fructose, galactose, glucose, lactose, sucrose, etc all end in ‘ose’ and are sugars. They may not all be added sugars but the first thing to do is to look for these ‘oses’ on the ingredients label.
And the higher up the ingredients label these are then the more sugar the product contains!
But… The food manufacturers have various other ways of naming and listing ‘sugar’ on a label and not only is this confusing it can also be a way for them to try to hide them or make the added sugar look less.
You Have Been Warned
Read the ingredients label carefully.
You are looking for all added sugar, which may have many other names. Not all sugars end in an “ose”
Check out the following names manufacturers also use for sugar on your food label:
Agave, beet sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, confectioner’s sugar, corn sweetener, corn sweeteners, corn syrup, dextrin, honey, evaporated cane juice, glucose solids, high fructose invert sugar, isoglucose (HFCS), maize syrup, malt, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar, rice syrup, sugar, turbinado, white sugar, and this is not an exhaustive list!
Added Sugar is Added Sugar
Just because it is organic this has the same effect as non-organic added sugars. So look out for these too on the ingredients list:
Organic agave syrup, organic cane juice crystals, organic raw sugar etc.
Yet More Sugar Disguises!
Food manufacturers can manipulate the ingredients label even further in an attempt to make the amount of added sugar look less.
1) Take care to make sure that the natural sugars and added sugars are not combined into Sugar. Remember that say for example a milk shake may contain natural “lactose” sugar but may also have some further added sugars!
2) Manufacturers may also list each of the added sugars separately instead of simple added sugars in an attempt to make the sugar look less. So let’s say for example a manufacturer wants to sweeten up one of its products. It can either do this using 18 grams of “sugar” or 6 grams of “glucose”, 6 grams of “invert sugar” and 6 grams of “malt syrup” Clever stuff eh!
When you check the ingredients label look for the carbohydrates (of which sugars) value to assess whether the food is high in sugar. As a simple guide:
5g per 100g is LOW
22.5g per 100g is HIGH
So next time you go to the supermarket look very carefully at the ingredients labels before you put it in your basket so you can be sure that if you want to reduce your sugar intake you will not be fooled into buying more than you bargained for! As an additional note beware of ‘low fat options’ as these may have more added sugar than the standard product.
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