Ten times more addictive than cocaine. Major contributor to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay, premature aging, acne and other skin complaints. Saps energy (sugar highs and lows). And keeps us fat (both inside and out)!
Is it any wonder the latest ‘diet villain’ is sugar?
The WHO adjusted its recommendations in March 2015:
sugars should be less than 10% of your calorie intake (for adults that is approximately 50 grams of added sugar or 12 teaspoons) – and ideally it should be closer to 25 grams (approximately 6 teaspoons).
The sugars referred to are glucose, fructose, sucrose and table sugar. These tend to be the sugars added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, as well as natural sugars found in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates. Sugars found naturally in whole fruit, vegetables or dairy products are okay.
Elsewhere there are talks about eventually imposing a ‘sugar tax’ and some specialists compare sugar to drugs (apparently its 10 times more addictive than cocaine!).
Keeping within the 6-12 teaspoons a day limit is easy … right?
Our modern lifestyle makes this difficult.
Some sources of sugar are obvious: refined sugar, biscuits, cakes, sweets, chocolate, alcohol, fruit juice and fizzy drinks. If these items form a regular part of your diet – you are probably eating too much sugar. Did you know a glass of apple juice has 10 teaspoons of sugar? The same as a glass of coke!
But then there is hidden sugar. Sugar is added to: cereals, pre-made supermarket meals, pasta sauces, bread, tomato sauce and other condiments – you name it, it’s in there. For instance BBQ sauce usually contains 4 teaspoons of sugar per serving. A serving of tomato pasta sauce includes about 10-12 teaspoons!
And don’t forget low-fat, diet food! These probably have some of the highest levels of hidden sugar in them: health cereals, diet drinks, low-fat yoghurts, low-fat desserts, low-fat meals! A single serving of low-fat yoghurt has 6 ½ teaspoons of sugar, for instance.
You can see now how quickly it builds up!
WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK OUT FOR?
1. Know your sources of ‘hidden sugars’. When you start looking, you will be surprised to find out how much is in your food. Sugar pops up everywhere:
- Bread, rice, pasta, couscous, potatoes, polenta and oats
- Biscuits, sweets, cakes, ice cream, chocolate, frozen yoghurt
- Anything with syrup, sucrose or glucose in the ingredients list
- Ready-made meals, soups and pasta sauces
- Fruit juices, fizzy drinks, energy drinks, flavoured water, and sodas
- Natural sugars such as, honey, maple syrup, agave, xylitol and stevia (although they are natural, you still need to control the amount you add to your diet)
- Sauces and condiments like ketchup, brown sauce, mayonnaise and salad cream
- Salad dressings (especially low fat ones)
- Low fat yoghurts, mousses and desserts
- Baked goods (homemade and fresh are better – those with a long shelf life will have a higher sugar content)
- Alcohol – particularly white wine, alcopops, beer etc…
2. The Label! When in the supermarket, look at the label. Try and choose foods with less than 5g of sugar/ 100g, or 5% sugar. This will probably knock out 90% of processed foods. If it’s a dairy product, the first 4.7g of sugar/ 100g is lactose (which is fine – so you can subtract that from the total. So if its 15g sugar/ 100g, the net figure is 10.3g).
3. Allow for bigger serving sizes. Most people eat more than the average serving on the packet – chances are, you are too. This means rounding up your sugar calculations . And if you are eating a liquid based food, like a pasta sauce, the chances are you are eating a lot more!
AND WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
It depends on what you want to achieve overall. But if you decide to reduce/ cut-out sugar then there are quite a few resources out there to help you.
Four pointers to help you on your way:
1. Eat as your Great Grandparents did and rebalance your diet: whole foods, regular meals, eat fat (but the right fats – butter, coconut oil, extra virgin oil, avocado oil), eat proteins, and eat carbohydrates (but the right carbs – complex carbs like quinoa, brown rice etc…). Eating a balanced diet, will stop you from feeling deprived and dissatisfied.
2. Cook your own food. There is no better way of ensuring you get the right nutrition other than to cook for yourself. This does mean ditching ready-made food!! It’s not always easy – we all have busy lives. So the best is to batch prepare some meals, invest in a slow cooker (bung in your ingredients and it is ready by dinner time) and detox your fridge and cupboards.
3. Cut out the snacks. Eat your set meals each day and avoid going for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. If you eat proper meals, you are less likely to want to snack. If you make time for your meals, you are more likely to be satisfied. But if you need to snack have nuts (raw), cheese or yoghurt.
4. Learn to substitute your sugars. Steer away from using refined white sugar or brown sugar when you cook. If you need to sweeten your food, add it sparingly and try to use alternatives such as honey, maple syrup, stevia or rice malt syrup – these are healthier options.