Many of my clients are confused about sugar – What counts? What doesn’t? Are sweeteners better for you? In this post I will answer those burning questions by discussing where sugar comes from in your diet and how you can track that to enable you to make changes if you need to.
Fruit & Vegetables
Sugar is naturally occurring in fruit and vegetables. Whole fruits and vegetables do not count towards your daily sugar intake. However, once they have been juiced or put into a smoothie it does count. Juices have had all the fibre stripped away and although they do contain helpful nutrients they hit your body with a massive dump of sugar. Fruit juice does currently count towards your five a day but only 150 ml, drink any more and it does not count. Smoothies still have the fibre so this does slow down the absorption of the sugar slightly but they often contain a large amount of fruit, again provided a bit hit of sugar. Smoothies should contain no more then two fruit and vegetables and are best not consumed on a regular basis. Stick to eating the whole fruit with skin where possible.
Current UK guidelines:
- Adult – 30 g or 7 sugar cubes
- Children – 24 g or 6 sugar cubes
- 4 – 6’s – 19 g or 5 sugar cubes
To put that in perspective if you were to eat a fruit flavoured yoghurt and have a glass of juice that would be equivalent to an adults daily recommended intake of sugar.
If you look at the nutrition information on the back of a packet it can give you an idea of how much sugar it contains.
- Foods high in sugar contain 22.5 g or more of sugar per 100 g
- Foods low in sugar contain 5 g or less of sugar per 100 g
However, this doesn’t differentiate between ‘free sugars’ and the sugar present in whole fruit, vegetables or milk contained within the product. What you need to look at next is the ingredients list. If sugar, or any other term for that matter, appears in the top three ingredients then the food is highly likely to be high in sugar.
What counts as Free Sugar
Natural sweeteners – honey, syrups, nectar’s and molasses
Fruit and Vegetable based – processed into juice, purees and concentrates
Others – glucose, glucose syrup, malt extract and galactose (plus there are many, many more)
So, if any of these ingredients are high on your ingredients list, the product is high in sugar.
Sugar substitutes are much sweeter than sugar, so they keep your taste buds primed for that sweet hit. Now, are they better or worse than sugar? Well I think that depends on why you are using them in the first place. Some studies show they help with weight control. They can also be helpful for diabetics as they don’t raise blood sugar so much. However, there is also research to the contrary with some studies demonstrating a stimulatory effect on the appetite so play a role in obesity and weight gain. Some also show a disruptive effect on gut bacteria, which we now know are essential for many aspects of our well-being.
Where does this leave you?
Well, I don’t believe in ‘good’ foods or ‘bad’ foods and you absolutely should be able to enjoy some honey on you breakfast or the odd bar of chocolate. If you are cooking from scratch most of the time and tend to drink water, milk or unsweetened nut milks, you most likely don’t need to worry about this, but if you are a regular consumer of pre-packaged, pre-made foods and drinks then you do need to take a closer look at those labels.
If you need some help to make changes to your diet, maybe you would like to attend one of my Nutrition & Weight Management Clinics in Colchester or Brightlingsea. Drop me a message via the contact form below and I will reply at my earliest opportunity.
Don’t forget you are welcome to a free, no obligations 15 minute phone call to see if you think we would be a good fit.