Sugar is found in every part of our diets, from the added sugars in products such as confectionery, cereals and condiments to the natural sugars that occur in fruits. It’s important to know how much of it we’re consuming, so Rhiannon Lambert is here to answer all your sugar-related queries. A registered nutritionist with a Harley Street practice, Rhiannon is also an author and Asda magazine columnist.
What exactly is sugar?
Rhiannon says: 'Sugars are found in most of the sweet foods we consume and are the building blocks of all carbohydrates. From the naturally occurring sugars in fruit and milk, to the sugar added to products to enhance their flavour or shelf life, sugar can be found almost everywhere.'
What about sugar consumption – how much is too much?
'The government recommends that no more than 5% of our total energy should come from added sugar (also known as free sugar) – which, for the average adult, is about 30g or 7 cubes of sugar per day, or between 15g and 25g for children, depending on age. A nationwide survey carried out from 2014-16 showed that adults in the UK were consuming, on average, double the recommended daily amount, and teenagers and children almost three times! Evidence shows that high sugar intake is associated with increased tooth decay and higher energy intake overall, which can lead to obesity over a sustained period of time.'
SO, WHAT counts as ADDED or free SUGARs?
'Added or free sugars are those sugars added to food by the manufacturer, cook or consumer. This isn’t just plain sugar but includes fruit juice, honey and syrup, too. However, the sugar we find in fresh whole fruits and milk doesn’t count as free or added sugar.'
do drinks count too?
'Yes – a high intake of sugary drinks is also linked to an increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and in children and teenagers was linked to both weight gain and high BMI (body mass index).'
Which foods should i avoid or limit to cut down on sugar?
Be mindful in your choices, Rhiannon suggests. 'While it's recommended that we reduce our consumption, this doesn’t mean we have to avoid sugary foods altogether, just reach for them less often. Here are five foods that are often much higher in free sugars than we may think – remember, a maximum of 7 cubes a day is the recommendation.'
Cola – 7-8 cubes per 330ml
Chocolate – 7 cubes per 45g bar
Sweetened fruit juice – 3 cubes per 100ml
Frosted cornflakes – 3 cubes per 35g serving
Ketchup – 7 per 100g
(with 1 cube sugar = 4g sugar)
Rhiannon's 5 tips for limiting your sugar intake
It can be difficult to know how to reduce our consumption of free sugars, so here are some tips:
1. Swap sugary cereal for porridge or wholewheat alternatives.
3. Instead of using packet sauces, make your own using tinned or fresh tomatoes.
4. Keep an eye on condiments, such as bottled sauces and dressings – they often contain added sugars!
5. Drinks often contain sugar – opting for sugar-free mixers or soft drinks can help you to limit your consumption.
Always check the traffic lights on the packaging – if a food or drink is is high in sugar, it will be highlighted in red.
sugar and Diabetes
Rhiannon says: 'If you have diabetes, it's always important to consult either your doctor or dietitian for nutritional advice – however, a healthy diet can help to prevent diabetes-related complications. There is room for all foods in a varied and balanced diet, but being aware of hidden sugars can make it much easier."