Sugar facts + easy ways to cut down your sugar intake

Sugar is one of the most addictive substances on earth and we consume far more of it than we know. The average person eats 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. Sugar can be found in everything from soup to salad dressing, cereal, and even tomato sauce. Sugar is such a powerful force in our lives that it has been linked to health problems like obesity and diabetes. To make matters worse, excess sugar can lead to dental problems like cavities and tooth loss. Here are some ways to reduce your intake of this unhealthy substance.

Whether you are diabetic or just trying to avoid sugar overload, it is important to know how much sugar is really in the foods you eat. For those who want to cut down on their sugar intake, there are a few tips and tricks. Keep reading for quick facts about sugar and some ways that we can reduce the amount of sugar we consume.

Different types of sugar - Free Sugars

Sugar comes in various forms but today we are going to discuss ‘free sugars.’ This is because this is the main type of sugar which has a negative effect on our health. 

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What are free sugars?

Free sugar is what we call any sugar that is added to a food or a drink, or sugar that is naturally occurring in honey, syrups or fruit juice. It’s called ‘free’ sugars because the sugars do not stay inside the cells of the food we eat, instead they roam freely. 

For example, in fruit juice, the sugar comes out of the fruit along with the juices, compared to when we eat them in their original form. The fibre is also lost.

It’s important to note, fruits, vegetables and milk that have naturally occurring sugar but are not made into fruit juices have no effect on our health. They also contain lots of fibre. Therefore these are not classified as ‘free sugars.

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NHS Recommendation + Stats:

The NHS recommends that we should have no more than 5% of free sugars in our daily diet. [1]Though right now the average UK adult is eating twice that much. 

Most of these sugars come from:  

  • Soft drinks & Fruit juices
  • Sugars that we add to food and drink, e.g. jams and chocolate spread. 
  • Biscuits, pastries and cakes

[2]

Adults and children that are over the age of 11 recommended daily sugar intake is around 30g of free sugars a day. 

Just to put that in perspective, a regular chocolate bar contains around 25g and a can of coke equals to 35g! [2] 

Sugar free diet | Free sugars | What are free sugars? | Sugar facts | healthy foods | Healthy swaps | Free sugars | NHS Facts | Sweets and candy | toffee shop | Sweet shop | Candy shop

Tips on cutting down on sugar 

Regulate your drinks!

As you read on the list above, the biggest source of sugar comes from soft drinks and fruit juices. Don’t fall for the ‘packed with vitamins’ and the healthy looking designs with all the fruits! Most of these contain large amounts of sugar in them and do little for your health. Do not pair these drinks with fast food either, this will increase not only your sugar intake but your fat intake too. Refrain from adding sugar to your tea or coffee also. 

Eye on the label

A lot of the things you eat may look like they are healthy or ‘normal’ but you should always read the nutritions list, sometimes you may be surprised. As mentioned above, some companies like to hide their labels with amazing front packaging but don’t fall for it! Here’s a helpful tip on how to find it quickly:

Front packaging

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Watch out for the red, amber and green colour coding. [1]

  • Red - High - more than 22.5g of sugar per 100g or more than 27g per portion)
  • Amber - Medium -  more than 5g but less than or equal to 22.5g. 
  • Green - Low - Low (less than or equal to 5g of sugar per 100g)

Back packaging 

Coco pops | Cereals | Sugar in cereals | Back packaging |Sugar free diet | Free sugars | What are free sugars? | Sugar facts | healthy foods | Healthy swaps | Free sugars | NHS Facts | Sugar intake

You need to look for the carbohydrate section on the table, there will be a sub category labelled ‘of which sugars’ and then you can find the amount in grams. Some may have different grams for example the serving size and for the entire packet. Some packaging won’t have ‘of which sugars’ in that case you should see the ingredients list.

Ingredients List

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Sometimes they don’t have information on the front or back, it’s usually the case if you buy something which comes in multi - packs but are only looking at the individual item. It’s quite annoying, especially if you lost the original packaging. Not to worry! You can check the ingredients list, you’ll have to skim read a bit though. 

Healthy swaps

Here are a couple of quick healthy swaps you can make whether you’re cooking or buying! 

  • Swap sugary soft drinks or fruit juices with low fat milk (and no I don’t need chocolate milk). Although all types of milks usually contain a similar amount of sugar, you’ll reduce your fat intake too if you opt in for this one. 
  • If you’re baking or cooking, try to add a sweetener. They don’t have to be artificial sweeteners, you can add a naturally sweet ingredient like dates. That way you are reducing your ‘free sugar’ intake. 
  • You can sugar free fruit dilute squash with sparking water to make fizzy drinks. 
  • Choose fruit in juice rather than fruit in syrup.
  • Unsweetened cereals are best, avoid those coated or frosted in sugar or chocolate. 
  • Plain yoghurt, although contains some amount of sugar, this sugar comes from the milk which means it doesn’t have any free sugar,  making it a much healthier option than flavoured yoghurt. 

Overall, we all know that having too much sugar affects our overall health and you might feel pretty overwhelmed by all of this. It’s important to take it in stages, gradual change is much easier to manage than quitting cold turkey. Good luck!

try for free

[1] NHS website. (2021a, November 18). Sugar: the facts. Nhs.Uk. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-does-sugar-in-our-diet-affect-our-health/

[2] Watch: What are free sugars? - Heart Matters magazine. (n.d.). Retrieved 7 January 2022, from https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/nutrition/sugar-salt-and-fat/free-sugars

#sugar #healthyeating #health #healthytips

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