Chances are that every single one of us are either a) eating more sugar than is recommended or b) eating foods that we don't consider to be sugary but, in fact, are laden with the damn stuff.
You grab a sandwich for lunch, it tastes savoury and you pat yourself on the back for scuttling past Marks & Spencer's hot, melting cookie section (no seriously, well done you), but a slice of white bread can actually contain more than 1.4 grams of sugar. Add all those foods in your diet that aren't explicitly sugary to the treats that are, and without realising it, what can feel like a relatively healthy intake of sugar is anything but.
But don't panic, we're all guilty of it.
Sugar can have some unpleasant consequences - it saps your energy, makes you irritable, reduces your immune function, gives you short-lived spikes that leave you feeling lethargic, as well as storing as fat if you don't get around to burning it off . If you've been trying your best to cut down on sugary foods but haven't been noticing any benefits, then that's more than likely because you're still eating a lot of foods in which the sugar is hidden. Yes, it's on the label, but if it's packaged as a savoury item we tend to overlook it. Oopsie.
And another major problem is that processed foods marketed as 'low fat', or those healthy looking cereal bars and bags of granola, are actually loaded with added sugar. Don't be fooled by their marketing - read the labels.
The GDA for sugar is always changing. With obesity rampant in the states and other countries, the World Health Organisation recently halved their daily sugar recommendations. Across the board, it is generally recommended that men limit their added sugar intake to 36 grams per day (which is still a lot, if you ask me) and women to in and around 24 (that's about 6 teaspoons).
Here's a few offenders that might be worth easing off.
- Store bought fruit juices - You may think you're having a healthy glass of OJ or apple juice but if it's not 100% natural, then it's full of added sugar. Get yourself a juicer and control what you're taking in - I've been juicing carrots, apples and ginger each morning for the last while and my energy is lasting far better throughout the day. There's enough sugar in fruit as is, no need to add any more.
- White bread/rice/pasta - You'll probably know to cut down on these as there's not much good to come from these carbs, but we mightn't be as aware of their sugar content. Swap these out for something wholemeal - oats and granary bread are a far better option.
- Soups and sauces - Unless you're making you're own soups and sauces from scratch, a quick read of the label here will tell you there's a few spoons added in here too. So no, that quick soup for lunch isn't as healthy as you thought.
- Alcohol - as per the NHS, the average adult's alcohol intake makes up for 11% of their daily added sugar. So you've skipped dessert but had two glasses of wine over dinner? That's like having four chocolate covered biscuits on its own. Damn!
- Dairy produce - 'This low-fat yoghurt is hardly bad for me, right?' Wrong. Dairy produce makes up for a good chunk of our daily intake of added sugar and low-fat products which remove some of the fat will often replace it with sugar so as not to compromise on flavour. The bastids.
So yep, it's certainly important to be mindful of our sugar intake; the negative short term effects are one thing but the long term risks include diabetes, heart disease and other such undesirable nasties.
What's also worth noting though is that we do need sugar in our diets. But sugar comes in two forms - naturally occuring (the sugar you'll find in fruit) and concentrated sources (the kind you'll find all over a Dunkin' Donut). Yes, we need a certain amount of sugar to supply our body with energy. It's a carbohydrate, after all, but we'd do just fine getting it from natural sources such as fruit and maybe honey. Our body has absolutely no need for refined sugar, it is of no benefit to us and serves only to give us unnecessary calories.
Will you be making some food swaps? Have any good healthy swaps to share? If you've noticed your energy levels improving on a low sugar diet, we'd love to hear from you.