Be careful of too much sugar in your diet. Image via Pixabay

The sweet truth about sugar and why it should be avoided

Sugar gives us energy and keeps us sweet — at least that what we’ve always thought.


Be careful of too much sugar in your diet. Image via Pixabay

The truth is that too much sugar is harmful to your health and some experts believe that sugar is the major contributing factor towards the obesity epidemic that is gripping the country.

There are two types of sugar – simple sugars, which are naturally occurring sugars like lactose in milk, fruit, and vegetables, and “free” sugar (added sugar), which includes table sugar (sucrose) as well as concentrated sources like fruit juice.

Free sugars are so named as they are added to food either in the manufacturing stage (fizzy soft drinks, sweets, chocolates, and biscuits) or when the food is being prepared or cooked (cakes, pastries, puddings). These sugars are also added to many kinds of breakfast cereal, cereal bars and even tins of spaghetti and baked beans.

The most obvious free sugar is called sucrose – the refined sugar from sugar cane that we use every day in our tea or on our cereal first thing in the morning.

Spot the hidden sugar

  • Low-fat and “diet” foods often contain extra sugar to help improve their taste and add bulk and texture in place of fat.
  • Savoury foods like ready-made soups and sauces may contain added sugar.
  • A can of soft drink, on average, contains the equivalent of seven teaspoons of sugar.

Restrict Free Sugars

Free sugars need to be restricted because they add “empty” kilojoules, increasing the overall energy density of your diet without any valuable vitamins, minerals, or fibre and this excess energy can potentially result in weight gain. Studies have shown that high sugar intake may lead to obesity as fast as consuming fatty food.

Based on the average diet of 8,400 kilojoules per day, you shouldn’t be using more than 12 teaspoons of sugar a day.

Know the danger signs

Discover how much sugar is in your food by doing these simple checks:

  • Look at the “carbohydrates (of which sugars)” on the nutrition panel, which includes both natural and added sugars. Less than 5g of sugars per 100g carbohydrates is low and a good choice. More than 15g per 100g is high and should be avoided.
  • Forms of sugar that end in “ose” (glucose, sucrose, fructose, lactose, and maltose) need to be avoided.
  • Choose substitutes such as xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol, which occur naturally in small amounts in plants and fruits and are often used in low-calorie products to provide sweetness but with fewer calories.

Ways to cut down on your sugar

A few adjustments to your daily diet will help reduce unnecessary sugar consumption:

  • Cut down the sugar you add to hot drinks – add a sprinkle of cinnamon to cappuccino or hot chocolate instead as this adds flavour without the sweetness.
  • Avoid low-fat “diet” foods, as these tend to be high in sugars.
  • Be wary of “sugar-free” foods that contain synthetic sweeteners aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose, saccharin, which essentially chemicals and hardly a healthy substitute.
  • Swap white bread, regular pasta, and rice for wholegrain options like granary or wholemeal bread, brown rice, and wholewheat pasta.
  • Avoid drinking fruit juice – rather eat the whole fruit as this has fewer “free” sugars.