Nutrition consultant Jennifer Bulcock explains the truth out about the simple sweet stuff, which seems to cause so much controversy.
“Sugar: a simple carbohydrate which is quickly digested and causes a spike in blood glucose when consumed on its own.”
No macronutrient is evil, and sugar certainly doesn’t need to be feared.
Anything can be dangerous, when consumed in excess – in fact if you drink too much water - you’ll die!
But sugar being demonised is an attention grabber. Celebs and health guru’s jump on the bandwagon promoting their ‘sugar free’ recipes and sugar detox plans.
PS – if a recipe has honey, fruits, or some other kind of syrup as an ingredient – it is not sugar free!
A true ‘sugar free’ brownie will likely taste pretty pants, and let’s be honest, that’s not the point of a brownie!
We do need to pay attention to sugar consumption though. Not because it’s going to suddenly give you diabetes or instantly pile on body fat. But quite simply, it is easy to eat too much sugar, mainly because of:
- The taste
- Our evolutionary desire to seek out foods naturally high in sugars
- Mass-production, making high sugar foods easily accessible
But sugar isn't a “poison”.
Will eating too much sugar make me fat?
Excess sugar in our diets will add in extra calories. If you consume more calories than you burn, you WILL gain weight and it is easy to over consume sugar due to it tasting so damn good.
If your diet consists of mainly high sugar foods, but you are under consuming on kcals, you will lose weight, but you may become malnourished, as your body may not have sufficient nutrients to operate.
Long term this could cause a melody of health issues (not to mention potential oral health issues), along with a risk to muscle loss and a shift in body composition.
Guess what, you CAN have sugar in your diet
The World Health Organization (WHO) released new recommendations stating that simple "free" sugars should account for no more that 5% of total energy intake.
The official definition of free sugars states that:
“Free sugars’ comprise all monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices. Under this definition lactose (the sugar in milk) when naturally present in milk and milk products and the sugars contained within the cellular structure of foods (particularly fruits and vegetables) are excluded.”
Yeah, I agree that can be hard to understand, the way nutritional guidelines are worded can be very confusing if you don’t have a background in nutrition. So, let’s simplify.
Here’s a list of free sugars:
- Table sugar (sugar cane/ beet/other sources)
- Golden Syrup
- Molasses or Treacle
- Agave syrup
- Rice malt syrup
- Coconut blossom syrup
- Maple syrup
- Coconut sugar
- Unsweetened fruit juice
Any sort of syrup typically used as a sugar replacer that contains sugar in the food label
Sugars we don’t need to count as ‘free’:
- Lactose in milk and dairy products
- Sugar naturally present in fruit, including dried, tinned and stewed
- Sugar naturally present in veggies
- Sugar naturally present in grains and cereals
How do we work out our daily free sugar intake?
As an adult, if you're eating roughly 2000 kcals a day that would mean your intake of calories from free sugar should be no more than 100kcals a day. (5% of 2000)
1g of carbohydrate contains 4kcals.
This means no more than 25g of sugar (just over 6 teaspoons) a day! (100 divided by 4)
For an athlete, or someone who trains regularly, sugar can be very beneficial., even a superpower; fuelling epic workouts and helping to build more muscle, so you can eat more Muscle Food.
Certainly, nothing to fear!
If you’re not an athlete, and you do want to eat something that’s particularly high in free sugar, it may be an idea to wait until after you’ve done some exercise – or even after a period of low food intake.
Our muscles (and liver) store sugar as glycogen. After a workout, muscle glycogen will have been used, and then when the sugar is eaten, it goes back into the muscles to replenish glycogen stores.
But don’t stress it. If you fancy something sweet and you can afford it within your daily energy needs without sacrificing other important nutrients, then have it, and do not feel guilty, just be careful not to fall into a trap of losing an appropriate balance; skipping meals so you can have cake!
How should sugar consumption translate to our population?
We live in an obese nation, that's a fact.
The cause of obesity is down to eating more energy than we utilise.
So, is sugar to blame?
But sugar tastes damn good, and that means it's quite easy to over consume.
Additionally, as it doesn't contain much bulk or fibre, it doesn't necessarily make you feel full, so you're likely to eat more food throughout the day to keep hunger at bay.
This means - more calories going in, and then weight gain.
In our culture with an obesity epidemic, any strategy that increases awareness of the dangers of drinking our calories can only be a positive step, so I do support the sugar tax for that reason, but I also think along with the sugar tax we need to be careful not to demonize ALL sugar.
It’s about knowing the balance we should be practicing, and having the skills to implement this into our own lives, something that many people do not know how to do.
Our culture seems to has never-ending holidays – Halloween, Christmas, Valentines, Easter, Summer Break – plus the family events of birthdays anniversaries etc., which all comes with justifications for overindulgence.
I wonder; have we become a society of never ending gluttony and excess?
Do you eat too much sugar?
Have you tried to follow a sugar free diet?
Perhaps you stay within the 5% daily guidelines?
Let us know, and join in the sugar debate…