Sugar Truths & Sugar Myths
In this blog post I will explore sugar, the difference between free and naturally present/occurring sugars & how best you can monitor your sugar intake for a healthy body, healthy teeth and a healthy mind!
Firstly, free sugar is defined as: "sugars added to foods and drinks by manufacturers, cooks or consumers and also those found naturally in honey, syrups and fruit juice".
The main source of free sugars are sugars sweetened beverages (fizzy drinks, energy drinks, squashes and cordials) and fruit juice, cakes, biscuits, sweetened yogurt and dairy desserts, sweet spreads and confectionery.
Sugars naturally present in whole fruit and vegetables and in milk and milk products (i.e. plain yoghurt & cheese) are NOT classed as free sugars. Although 'sugar is sugar'- fruit and vegetables naturally contain a range of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fibre & evidence shows that including fruit and vegetables in our diet can have various health benefits.
Here are 5 common sugar myths that I hope will help to answer your questions!
MYTH #1: All sugar should be eliminated from the diet
FACT #1: Humans need glucose to survive! Although sugar is a major contributor to a number of health conditions, glucose is required by the body as one of the primary sources of energy. Simply eliminating all sugar from our diets would be almost impossible as sugar is found naturally in fruit, potatoes and other starchy foods, all of which contain important nutrients for proper functioning. However, it is free sugars that most people should be eating less of as many of the foods and drinks that contain free sugars can be high in calories, and high consumption can lead to weight gain and dental decay.
MYTH #2: Eating fruit is bad for you
FACT #2: The naturally present sugars found in whole fruit and vegetables and in milk and milk products (i.e. plain yoghurt & cheese) are NOT classed as free sugars. Fruits (and vegetables) naturally contain a range of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fibre and scientific evidence supports the varied health benefits of eating fruit and vegetables. There is little evidence that sugars naturally present have adverse health effects and regular consumption can help ensure a balanced diet with adequate intakes of essential nutrients as well as helping to reduce the risk of T2D and heart disease.
MYTH #3: Some types of sugar are better for you than others
FACT #3: Although sugar can come in different "forms" (white, brown, honey), all forms are carbohydrates that are broken down into glucose to be used in the body as energy. They all contain calories and too much in the diet can lead to obesity and it's related diseases.
MYTH #4: Eating too much free sugar causes diabetes
FACT #4: Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is caused by a mix of genetic and environmental factors. Although you are more likely to develop T2D if you are overweight or obese and although consuming too much free sugar in the diet, especially from Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) can cause you to gain weight due to the added calories, the link between a diet high in sugar and T2D is indirect and sugar alone cannot cause T2D.
MYTH #5: Artificial sweeteners are better for you than sugar
FACT #5: Some artificial sweeteners can be just as harmful to your body as sugar and increased consumption can be harmful to your teeth. The consumption of artificial sweeteners in the diet is a topic that I feel deserves a separate blog post, so keep an eye out for a post on this topic over the next few weeks.
So, to end this blog post on sugar, I thought that I would give you some general tips on how to reduce the amount of free sugar in your diet.
- base meals on starchy carbohydrates such as: wholegrain foods & potatoes (added benefit...these foods are also packed full of fibre!)
- include some foods that contain protein such as: fish, eggs, beans, pulses, lean meat & low-fat dairy products
- eat plenty of fruit and vegetables
- reduce consumption of foods that contain free sugar: sugar itself, cakes and confectionary, biscuits, pastries, desserts. When choosing a snack, opt for a healthier option.
- limit your intake of sugar sweetened beverages. Do this by replacing some with water, low-fat milk or opt for 'no added sugar' drinks.
If you want some more detailed information about sugar, have a look at the 'exploring sugar' resource on British Nutrition Foundation website: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/resources/exploringsugars.html or the 'sugar food facts resource' available to download from the British Dietetic Association: https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/sugar_food_facts_poster.pdf
Hannah Warn BSc (Hons), ANutr is an associate registered nutritionist based in Thornbury, Bristol. Contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with the voucher code 'ROOTHEALTH2019' for a free 20 minute phone consultation.