It is well known that too much sugary food and drinks has a negative effect on health, contributing to weight gain and increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Thus one of the best things we can do for our health is to reduce sugar and refined carbohydrates from our diets. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that we limit our daily intake of free sugar to less than 25 grams, which is no more than 6 teaspoons in an adult, and even less in children. On average in Australia we consume more than double this amount, with some, mostly teenage boys, up to 90g per day.
What is meant by free sugars?
Free sugars are sugar added to food in the production or cooking process. Sugars such as found in honey, syrups and fruit juices should also be taken into consideration when keeping track of sugar intake. The WHO guidelines do not refer to sugars in fresh whole fruit, vegetables and milk, as there are no adverse effects of consuming these unprocessed food groups.
How can we reduce our sugar intake?
- Drink water rather than sweetened drinks. Avoid soft drinks, cordials, fruit juices, fruit smoothies, ice teas, energy drinks or any other sweet drinks. For example, a can of soft drink contain 40 grams (10 teaspoons) of sugar.
- Sweets, lollies and baked goods are obvious sources of sugar, but beware of hidden added sugar in other processed food and condiments.
- Beware of so called “healthy” foods such as breakfast cereals, low-fat yoghurts and muesli bars. These foods often have high amounts of added sugar. Consider swapping to a more savoury home cooked breakfast.
- Learn how to read food labels. Be mindful that there are many different names for the different types of sugar. Dextrose, maltose, fructose and corn syrup are just a few.
- Shop around the perimeter of the supermarket where the fresh food and fridges are, and avoid the middle isles with all the process foods and snacks. Or better even, support our local farmer markets!
Dr Adele Heyer