5 facts about sugar

You may have heard the recent media hype about the latest government recommendations on how much sugar we should eat daily.
Here we give you 5 simple tips that help you make sense of the noise.

1. A new term "free sugars" has been introduced. This refers to all ordinary white table sugar that's added to food by you or a manufacturer, as well as glucose, honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices. It's advised that only 5% of our daily calories should come from these "free sugars". This roughly translates to the equivalent of 5-6 teaspoons (or cubes) of sugar for an average woman and 7-8 teaspoons (or cubes) for men. Currently, nutritional information on packaging doesn't tell us what quantity of "free sugars" is in a particular food, as all sugars are listed under the term "total sugars".

2. Many sugar-rich foods don't come with extra goodness. Think sweets, biscuits, cakes, doughnuts, sugar-rich soft drinks, and so on. So given that we should be limiting our intake of sugar, it makes sense to be aware of how much sugar we're eating and drinking on a daily or weekly basis. Check labels, compare brands and watch your portion size. If you really must have something sweet, be fully aware of how much you're eating, and savour the flavour by eating slowly.

3. Research suggests that a high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with higher calorie intakes and risk of obesity. So, choose diet versions of soft drinks, or try sprucing up some still or sparkling water with slices of cucumber, sprigs of mint, lemon slices, or berries and crushed ice.

4. Don't just focus on the sugar; think about the whole food. Some sugary foods come along with nutrients - a flavoured yogurt for example will bring with it calcium, protein and iodine. A wholegrain breakfast cereal may contain added sugar, but think about the fibre, folic acid, and other B vitamins you see highlighted on the side of the pack. Smoothies or fruit juices are high in sugar, but don't lump them into the same category as sugar-sweetened drinks like cola. They come with vitamin C and potassium, and a small glass (150 ml) of fruit juice counts once as one of your five-a-day. Smoothies will give you a healthy dose of fibre too. Best to enjoy any of these drinks with a meal (instead of between meals) to avoid damage to your teeth, and keep an eye on the amount you drink, as it's easy to clock up the calories. And wherever you can, choose lower-sugar varieties of yogurts and breakfast cereals.

5. When you make a change to your diet, do so gradually. There's no need to go from eating cakes and biscuits daily to munching on nothing but pumpkin seeds and raisins! Make one change, keep it going for two to three weeks, and then add another small change. Take it a step at a time; improvements in your lifestyle need to be realistic to be sustainable.


Azmina Govindji is Patient's new award-winning resident dietitian. She comes with a background in diabetes, having worked as Chief Dietitian to Diabetes UK from 1987 to 1995. She was a member of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) Executive Council and Chair of the BDA Public Relations Committee from 2001-2004, and is still a renowned BDA spokesperson. But you may be more familiar with her work on TV and radio - she's appeared regularly on This Morning, The Wright Stuff and The One Show. Azmina is also a best-selling author and co-founder of the award-winning RDUK twitter chats.

Azmina is a mum of two and understands the pressures of family life. She runs her own nutrition consultancy at Azmina Nutrition, and offers advice to the food industry, the media, patients, nurseries, and health organisations. In her spare time she loves to entertain friends and travel. Tweet with her on @AzminaNutrition.


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