What is Sugar?
Sugar can be divided into two main categories, natural sugar and added sugar.
Some sugar occurs naturally in foods and drinks such as fruit, vegetables, milk or cheese and in this form it is an important part of a balanced diet.
Added sugars, as the name suggests, are those added to foods and drinks during processing to enhance taste, appearance and shelf life and provide little to no nutritional value. Examples include soft drinks, confectionary, biscuits and fast food. They can also be hidden in foods commonly marketed as healthy, such as cereals, muesli bars, yoghurts and sauces.
It is important to recognise that sugar is the main source of fuel for our bodies for everything from exercise to brain function, so we definitely shouldn’t cut it out completely. However, too much sugar has been associated with weight gain, tooth decay and increased risk of multiple diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers so we need to ensure we are limiting our intake.
So how much we should have?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends having no more than 10% of our total kilojoule (energy) intake as added sugar.
For the average Australian adult on a diet of 8700kJ (kilojoules or energy) per day, this means no more than 55g or around 13 teaspoons of sugar per day.
Although this will vary depending on your age, gender, physical activity level and overall health status, this means it is very important to be aware of how much added sugar is stacking up in our diets.
Tips and Tricks
For sugars found in packaged foods and drinks, the first place to look is the label.
On the front of the label, we are looking for nutritional claims of no added sugar.
On the back of the label, we want to read the Nutritional Information Panel.
- Look for products that are less than 15% sugar, that is, 15g per 100g. When comparing products, choose the one with the lowest sugar.
- All ingredients are listed in descending order, so the ingredient that makes up the greatest proportion of the item is listed first. If sugar is listed as one of the first three ingredients, find an alternative.
- Sugar can be listed under many different names! Look out for glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, dextrose, syrups, treacle and molasses.
To Be Short and Sweet
Foods and drinks with naturally occurring sugars such as fruits, vegetables and dairy should be included in moderation as an important part of a balanced diet, as they exist with many
other important vitamins and minerals and are the main fuel for our bodies.
- As recommended by the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the World Health Organisation, foods and drinks with added sugars should be limited as they have little to no nutritional
value and have been associated with weight gain, tooth decay and increased risk of multiple diseases.
- Check out the label when deciding if a product is the right one for you. Compare products and aim for those with no added sugar, less than 15g sugar per 100g and with sugar not listed in the first three ingredients.
An Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) can advise you on how much added sugar you are having in your diet and how you can swap it for healthier alternatives.
Book in with our dietitian today to learn more about added sugar and how you can choose the healthiest foods and drinks to achieve your wellness goals.