In a standard 375ml can of Cola, there is a bit less than 40 grams of sugar. However, according to experts, we should aim for fewer than six teaspoons of sugar per day (given one teaspoon of sugar is approximately equal to six grams). Therefore, from a teaspoon-perspective, there’s about six and a half teaspoons of sugar in just one can of our favourite drink!
Sweetened drinks are heavily advertised, cheap and commonly available. In Australia, the consumption of soft drinks, which are sweetened with sugar, has increased by 30 per cent in the last 10 years. The standard serving size for soft drink has also increased. Ten years ago, soft drink was available in 375 ml cans. Soft drinks are now commonly sold in 600 ml bottles, which provide up to 16 teaspoons of sugar. So, it is time we became careful.
From bread to peanut butter, added sugar can be found in even the most unexpected products. Many people rely on quick, processed foods for meals and snacks. Since these products often contain added sugar, it makes up a large proportion of their daily calorie intake. Growing scientific evidence shows that eating too much of added sugar is linked to serious diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and liver disease. Majority of the research is carried out in areas covering safe intake limit of sugar, sugar in day-to-day packed foods, sugar in beverages and implications of sugar on health.
Sugar is a form of carbohydrate that the body converts to glucose and like all carbohydrates, they form the source of energy in our diet. The body breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars such as glucose that can be readily used in the body. There are different types of sugars are glucose/dextrose, fructose in fruits, sucrose in sugar, and galactose in milk. Sugar can take many different forms, including white, raw or brown sugar, honey or corn syrup.
Too much sugar in the diet can contribute to health problems like obesity and tooth decay. Refined (or processed/white sugar) sugar provides a quick, simple source of energy, but it doesn’t contain any other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Although sugar provides less energy than fat, it can contribute to the ‘energy density’ (number of kilojoules) of foods and drinks. It’s easy to overindulge in foods, especially drinks, with high sugar content.
How much sugar is safe sugar?
Experts define a moderate intake of sugar as about 10 per cent of the total energy intake per day. However, people who consume a lot of sugary food and drinks at the expense of more nutritious food choices may be taking in a lot of ‘empty calories’. In 74 per cent of packaged foods, there’s hidden added sugar. While we may think that added sugar is only found in
desserts like cookies and cakes, many savory foods, such as bread and pasta sauce, have more of it than we can imagine. So, even if you skip dessert, you may still be consuming more added sugar than is recommended.
Added sugar can also be found in foods that many of us consider healthy, like yoghurt and energy bars. It is also added to ketchup, salad dressings, alcohol, vitamin water, and iced tea. While product labels list total sugar content, manufacturers are not required to say whether that total includes added sugar, which makes it difficult to know how much of the total comes from added sugar and how much is naturally occurring in ingredients such as fruit or milk, which in turn makes it very difficult to account for how much added sugar we are consuming.
World Health Organization recommends keeping the intake of sugar to less than 10 per cent of total energy intake to reduce risk of becoming overweight or obese, and to manage tooth decay.
Did You Know?
* All carbohydrates will be converted to glucose, which is the body’s most efficient source of energy for organs and muscles
* There are around 60 other different names for sugar
* Eating foods rich in sugar is not the only reason for diabetes * A 2016 paper from the Queensland University of Technology suggests sugar can be as addictive as nicotine, and just as hard to quit
What should we do?
* Here’s one easy way to start. Take the time to read the nutrition label at the back of any packaged food product you buy – even if you’re in hurry and starving. No fiber? No vitamins, minerals or protein? Added sugar, salt and fat the top ingredients? Put it down, step back slowly and run for water, nuts or fruit
* Moderation is a more achievable goal – cut back on free sugars in your diet by lowering the amounts you add to food and drinks
* Managing cravings, not total deprivation, may be the key to ongoing success whether you’re looking to lose weight, or just to eat more healthily overall
Let food be your medicine & medicine be your food!