The Perils of Sugar
Sugar may taste good, but it is far from being good for us. It’s added into so much of the food we eat and things we drink, and we might not even realise just how much we consume in each day – so what kind of harm can it do to us?
The natural sugars that are present in grains, dairy, fruits, and vegetables aren’t a cause for concern, but rather the added sugar found in processed foods are (think of soft drink, fruit juices and iced teas, junk food, and even things like tomato sauce).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that people try to limit their sugar intake to 25 grams a day (which is about 6 teaspoons). While that in itself seems like a lot, this can be easily exceeded by having just 1 can of soft drink, which has an average of 40 grams of sugar. The WHO guideline doesn’t include the natural sugars in fruits and vegetables, and suggests that only 10 percent of our daily total energy intake should be from free sugars (the sugar added to foods).
Scientists and health professionals are continuing to research the addictive properties of sugar, but agree that an excess consumption of it is damaging for our health, as it increases the chances of cardiovascular disease later on in life. Consuming too much sugar can raise blood pressure levels, increase blood sugar levels, and increase the amount of fat in the liver and body (which contributes to diabetes and the risk of heart disease). Excess sugar from processed foods also increases overweight and obesity levels too, whilst also increasing the risk of tooth decay and further health issues in the future.
Since hidden added sugars can easily increase our daily sugar intake, how can we reduce our intake? Reading the food labels on things you consume and being mindful of what a serving size is the best first step. An average serving may say it only has a few grams of sugar but if you eat more than that serving, you’ll be exceeding your sugar intake without realising. And while you’re checking the labels, see if the ingredients list sugars like these:
- Brown sugar
- Corn syrup/sweetener
- Syrup sugars like dextrose, fructose, sucrose, etc.
- Malt sugar
These are just a few examples of sugars though, so make sure you check any ingredients you aren’t sure of, and choose healthier alternatives where you can. Other ways to avoid added sugar is to choose water instead of soft drinks, juices, and alcohol, eat more fruits, vegetables, and foods that are high in protein. And consult a doctor or nutritionist if you plan to make any changes to your lifestyle.