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How to reduce your sugar intake...

Whether you saw the show or not, this will help you understand the health implications that can develop from consuming too much sugar, make informed food choices, and outline some simple changes to reduce your daily sugar intake.

After over-hearing some conversations about the show, and answering questions people had regarding some issues raised throughout the show, it was clear that there is still some confusion regarding what we should be eating and what foods should be avoided.

We are eating too much SUGAR. Consuming too many foods and drinks that are high in sugar can lead to weight gain, which consequently leads to an increased risk of developing more serious health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers, and is also linked to tooth decay. Over recent years, an ‘Irish Sugar Culture’ has developed, where Ireland is placed a worryingly 4th place in the ‘World League’. This equates to an average daily consumption of 24tsp/day or 96 grams of sugar.

Lets put that in context…

The World Health Organisation (WHO) sets recommended guidelines for sugar consumption at 6tsp/day or 24 grams. Ireland is currently consuming FOUR TIMES this amount. At this current rate, it is predicted that Ireland will be crowned ‘The Fattest Country in Europe’ by 2030! A survey conducted by Health Ireland in 2015 found 60% of adults in Ireland are overweight or obese.

Now before everyone jumps on the nearest ‘We Hate Carbs’ bandwagon, lets take a minute to understand carbohydrates a little more…

We need carbohydrates…our brain needs them to power its activities; our muscles need them to fuel your work. However, not all carbohydrates are equal. Some of them are referred to as SIMPLE and well-refined carbohydrates (E.g., sweets, biscuits, cakes, fizzy drinks), while others are considered COMPLEX and less processed (E.g., Whole grains and vegetables). It is SIMPLE carbohydrates, when added to foods and drinks are the main concern and cause for increased obesity levels and health problems.

For a slightly more scientific approach to SIMPLE carbohydrates; check out the ‘A bit of Science’ section at the end of this post.

ADDED SUGAR… FREE SUGARS… What does it mean, and is there a different??

There is no difference between the terms ‘free sugars’ and ‘added sugar’. They both refer to all monosaccharides and disaccharides (e.g. sucrose [table sugar], glucose) added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cooks, or consumer, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates. However, it is important to note that these terms exclude lactose in milk and milk products, as well as those sugars contained in fruit that is whole, or still intact (i.e. not juiced)

Free sugars should account for no more than 5% of your daily energy intake.

**Click here and get a detailed assessment of you dietary status**

Daily consumption of foods high in ‘free sugars’ are linked to a greater risk of tooth decay and obesity. Remember, these figures are a limit, not a target! (The following is based on average population diets)

  • Children aged 4 – 6 years = 19 grams or 5 sugar cubes

  • Children aged 7 – 10 years = 24 grams or 6 sugar cubes

  • 11 years and above = 30 grams or 7 sugar cubes

Sugar that we personally add to our own food, accounts for a small fraction of overall sugar consumed. The majority will come from processed foods and sugary drinks. Therefore, this is where we need to make a conscious effort to be able to identify foods and drinks that are high in sugar, and make smarter, alternative choices. This may not be as simple as it sounds. The problem that I hear most often is that trying to identify sugar on food labels can be very confusing. In order to reduce your ‘free sugar’ consumption, getting into the habit of reading food labels and comparing products is vitally important. However, when sugar is listed in many different forms, and also appearing separately throughout an ingredients list, no wonder it’s a problem.

Familiarise yourself with the following names for sugar to help you indentify foods and drinks that contain high levels of ‘free sugar’.