Nutrition: Sugar

Nutrition: Sugar

There has been a lot of talk in the media of late about sugar and our health. There are many proponents that tell us to remove it from our diets altogether, there is the low carb healthy fats camp, and some that would like to see a tax on sugar. Sugar on it’s own can be a problem because it’s easy to consume a lot without feeling full and receiving the benefit of other nutrients.

 

Sugar - there has been a lot of talk in the media of late about sugar and our health. There are many proponents that tell us to remove it from our diets altogether, there is the low carb healthy fats camp, and some that would like to see a tax on sugar. Sugar on it’s own can be a problem because it’s easy to consume a lot without feeling full and receiving the benefit of other nutrients.

All of this has led to many people being confused about what’s healthy any more. They ask “What about fruit? I used to love fruit” or they might not be sure about low fat foods because “aren’t they loaded with sugar?” One thing I think most would agree on is that highly processed foods are a problem. Food that is made commercially is often higher in sugar, salt and fat compared to you cooking your own meal from scratch.

Yes fresh fruit does have some natural sugar but it’s low in calories, contains fibre, and plenty of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C. Most people should include 2-3 serves of fruit a day, this is especially important for people trying to lose weight. Not just for the vitamins and minerals, but the fibre, because fibre helps to make you feel full and satisfied and less likely to snack on things you shouldn’t.

Another example would be to think about a pre-packaged tomato based pasta sauce, which has around 10g of sugar vs a can of tomatoes with around 4g. So a simple decision of choosing to make your own pasta sauce with a can of tomatoes and some garlic and onion will your reduce sugar consumption from one meal by almost 40%.

That person you met that lost 10Kg just by giving up sugar probably didn’t mention that they also gave up a lot of the processed food they used to eat, such as soft drink, takeaway and pre-packaged food. Going back to the homemade pasta sauce for example the kilojoule intake for that one meal is reduced by 300%, which is impressive enough, but salt consumption is also reduced by a whopping 600%.

People are often quick to target specific nutrients whether it’s to promote its benefits, think protein, or blame it on a problem i.e. sugar and obesity. But the reality is often more complicated, to look at individual macronutrients is too simplistic. Our bodies are complex machines and removing or adding too much of any one nutrient may have consequences that we are yet to foresee.

 

Top tips

  1. Eat fruit, it’s good for you
  2. When choosing tinned fruit pick one that is in natural juices
  3. Wherever possible cook your own food from scratch
  4. Learn to read labels; look for less than 10g sugar per 100g, aim for less than 300mg sodium per 100g, try and keep saturated fat to a minimum