Sugars are carbohydrates that exist naturally in different forms
in all kinds of foods. The primary sugar in fruits is called
fructose; the naturally occurring sugar in milk is called lactose.
When you consume a fruit, a vegetable or a dairy product, you can't
avoid consuming the natural sugar that these foods contain.
All sugars ultimately end up in the bloodstream in the form of glucose, which is the form of sugar that our body prefers to use for energy. Aditionally, the end-products of the digestion of all carbohydrate-rich foods like fruits, vegetables and starchy foods also end up in our bloodstream.
Sugar intake from added sugars (not the naturally occurring
ones) are considered to be 'empty calories'. The sugar provides
calories (which the body uses for energy) but no vitamins or
minerals. So, if you consume a lot of sugary foods, you are
short-changing yourself by not getting enough of the vitamins,
minerals, fibre and phytonutrients that healthy carbohydrate-rich
natural foods contain.
We eat a lot of sugar - even in foods that don't taste sweet. Aside from the obvious items like fizzy drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened cereals and desserts, sugar - in one form or another - finds its way into condiments, soups, breads and even snacks like crisps.
Sugar and Tooth Decay
The primary health hazard of eating too much sugar is tooth decay. The bacteria that live in your mouth can convert sugars into an acid that can destroy tooth enamel. Foods that are sweet and sticky - e.g. fruit snacks or gummy sweets - are a particular problem as the sugar stays in contact with the teeth.
Sugar and Diet
Does sugar make you fat? Certainly, sugar adds extra calories to your diet, and extra calories mean extra weight. Moreover, many foods that are high in added sugars are also high in fats and calories - for example cakes, pastries, ice cream and chocolate bars. Try to obtain your sugars naturally - which should be primarily from fresh, whole fruit.
Read the Label
It's important to understand that many forms of sugar are added
to foods. To know how much sugar you are eating, read the label - you
may not realise how much sugar a food really contains.
Here are some other forms of sugar that you might see on a label: sucrose, fructose, glucose, dextrose, lactose, maltose, invert sugar, raw sugar, turbinado sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, brown rice syrup, fruit juice concentrate, confectioner's sugar, maltodextrin, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup and molasses.
When you look at a food label, the sugar content is listed - in grams per serving - just under the total carbohydrate listing. However this amount includes all sugars in the food, including natural sugars, so it can be deceptive.
For instance, a bran cereal with raisins but no added sugar might look as high in sugar as a sugary cereal. But there is a big difference in the nutritional value of the two foods, since one might contain only the natural sugar from the fruit, while the other will contain all added sugar.
- Avoid drinks with high calories, including some fruit juices, fizzy drinks, 'real' lemonade and other sweetened drinks.
- Buy wholegrain cereals without added sugars, and top with sliced banana, berries or other fruit.
- Try porridge with sweetened with mashed banana instead of sugar
- Eat healthy snacks such as whole fruits, cut vegetables, whole-grain crackers, low fat yogurt and low-fat cheese.
- If you usually add sugar to cereals, tea or coffee, try to gradually reduce the amount you use.