Sugar's reputation has suffered of late, with various media reports stating that too much of the sweet stuff in our diets increases our risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. But how much is too much, and how aware are you of the 'hidden' sugar you're eating?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that just 5% of our daily calories come from sugar, but products labelled with guideline daily amounts across the UK and EU state the recommended maximum intake as 90g a day, roughly 22.5 spoonfuls of sugar.
Nowadays it's easier than ever to exceed the recommended allowance of sugar without realizing it, and this is often to the detriment of our health. Read on to discover some top tips to reduce your sugar intake.
There are a lot of hidden sugars, added to enhance flavour, in ready-made sauces, soups and stocks. One way to avoid this is to prepare your own tomato sauces in advance. By knowing exactly what goes into preparing your meals, you can avoid any excess sugar and salt in your diet.
Many supermarket cereals are loaded with sugar and heavily marketed at children. Cereal in itself can be a fairly nutritious, filling breakfast, as it's a good source of whole grains and fibre. To avoid the sugar, switch to healthier options such as porridge oats, shredded wheat, barley, bran, corn or rice based cereals as they are lower in sugar and salt.
If you want to control your blood sugar, add a teaspoon or two of cinnamon to your meals. Studies suggest that cinnamon can help decrease insulin resistance, thereby lowering blood sugar. One study also found that cinnamon lowers cholesterol levels as well. Cinnamon gives your food a pleasant taste, replacing your usual sprinkle of sugar. Add a few pinches to your porridge, or try blending it into salad or soup.
Sugar is available in numerous forms and just because it's natural, organic, raw or unrefined doesn't change the fact it's still sugar. Fructose, sucrose, glucose syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses, agave nectar are all types of sugar that break down the same way in the body. Being aware of the various names for sugar means you know how to avoid it where possible.
It may be tempting to avoid food occasionally if you want to lose weight, but this can be counterproductive. Eating regularly is the best way to boost your energy and fight fatigue, while helping you maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
The danger of skipping meals is that you can end up feeling worse and reaching for sugar-laden snacks in an effort to increase your energy. This results in a blood sugar spike, causing your body to convert the sugar to fat and potentially making it more difficult to shift the pounds.
Following these tips can help you to avoid some of the health consequences of consuming too much sugar. Remember, balance is key. Our bodies need some sugar to provide us with energy, but excess sugar can be harmful and is best avoided where possible. For help and advice on safely losing weight our medical experts can help you.