‘Free’ yourself from sugar
Sugar, sugar, sugar … this is all we hear on the news these days, but do we really know the difference between ‘free’ and ‘natural’ sugar?
You’ve probably come across the terms, ‘free’ sugar... typically these are the sugars we add to our diet, either by ourselves or by manufacturers. Natural sugar can be a confusing one, whilst we might think the likes of honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar are all natural, these are still known as free sugars!
This form of sugar is found naturally in milk (sugar known as lactose) and whole fruits and vegetables (known as fructose).
What’s recommended …?
The Department of Health suggest we should have no more than 30g of free sugar in our diet, this is roughly equivalent to around 7 sugar cubes or 7 tbsp’s. This means any sugar you add to your diet, whether it’s a sugar cube in your tea, a sprinkling of sugar to your fruit, jam on your toast, or sugar in a ready meal or fruit yoghurt … this is all counts as ‘free’ sugar.
Keeping it natural!
We all know that excess sugar can harm our teeth. Eating a piece of fruit is less harmful to our teeth than having a shop bought or homemade fruit juice, you may think what is the difference, but when we eat a whole piece of fruit, sugars are contained within the walls of their cellular structure. When fruit juice is made, the juice is pulped, the sugars are instantly released. The sugars in fruit juice are known as ‘free’ sugar as they have been released from the plant wall, whereas sugar in a piece of fruit is still considered naturally occurring.
Too much sugar …?
Often, we can end up eating more than we need, processed foods are often a rich source of ‘free’ sugar. Having a diet high in sugar can lead to weight gain. Sugar is an energy dense nutrient, when we intake more calories than we expend weight gain occurs. As noted by the World Health Organisation, carrying unnecessary weight can increase our risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure as well as impacting our dental health.
What makes it hard as a consumer is that on food labelling, manufacturers supply us information as ‘total sugar’ making it hard to know whether the sugar in a product is natural occurring or additionally added in.
In recent months, Public Health England have set guidelines for manufacturers to reduce the level of added sugar they add to products, with the long-term goal of reducing obesity.