What are sugars
Sugars are the type of carbohydrates which provide energy to the body. They are found naturally in plants, honey and milk or added in drinks, cooking and in processed foods.
Common types of sugars
Glucose is the most abundant form of sugar. All starches,breads and cereals breakdown into glucose in blood. It is an important source of energy for all living organisms. It is naturally found in fruits, sweet corns, corn syrups, honey and certain roots.
Fructose is the sweetest of all sugars and is presents in fruits, honey and some vegetables.
Sucrose is the ordinary table sugar and a disaccharide of glucose and fructose. It is naturally present in sugar cane, sugar beets, honey, maple syrup , maple sugar, fruits and vegetables.
The sweet substance produce by the insects from plant nectar. It is the most ancient form of sugar used by humans dating back to 8000 years. It is comparatively more sweeter than sugar. A tablespoon of honey provides you with 64 kcal whereas an equal amount of sugar provides you with 46 kcal.
High fructose corn sugar
It is a comparatively cheaper and more sweet form of sugar commercially prepared from cornstarch. It mostly replaces table sugar in soft drinks industry and is added to canned and frozen fruits in order to preserve the flavour and structure of the food.
Lactose is the the only animal source of sugar found naturally in milk and milk products.
Recommended sugar intake
The sugars added to our diet is often referred to as free sugars. Free sugars are introduced to our diet through;
- cooking and processing, for example table sugar added in tea and coffee, fizzy drinks, desserts and bakery
- occur naturally in foods such as in honey, syrups, fruits and fruit juices, vegetables and smoothies.
The recommended daily intake of free sugars should be no more than 5% of your total caloric intake.
- For adults the recommended daily allowance is 30grams or 6 teaspoons of free sugar.
- The children should have no more than 24grams or 5 teaspoons sugar daily.
Sugar and health
According to latest studies many people consume far more free sugars than recommended. The intake of free sugar is higher in children more than 14.6 percent of total calories followed my adults 11%. Excessive sugar consumption contributes to several health problems which include
Obesity or weight gain occurs when the intake of food is more than the body’s ability to utilise it. Excessive sugar intake contribute to extra calories in your diet which results in weight gain. Obesity and weight gain increases the risk of developing several metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases.
High sugar foods and beverages are the major cause of tooth decay. The bacterias in the mouth use sugars from foods and drinks to produce acids which in turns damage teeth and cause tooth decay.
Tips for reducing sugar intake
Sugar is the main ingredient of most of the foods so it is always impossible to omit sugar from the diet. However following are some tips to reduce free sugar intake .
- Avoid fizzy drinks . A can of coke provides you with almost 9.4 teaspoons of sugar. Opt for diluted fruit juices.
- Gradually reduce sugar in your tea, coffee and breakfast cereals.
- Read nutrition labels of packed foods and drinks. High sugar food contains more than 22.5grams of sugar per 100 grams and low sugar foods are less than 5 grams.
- Avoid canned fruits in sugar syrup.
- Instead of spreading jam on bread, try reduced sugar jams or low fat spreads.
- Limit consumption of candies and bake products as they are high in sugar. Always consume sugar along with other foods to avoid tooth decay.
Food myths about sugar
There are many myths associated with sugar which are simply based on misinformation and are not true.
- Brown sugar is better than white sugar : This is a common food myth and people often replaces white sugar with brown sugar considering it as a healthy alternative. However it is not true .They provide you with the same number of calories and the way the body reacts to both sugars is same.
- Sugar causes hyperactivity in children: No single evidence proof this statement. However studies reveal that artificial colours used in candies causes adverse effects in activities and behaviour of children.
- Sugar causes diabetes: Free sugar add extra calories in your diet which lead to obesity, obesity increases the risk of type 2 diabetes in individuals. Sugar directly does not cause type2 diabetes .
- Fruit juices are not sugary drinks: All fruit drinks contains sugar in one form or other. A 200ml 100 % fruit juices contains almost 4 tsp of sugar and cause tooth decay. The best option is to eat fresh fruit instead of juices.