Sunday 17 December 2017

Forget the sweet stuff - now is the time to drop your sugar fix

Kick the sugar
Kick the sugar

by now we all know that we should be consuming less sugar – and the World Health Organisation has issued its latest recommendations for cutting down on the sweet stuff.

The new WHO guidelines strongly suggest that adults and children should reduce their intake of free sugars by roughly half - to less than 10 per cent of their daily calories.

However, to accrue the most health benefits, this figure should actually be as low as 5 per cent. That’s the equivalent of just 25g, or six teaspoons, a day.

Currently in Ireland the average person gets around 16-17 pc of their calories from sugar, compared to 11-15 pc in the US and 7-8 pc in Hungary and Norway.

Dr Francesco Branca, director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, said: “We have solid evidence that keeping intake of free sugars to less than 10 per cent of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay.

Making policy changes to support this will be key if countries are to live up to their commitments to reduce the burden of noncommunicable diseases.”

 The guidelines don’t apply to naturally occurring sugars in fruits, vegetables and milk, since they come with essential nutrients. In fact, most free sugars are added to products by manufacturers and effectively “hidden” in a large spectrum of processed foods.

And you may be shocked to find out just how much sugar is in these common products:

KETCHUP: 1 tablespoon of ketchup contains around 4g, or 1 teaspoon, of sugar.

SODA: If it’s not diet, the average can of fizzy drink contains up to 40g, or 10 teaspoons, of sugar. That’s more than the recommended 5pc in just a few slurps.

BREAD: For many it’s a daily staple, but two slices of white bread contain around 2g, or half a teaspoon, of sugar.

CEREAL: The higher sugar content of the breakfast food is now widely known. Many popular brands of cereal contain 9-10g, or more than 2 teaspoons, of sugar per serving.

READY MEALS: While not always obviously sweet, these tend to be packed with sugar. Last year a Which? survey found that supermarket ready meals can contain up to 50g of sugar – that’s 10 teaspoons.  Dishes containing sweet, sticky sauces were found to be among the worst offenders, including sweet and sour chicken and pad thai.

SALAD DRESSING: You may think you’re choosing the healthy option with a salad, but the benefits can be quickly outweighed by your choice of dressing. Popular creamy flavours can contain up to 2g, or half a teaspoon, of sugar in a single 15ml serving.

PEANUT BUTTER: It’s packed full of potassium and healthy fats, but check the label carefully. Some brands contain added sugar, meaning that a typical serving (2 tablespoons) can contain 7g, or 2 teaspoons of sugar.

According to the WHO, global sugar consumption is up by about 10pc, from a daily average of about 58g per person in 2003 to 63g in 2013.

“Actually it is very easy to exceed the recommendation of 12 teaspoons if you think of having maybe a bowl of breakfast cereals in the morning, then maybe you have a can of soda sometime during the day, then you have for dinner a sweetened yogurt, you are already above the 10pc. You are already at approximately 15 teaspoons,” Branca said.

The current average in South America is 130g per adult per day, in North and Central America 95g, in Western Europe about 101g and 90g in the Middle East, she said. Equatorial and southern Africa has the lowest average of 30g.

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