Sugar is all over the media and a lot of people are talking about it.
Is it candy? Is it poison? Is it the sole cause of obesity in the 21st
First, let’s define what the word means. Sugar, saccharide or
carbohydrate are all interchangeable words for a group of
molecules our bodies use for energy. They are found naturally
occurring in foods across all food groups as well as used in food
manufacturing. Glucose is a sugar, and the most important
nutrient in human metabolism. It’s actually the only form of
energy our brains can use. Other sugars you might recognise are
fructose, lactose, starch and sucrose. Sucrose is what you might
know as table sugar and is known mostly for its role in food
processing. Other forms of sugar are cane juice, cane syrup,
maltodextrin, dextrose, maltose, honey, coconut sugar, agave
and high fructose corn syrup among many others.
So what happens when you have too much? Sugar contributes to
the energy density foods, which is how much energy is released
into your body after consumption. Any energy consumed that is
in excess of what the body needs to use, is going to be stored.
Some energy is stored as glycogen for later use, but once those
stores are full, the rest is going to be stored as fat. Too much
weight gain can contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease
and even some forms of cancer. In addition, ‘free sugars’ are also
what you might call ‘empty calories’ because they add extra
energy to the diet, but no other kind of nutrition. ‘Free sugar’ can
also contribute towards tooth decay. The bacteria in our mouths
convert sugars to acids, which over time eat away at our tooth
enamel, forming holes or cavities.
But this doesn’t mean we need to quit sugar. There is still a
moderate amount of sugar that can be consumed safely as part
of a healthy lifestyle. Most sugars are ok. Don’t worry about
quitting carrots or going off dairy. ‘Free sugars’ are the sugars
we need to consume in moderation. These are the simple sugars
(monosaccharides and disaccharides) that are added in food
processing or the ones found naturally in honey, fruit juices,
syrups and concentrates. The World Health Organisation
recommends adults and children reduce their daily intake of
‘free sugars’ to less than 10% of their total energy intake. This
amount will be different for everyone, because your energy
requirement is influenced by your age, gender, height, weight,
muscle mass and activity level among other things. These sugars
can be found in many foods that might seem obvious, like ice
cream and chocolate, but also in savoury foods like tomato sauce
and salad dressings as well as in some health food products like
muesli or yoghurt.
If you would like some more insight into how much sugar you
are consuming, how to identify sugars in your diet or how to
change your intake but still enjoying your food, book an
appointment with a dietitian from True Body.