There are two main forms of sugar in our diets:
1. Naturally occurring sugars: found in milk, milk products and contained in the cell structure of foods such as fruits and vegetables.
2. Free sugars: sugars that are added to food and drink, i.e. table sugars (cane sugar such as caster and granulated), as well as honey, syrups and fruit juices*.
Foods that contain naturally occurring sugars also provide a whole range of nutrients which are beneficial to our health, for example milk is a great source of protein, calcium and B vitamins and fruit contains a variety of vitamins, phytonutrients and fibre. It is the foods and drinks which contain ‘free’ sugars we need to cut down on in our diets. To give an idea of how much 'free' sugar is healthy to consume, they should not provide more than 5% of the energy we eat and drink everyday. Based on a diet of 2000 calories a day this means that no more than 100 calories should be coming from 'free' sugars which translates to 30g, or 7 sugar cubes, worth. Total daily sugar intake is recommended at 90g, therefore 'free' sugars should only contribute towards a third of daily sugar intake. Not forgetting this includes the sugars found in both food and drinks.
Free sugar is often added to food and drinks such as breakfast cereals, cooking sauces, ready meals, cakes, biscuits, chocolate and fizzy drinks for sweetness, texture (meringues) or preservation (jams and chutneys).
Think about your drink – choose water or no added sugar squash instead of drinks such as cola and cordials which contain free sugar.
Fruit fix – limit the amount of fruit juice you drink to 150ml a day, which is enough to provide 1 of your 5 a day (any more than this doesn’t contribute towards your 5 a day), and try diluting fruit juice with a little water to make it go further.
Read up – anything with less than 5g of sugar per 100g or 2.5g per 100ml is classed as ‘low sugar’ and is worthy of a green traffic light label.
Bake smart – try reducing the amount of sugar you use in your recipes, you probably won't notice the difference.
Be breakfast aware – look out for cereals made with added sugar. Some contain as much as 37g of sugar per 100g!
Cuppa cutback – if you add sugar to hot drinks, gradually reduce the amount until you can cut it out altogether.
The most important thing to remember when you are cutting down on your 'free' sugar intake is to do so gradually so that you can adapt and get used to the taste not being so sweet as any drastic changes could lead to distaste.
* the sugars within a glass of fruit juice are considered 'free' sugars because the fruit's cell walls have been broken down, making the sugars readily available for absorption into the bloodstream on digestion, whereas when eating a whole piece of fruit the cell walls are still in tact therefore they have to be broken down first by digestive enzymes in order for the sugar to become available, which takes longer and therefore the sugars cannot be absorbed into the bloodstream as quickly.
NHS Digital. 2016. Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity, and Diet: England 2017. [Online] Last accessed 29/08/2017.
NHS Choices, 2015. How does sugar in our diet affect our health? [Online]. Last accessed 29/08/2017.
Change for Life, 2016. We’re all having too much sugar. [Online]. Last accessed on 27/06/2016.