Sugars are added to foods for one simple reason: it makes them tastier. I have no idea what unsweetened Coca-Cola might taste like, but I’m guessing ‘not great’ since it’s not a variety of the iconic brand that has ever hit the shelves.
Obviously it’s easier to avoid the obviously sugary foods since they’re the ones that are often reserved (or should be!) as occasional treats: cakes, chocolate and so on. But more and more there are stories in the papers about hidden sugars.
These sugars not all that hidden though given that the sugar content will be on the nutrition label. One trick to help avoid consuming too much sugar is simply to get into the habit of checking the label. Bread has a bit of sugar in it. Not usually that much, but be vigilant – some brands can contain almost a gram and a half of sugar per slice, adding to your daily intake almost invisibly.
It’s perhaps no surprise that added sugars are now becoming the focus of much health discussion – as many nations just seem to get more and more worried about obesity statistics, it was only a matter of time. And while low-fat options abound on the supermarket shelves, low sugar ones aren’t often so easy to encounter.
The well-worn (not to say ubiquitous) advice about having a healthy diet and staying active remains entirely imperative for those of us who want to maintain wellbeing and lower health risks.
But here’s the bit that gave me a surprise – even when you think you’re doing well at the healthy eating, added sugars can creep in (as well as higher overall calorie consumption than you expected). The reason I found this out was I decided to write down everything I ate over a period of a few days – and there was more added sugar in there than I’d hoped, as well as too many calories being consumed overall. Thankfully not too many, though.
Reasons to avoid added sugars:
- They add empty calories. Unsweetened or low sugar versions have fewer calories but no less nutrition.
- Too much sugar can increase BMI and contribute to diabetes
- Sugar causes the mouth to become acidic, increasing risk of dental cavities
- Too much sugar has been linked to type 2 diabetes risk (one study even found that a can a day increases the risk by a fifth)
All of which is not to say that it’s time to forget about fat intake, of course. It’s all about keeping within the recommended limits for both fats and added sugar – and avoiding situations where increased consumption can creep up on us.