Sugar. We’ve all heard that we shouldn’t eat too much, but why?

  • When excess sugar is consumed above the body’s energy requirements, it gets stored as fat. Sometimes this is within fat cells so it’s easy to say, but it can also be found around our organs. Excess sugar can also impact our bodies ability to react to insulin, a chemical released from our pancreas when we consume glucose (sugar). This leads to type 2 diabetes.
  • When sugar is consumed, it gives a quick burst of energy, but after this has worn off it leaves us feeling more fatigued and reduces our concentration levels. It is better for our bodies if we eat carbohydrates, which are made of longer chains of sugars, as they are released more slowly into the body rather than ‘simple’ sugars go straight into the bloodstream.
  • When sugar is consumed, it mixes with saliva and bacteria in the mouth. This mixture leaves a layer of plaque, which breaks down the outermost layer of our teeth (enamel) if it is not cleaned off regularly. This is why dentists recommend brushing your teeth twice a day.
  • It’s important to remember that sugar is safe to consume in moderation, so you can still eat your favourite sweet treats! Just be cautious not to exceed recommendations.

So what is the recommended sugar intake?

  • This is where things can get a bit confusing. The recommended intake of ‘free sugars’ is a maximum of 19 grams (5 sugar cubes) for 4-6 year olds, 24 grams (6 sugar cubes) for 7-10 year olds, and 30 grams (7 cubes) for those aged 11 and over. ‘Free sugars’ refer to those that are added by the manufacturer, chef, or consumer, and include sugars found in fruit juice, honey and syrups. This term excludes sugars found in whole fruits and vegetables, and milk.
  • Have you ever looked at the nutrition information or traffic light label on your food packets? The information about sugar on this uses a reference intake value of 90g of total sugars. This includes the 30g of ‘free sugar’ as well as those found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.

How do I know if extra sugar has been added?

  • Looking at the total sugar content of a food can be useful to give you a quick guide about how much sugar is in it. But looking at the ingredients list can give you more information about whether the sugar is naturally found in the product or whether it has been added.
  • Ingredients lists are often long and confusing. But they always start with the ingredient that is found in the highest quantity and work down, so this can help give an indication about how much sugar has been added. Sugar can be added in many forms. Some of the most common include: sugar, molasses, fructose, invert sugar syrup, honey, fruit juice concentrate, glucose syrup, glucose-fructose syrup, maple syrup, and agave syrup.

What are some good ways to reduce my family’s sugar intake?

  • Swap to products that say ‘no added sugar’. These will likely still have some sugar that comes from other ingredients, but it means that no additional sugars have been added.
  • Make more food at home. If you have time, cooking is a great way to ensure that no extra sugar has been added to the food. Check out our recipes for inspiration and step-by-step instructions for a variety of meals.
  • Swap to whole grain cereals as they usually contain less added sugar.
  • Swap from juice drinks and fizzy drinks to water and no added sugar, or sugar free drinks.
  • Trade in your cake bars, biscuits, and other sugary snacks for malt loaf, crumpets, rice cakes, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and low-sugar yoghurt.