Breakfast cereal, soups, spreads, sauces and soft drinks are some of the worst culprits when it comes to hidden added sugars, but is it really so bad for you?

As with many things in life, in moderation, as part of a healthy balanced diet, unrefined and natural sugars can be enjoyed without too much damage.  However, the reality is, many of us are consuming too much of the wrong sugars and it is making us sick.

How much is TOO much?

In 2015 the World Health Organisation reviewed its official recommendations and stated that we should consume less than 10% of our daily calories in added sugars. Which equates to less than 50g of added sugar a day when consuming 2000 calories.  HOWEVER when they published this report they said for increased health benefits we should half this to less than 5% of daily calorie consumption – 25g or 6tsp per day! 

In the UK adults are averaging 16-17% of daily calories.  As for the kids, Public Health England reported in 2018 that UK children aged 4-10 years are averaging 13tsp of added sugar a day, which is more than double the recommended amount!

What effect does it have on you?

Everyone knows that sugar rots our teeth and makes us put on weight, but did you know just how much it effects the rest of your body?

Your Brain – After a hit of sugar you get a rush of dopamine, the feel-good chemical in your brain, but this ‘high’ does not last long and the cravings begin as you need more and more sugar to create that ‘high’.  Some research suggests that it is as addictive as a class A drug! Excess sugar impairs both cognitive skills, concentration and memory. It is thought that the inflammation sugar can cause in the brain may be the root cause of dementia.

Your Energy and Mood – When you consume refined sugars you get a quick burst of energy as your blood sugar levels rise, the faster the blood sugar levels rise the faster they will crash, this is when you begin to feel lethargic and slow, less motivated and even anxious.  It is thought that elevated blood sugars may also compromise your ability to process emotions increasing feelings of depression, especially in young adults.

Your Joints – High sugar diets have been shown to increase joint pain likely due to the inflammation it creates in the body.  Consuming excess added sugar causes several changes in the body including increased weight gain, oxidative stress, gut permeability, and high cholesterol which are all linked to increased inflammation.

Your Skin – Again related to inflammation excess sugar produces ‘AGEs’ (Advanced Glycation End-products).  Three guesses what they can do? Yes, age your skin.  They damage collagen and elastin in your skin so watch out for those wrinkles and saggy skin!

Your vital organs – Your liver, kidneys, pancreas and heart can all be adversely impacted by continued high sugar consumption which may lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, non-alcoholic liver disease etc..

Top Tips to Reduce your Sugar Consumption

  1. Become label readers – to really keep track of how much sugar you are consuming you need to know where it is hiding.  To do this you need to read labels.  Look at the nutritional values and at the carbohydrates per 100g and look to for the line which says ‘of which sugars’… This will tell you how much sugar there is in 100g’s of product.  HOWEVER this will include the natural sugars so we also need to look at the ingredients list to see where those sugars are coming from.
  2. Don’t store it in your cupboards – if your cupboard is filled with sugar laden products then you are going to eat it!  Try to swap these products for a low sugar alternative.  Start with snacks and look for lower sugar versions, make your own or substitute with fresh fruit and vegetables.
  3. Reduce processed foods – as you know these are the worst culprits when it comes to added sugar.  Work towards swapping these for home-made or more natural products. Soups and sauces are easy to make at home and you are then in control of the ingredients in them.
  4. Use fruit for sweetness – nature has provided delicious naturally sweet fruits (and vegetables) which also gives you important nutrients so use these in place of the ‘white stuff’.  You can either use whole fruit or blend and puree them for sauces and to use in cooking.  Try banana ice cream, slice and freeze banana then blend with a little nut butter and milk for a no added sugar sweet desert.

So in this Sugar Awareness week, check in with your diet and how much added sugar you are consuming to see if you could make any changes to benefit your health.

If you would like to learn more, join our Simple Meals for Better Health Simple Sugar Sense online workshop series taking place in November.

More information and booking –