We seem to be eating more low-fat food than ever before, are exercising more but as a population, our weight has not dramatically reduced. In our previous article, we talked about how sugar is in everything nowadays and here’s a fact: ‘low fat’ usually means ‘high sugar’. When fat is reduced, the taste is reduced so manufacturers add more sugar to provide flavour. Thus, there has been a huge increase in the average person’s sugar consumption over the last 30 years.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) for women, 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for men and 3 teaspoons (12 grams) for children¹. The World Health Organisation now recommends that a maximum of 10% of total energy intake is from free sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) and has set 5% intake (25 grams) as a ‘target’. Although fruit is also high in sugar, its fibre content makes it more nutritious and simple sugars from milk (in the form of lactose) do not display the same negative health effects as refined sugar².
How then can you still keep the flavour and allay your sweet tooth without the same negative health effects?
Alternatives to refined sugar
There are a reasonable number of non-processed natural alternatives to sugar that are available on the market at present³.
|Alternative||What is it?|
|Stevia is a natural sweetener made from the leaves of the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni), which is native to Paraguay, and mostly grown there and in Brazil. Has zero calories and is 250-300 times sweeter than sugar.|
|Fruits are naturally sweet and can be a great substitute for sugar – to eat or to cook with.|
|Honey is a naturally sweet liquid made from the nectar of flowers and collected by honey bees. Although it is still high in sugar it has health benefits and is a healthier alternative in moderation. Comprises of 80% natural sugars, 18% water and 2% minerals, vitamins, pollen and protein. Antibacterial properties.|
|Dates||Dates are grown on date palm trees. Native to North Africa and the Middle East. Rich in vitamins minerals and fibre.|
These alternatives are still advised to be consumed in moderation and can be sourced either at most health food stores, the ‘organic’ section at most supermarkets or even online.
Top tips to shake off sugar:
- Avoid sugary drinks
- Read food labels
- Choose whole foods
- Avoid low fat or processed foods
What choices can you make today for a healthier tomorrow?
Contributed by Dr Surinder Arora, Integrative Dentist and Health Coach.
(1) www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Sugar ‘Sugar 101’ American Heart Association, June 2015
(2) www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/sugar-guideline/en/ WHO calls on countries to reduce sugar intake in adults and children, World Health Association, March 2015
Photo Credits: Life’d